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Opposition supervisor quits privatisation Fund

Ivan Mikloš, the only opposition member on the supervisory board of the National Property Fund privatization agency, announced on September 14 that he had resigned his post in protest of continuing cronyism and murkiness in the sale of state property.
Mikloš, an economic expert of the leading opposition grouping, the Slovak Democratic Coalition, wrote a resignation letter to parliamentary speaker Ivan Gašparovič explaining his reasons for leaving the post to which he was nominated in October 1997.
In the letter, Mikloš said he could no longer take part in the National Property Fund's (FNM) activities because the FNM was ignoring its supervisory board and selling state property without regard for transparency. The FNM, Mikloš said, was hurting the state's interests.


Had enough. SDK economic expert Ivan Mikloš resigned from the supervisory board of the FNM, citing privatisation fatigue.
TASR

Ivan Mikloš, the only opposition member on the supervisory board of the National Property Fund privatization agency, announced on September 14 that he had resigned his post in protest of continuing cronyism and murkiness in the sale of state property.

Mikloš, an economic expert of the leading opposition grouping, the Slovak Democratic Coalition, wrote a resignation letter to parliamentary speaker Ivan Gašparovič explaining his reasons for leaving the post to which he was nominated in October 1997.

In the letter, Mikloš said he could no longer take part in the National Property Fund's (FNM) activities because the FNM was ignoring its supervisory board and selling state property without regard for transparency. The FNM, Mikloš said, was hurting the state's interests.

Regrets

Mikloš' resignation drew some negative reactions from other opposition politicans, who complained that his absence would cut off the flow of information about the FNM's activities."Mr. Mikloš may have been powerless on the FNM's supervisory board, but his presence ensured at least some information from inside the fund. Now, this already limited source of information will be even smaller," said Brigita Schmögnerová, the economic expert of the oppositon Party of the Democratic Left.

Juraj Renčko, an economic analyst with the Slovak Academy of Science, said Mikloš' decision to resign was political, for all that his criticisms were on the mark. "I think that it was a political decision, since he is an economic expert for the opposition," said Renčko. "But his statements about the privatization process are true."

Mikloš said he was aware of the possible consequences of his resignation from his post on the supervisory board, but that after weighing all aspects of the matter, he had still decided to leave. The FNM executive body, he said, was running a corrupt privatization process, where allies of top representatives of the ruling coalition received state property for huge discounts.

Specific charges

"The NPF is not protecting the interests of the state, but [instead] the interests of strong groups connected with the ruling coalition led by [Premier Vladimír Mečiar's ruling party] HZDS," Miklos wrote in his resignation letter. He said that the best example of his allegations was the behavior of the FNM in the cases of Investičná a rozvojová banka (IRB) and the insurer Slovenská poisťovňa, where, Mikloš said, the fund had defended the interests of groups connected with giant steel maker VSŽ and had acted against the state.

IRB fell under a caretaker administration imposed by the central bank last December because of liquidity problems, after the FNM repeatedly refused to approve a basic capital increase because of an alleged lack of money. The bank was controlled by groups of companies linked to VSŽ at the time it was placed under administration.

The second case Mikloš cited was a recent controversial basic capital increase in the largest state insurer, Slovenská poisťovňa. The FNM used its majority stake in the insurer to approve the capital increase, but then did not subscribe new shares, which led to the FNM's stake falling below 50% and the share of VSŽ and allied shareholders increasing correspondingly.

"Privatization has been going on in an absolutely untransparent way, without any known rules, in favor of groups closely connected with top officials of the ruling coalition led by the HZDS," Mikloš said.

No one competent from either the government or the HZDS was available to comment on Mikloš' accusations. The FNM press department was not replying to telephone attempts to obtain comments, while top executive officials were also unavailable. However, the government has in the past denied similar accusations by the opposition, saying it had done nothing unlawful in the privatization process.

Mikloš said the state was losing "tens of billions of crowns" in privatization despite the fact that property worth almost 120 billion Sk ($3.43 billion) was sold between 1995 and 1998. Mikloš also noted that the FNM has been suffering from liquidity problems which have forced it to deposit shares of companies remaining in its portfolio as collateral for bank loans.

The FNM executive committee is comprised exclusively of members of the three-party ruling coalition, with the HZDS holding six out of nine seats, including the position of chief executive.

Mikloš said there were several occasions when FNM employees had blocked his access to the Fund's archives. He added that despite his being the only opposition member on the FNM's supervisory board, the board had drafted 25 resolutions addressed to the Fund's executive officials. None of the resolutions, however, were answered by the executive committee. "The supervisory board was simply ignored by the executive representatives of the FNM," Mikloš said.


Additional reporting by Andrea Lörinczová

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