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THE LAST WORD

The intensity of organised interests in the sphere of economy is higher than anywhere else. During the transformation process, these interests were most visible in privatisation. The phenomenon begins to be dangerous only when these group interests begin to dictate and control the economic policy of a state, and when interests of society begin to be subject to them.
Slovakia was going in this direction during the previous period, when interest groups dictated to then-Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar. It is still an open question whether the 1998 general elections stopped us from going in this unfavourable direction. The stability of the ruling coalition depends on whether the coalition parties do or do not become hostages to different interest groups. The problems within the SDK are not primarily political ones. Rather, behind them lie conflicts between the lobby groups that stand behind the individual parties.

The intensity of organised interests in the sphere of economy is higher than anywhere else. During the transformation process, these interests were most visible in privatisation. The phenomenon begins to be dangerous only when these group interests begin to dictate and control the economic policy of a state, and when interests of society begin to be subject to them.

Slovakia was going in this direction during the previous period, when interest groups dictated to then-Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar. It is still an open question whether the 1998 general elections stopped us from going in this unfavourable direction. The stability of the ruling coalition depends on whether the coalition parties do or do not become hostages to different interest groups. The problems within the SDK are not primarily political ones. Rather, behind them lie conflicts between the lobby groups that stand behind the individual parties.

It is interesting that in the 1998 elections, interest groups which were not directly connected to Mečiar followed a very 'reasonable' policy of opportunism. Not only did they help the current governing parties in their pre-election campaigns, but they also managed to put their own candidates in posts in parliament, government structures and state-owned companies. In many cases they were successful, and this complicates even further the already difficult situation the cabinet must deal with.

"The honest and incorruptible Mečiar entrepreneurs," as they were called by the then editor-in-chief of the HZDS daily paper Slovenská Republika, between 1994 and 1998 were given the majority of Slovak companies based on political decisions of the then governing parties. Their intentions were soon clear - stripping assets, or in the better cases, the sale of these companies to foreign investors.

We can expect that without due measures and determination, the current coalition will have to face the same affairs in the so-called 'third wave' of privatization.

As a rule, HZDS-oriented groups are not as dangerous to the current government as those which give themselves credit for helping the government to power. While anti-corruption trials do not yet have a history in Slovakia, the prosecution of Helmut Kohl shows that even the highest ranking official is accountable for his actions. The wise person learns from the mistakes of others. Our government cannot afford not to be unwise - if necessary, at the expense of strong lobby interests.

Finance Minister Schmögnerová contributed this letter to the Slovo weekly on January 13.

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