Spectator on facebook

Spectator on facebook

EDITORIAL

No more scapegoats:Černák must go

The origin of the word 'scapegoat' is somewhat apocryphal; Jewish high priests, legend has it, would symbolically place the sins of the community on an ordinary village goat, which would then be released to 'escape' into the desert. Along with its burden of ugly human crimes, the goat presumably bore away accountability and retribution.
It seems that this old tradition has been resurrected by the Dzurinda government in the furore over the apparent sale of gas storage firm Nafta Gbely to the American energy giant Cinergy. Dzurinda and his cohorts have seized the first likely-looking goat - FNM privatisation agency president Ľudovít Kaník - and saddled him with the blame for the government's handling of the Nafta fiasco. Kaník has been offered the choice of resigning - and wandering off into the desert - or undergoing an investigation.


Problem Solved?
illustration: Ján Svrček

The origin of the word 'scapegoat' is somewhat apocryphal; Jewish high priests, legend has it, would symbolically place the sins of the community on an ordinary village goat, which would then be released to 'escape' into the desert. Along with its burden of ugly human crimes, the goat presumably bore away accountability and retribution.

It seems that this old tradition has been resurrected by the Dzurinda government in the furore over the apparent sale of gas storage firm Nafta Gbely to the American energy giant Cinergy. Dzurinda and his cohorts have seized the first likely-looking goat - FNM privatisation agency president Ľudovít Kaník - and saddled him with the blame for the government's handling of the Nafta fiasco. Kaník has been offered the choice of resigning - and wandering off into the desert - or undergoing an investigation.

And if that goat won't do as bidden, another has been readied - Trnava businessman Vladimír Poór, who sold his stake in Nafta to Cinergy, and who was jailed briefly on June 28 for defrauding the FNM of over three billion crowns in his original 1996 purchase of a 45% stake in Nafta. The government seems to be avoiding the question of why a private entrepreneur should be jailed for buying a state company at a cheap price.

Neither Kaník nor Poór are at fault in the Nafta scandal, and scapegoating them will not restore investor confidence in the government. For that, Economy Minister Ľudovít Černák will have to be fired.

Černák has to go because his good name has been corroded by rumours of corruption over the past six months. While he has done nothing demonstrably wrong in the Nafta case - as he did no apparent wrong in the selection of the advisory consortium for the sale of Slovak Telecom, or in the reappointment of Devín Banka to handle the deblocation of the Russian debt - economic analysts and their foreign investor clients say they are increasingly sure that Černák's Economy Ministry is being run by lobby groups.

It is a loathsome thing to peddle rumours, or even to reprint their content in a newspaper without being able to verify the truth of matters. But in this case, perception is everything - if investors smell even a whiff of corruption from the Dzurinda cabinet, the long-awaited FDI inflow will never materialise and the government will probably not last its full four-year term.

Given the importance of appearances, then, Černák has to step down. This government has made a PR nightmare of almost every public tender process it has overseen, and required over eight months to solve (bungle) the Nafta question. The problem all along, say analysts, has not been the flagrant kind of corruption practiced by the former Mečiar government, but the creeping kind - the state monopoly which hands out lucrative contracts without public tenders to advertising firms, brokerage companies and law agencies close to the government, rather than the former minister who loots a privatised company and buys Spanish villas on the proceeds.

After eight months of own goals, this cabinet faces a catastrophe if it is not able to quell rumours of corruption and build a solid reputation for transparency in privatisation. Černák may be a terrific fund raiser for his governing SDK party, but as a minister he is an enormous liability.

Top stories

In praise of concrete

It was once notorious for its drab tower blocks and urban crime, but Petržalka now epitomises modern Slovakia.

Petržalka is the epitome of communist-era architecture.

Slow down, fashion

Most people are unaware that buying too many clothes too harms the environment.

In shallow waters, experts are expendable

Mihál says that it is Sulík, the man whom his political opponents mocked for having a calculator for a brain, who “is pulling the party out of liberal waters and towards somewhere completely different”.

Richard Sulík is a man of slang.

Blog: Exploring 20th century military sites in Bratislava

It seems to be the fate of military sites and objects in Bratislava that none of them were ever used for the purposes they were built for - cavernas from WWI, bunkers from WWII, nuclear shelters or the anti-aircraft…

One nuclear shelter with a capacity for several hundred people now serves as a music club with suitable name Subclub (formerly U-club).