Rudolf Schuster - a punishment for citizens?
photo: Spectator archives
Schuster is many things, but he isn't a charismatic politician. His public behaviour ís boring, his speeches don't arouse any emotions, his expressions are almost infantile. If in spite of all that he managed to win on May 29, it only goes to show that the development of Slovak society has far outstripped that of its politicians. Civil society gave its vote en masse to an average politician who is not capable of critically evaluating his own communist past, who actively engages in media manipulation and who, as a politician for the new millenium, is simply too old.
But since the alternative was Mečiar, Slovak society gritted its teeth and for the first time voted without passion. In this way they were paying a penalty levied on them by democratic politicians for their own inability to offer voters anything more attractive. Schuster's victory can be interpreted in two ways - as another lesson in the education of the Slovak elecorate, and as another abysmal failure of the democratic elite.
-Štefan Hrib, Domino Fórum, Volume 22, June 3-9, 1999
Two punches instead of one
About two weeks ago, the Slovak crown fell three percent a day. Today it almost seems as if no one remembers that fact, particularly no one in the SDĽ [former communists, now ruling coalition party]. It is this party, which still calls itself a stabilising element in the coalition in spite of its own horrible internal divisions, which managed to turn economic reform from one punch into a flurry of blows. Why indeed shouldn't citizens feel the pain of these blows twice?
What is the point of increasing the VAT first to 10% and then in six months to 12%? It's as if no one knew that our economic problems are not acute at the moment! This country isn't in danger of economic crisis next year, but this very fall. If this crisis doesn't come, we'll have a different situation at the end of the year and raising the tax another two percent will simply be a step that pointlessly slows down growth.
The same with the price hikes. In normal countries, no one uses the economic stability of the country as a bargaining chip, especially not politicians. But Slovakia is an exception. One of the coalition parties (by extraordinary chance, the SDĽ again), wanted to make a compromise out of a compromise, in other words keep groceries, fruit, vegetables, print media and books exempt from the VAT increase. They only agreed to back down when some regulated prices were kept to lower-than-intended increases.
Electricity thus went up 35% instead of the planned 70%, while gas increased 50% instead of 80%. Once again the left wing dealt citizens a double blow, for both of these prices will have to be increased in the new year to cover the losses of Slovak utilities companies. What is behind all of this? Is the SDĽ planning to give the economy a few more restrictive shocks at the beginning of next year, precisely when it will need stimulation? Does this make any sense?
Reforms in several steps always have greater impact on people and their standards of living than changes made only once.
-Dušan Devan, Sme, June 2
7. Jun 1999 at 0:00