Finance Minister Brigita Schmögnerová attended a press conference on November 16, at which she spoke of her ministry's plans for the near future. What follows is a partial transcript of her speech and responses to reporters' questions.
Question: What changes do you plan to introduce at the Finance Ministry?
Brigita Schmögnerová (BS): The ministry will undergo a small reorganization before the end of the year. Changes in personnel and work processes are needed to make the ministry functional. In the second half of the election term, we would like to change the structure of the Finance Ministry in a more significant way: we want to create some new institutions which will take care of the capital market, the insurance market, and which would control the natural monopolies and their policies. This plan will thus limit some of the current powers of the minister, and will be included in the government programme.
Question: Under the former government, the Finance Ministry was criticised by the then opposition [of which you were a member] for non-transparent financial and tax policy, especially with respect to businesses run by people related to members of the former ruling coalition. How will you approach these matters?
BS: We would like to expose publicly the measures approved by the former ministry management, including tax relief. We have submitted material to the media concerning the [previous staff of the] ministry and its decisions to forgive taxes, fees or fines due to late payments from certain companies between January and the end of October 1998.
The ministry is appealing to the Slovak Gas Industry [SPP, a state-run energy utility] to pay off the one billion crowns [$28.6 million] to the state that it is required to by the 1998 state budget law. SPP is due to pay this money by the end of November. In the next couple of days we will also provide the media with a list of the biggest tax non-payers. I can state that the biggest income tax non-payer is Old Herold [one of Slovakia's biggest makers of alcoholic spirits], whose arrears are close to one billion crowns [$28.6mil]. This is all to inform public of how the former government treated certain businessmen with relief from taxes and fines.
Question: Which legislative changes are the most important in the near future to secure a transparent policy and allow healing measures to be applied in the finance sector?
BS: Besides the provisional budget amendment [see article, page 1], we are preparing a minor amendment to the tax and fees administration law, which would allow siezure and distraint of property for non-payment of taxes. We believe that this will become an important and substantial tool for claiming unpaid taxes from non-payers. Among other laws we will introduce, a law on capital markets is also included.