THE DEPUTY Prime Minister for the Economy, Ivan Mikloš, has dismissed as "absurd" a proposal from the Democratic Left Party (SDĽ) that would halt the largest privatisation in Slovak history.
"It would mean stopping the whole process. It is absurd," said Mikloš in response to the January 19 proposal from the SDĽ to halt the privatisation of gas utility Slovenský plynárenský priemysel (SPP).
The SDĽ leadership has said it wants only 24 per cent of SPP shares sold to a new investor.
Declaring the government's current offer of a 49 per cent stake to a strategic investor to be against the interests of Slovak citizens, the SDĽ said 25 per cent of shares in the firm should be transferred to insurance firm Sociálna Poisťovňa for the development of a supplemental pension system.
The proposal comes despite the fact that the sale of the company, valued at between $6 and $8 billion, is in its final stages.
Some of the world's biggest energy players, including Gaz de France and Italy's Snam, have expressed an interest in buying the stake, which would include management control of the firm.
The privatisation process officially began in late August 2001 and is expected to be closed within the next few months.
SDĽ members in December made a number of public statements calling for the sale to be halted and the size of the stake offered reduced to 25 per cent.
This was dismissed by government members from other parties as an attempt to win back disenchanted SDĽ voters less than a year before elections.
However, SDĽ-appointed Labour Minister Peter Magvaši on January 23 declared that changing the SPP sale method was more important to the party than the survival of the government.
"The current coalition has only another seven months to go, while the gas company is about the future of Slovakia," he said.
28. Jan 2002 at 0:00 | Ed Holt