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ECONOMIC BRIEFS

IMF officials examine Slovakia's banking reform plans

The process of recovery of banks and the business sector is one of the highest priorities of the current government's economic policy in the upcoming years, Slovak Finance Minister Brigita Schmögnerová told during her meeting with IMF representatives April 12.

Schmögnerová told the officials that a decision would soon be made about the privatization of Investičná a Rozvojová Banka (Investment and Development Bank - IRB) and the government program for the recovery and privatization of Všeobecná Ůverová Banka (General Credit Bank - VÚB). In both cases, Slovakia counts on involvement of foreign investors, the Minister's spokesman Peter Švec said.

Schmögnerová also mentioned Banka Slovakia as an example of a smaller bank which will be privatized.

The goal of the two-week IMF mission in Slovakia, headed by Robert Feldman, is to elaborate and examine the country's program for financial restructuring of the banking and business sector in Slovakia.

IMF representatives were also interested in austerity measures the government is taking take in order to reduce budgetary risksand simultaneously maintain the central government's budget at 15 billion crowns. Schmögnerová said she was considering lifting of the excise tax on cigarettes, fuels and lubricants, but called a VAT hike unlikely. A new tax on car ownership may also be introduced, she said.

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