"We don't just promise."
In an exclusive interview for The Slovak Spectator, deputy Premier Sergej Kozlík explained that the economic plan of Premier Vladimír Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) "will be the same as our plan has been until now. We will continue with the further transformation of the economy, so that step by step we become a country with a market economy."
Kozlík, a former Finance Minister in the current Mečiar government, said that the HZDS deserved credit for reining in its fiscal policy, and would continue to control government spending after the elections. "This year, the fiscal deficit of the state budget will be the lowest since 1993," he said. "Although this is an election year, the budget deficit has started to change for the better."
Kozlík conceded that Slovakia's high current account deficit would have to be addressed. "The HZDS will have to deal with it, using a complex of measures such as budget policy in correlation with [lowering domestic] consumption [and increasing] the productivity of work," he said.
One thing the HZDS would not change, Kozlík said, was its efforts to attract direct foreign investment. "We have done things to support foreign investment in the last four years," he stated. "We came up with tax holidays for foreign investors, and we passed a bill exempting technology imports from customs duties."
The restructuring of the Slovak economy, Kozlík continued, has been one of the government's priorities, especially when it comes to small and medium sized companies. Kozlík said that the restructuring of small and medium enterprises, which would also involve lowering the burden of direct taxes and increasing indirect charges, "cannot be separated from the process of restructuring large companies." In Kozlík's economic vision, large companies are the "skeleton of the economy", while small and medium businesses "form the muscles." While Slovakia's economic muscles are currently in some pain, Kozlík added, medical relief will eventually come with the recovery of large-scale enterprise.
According to the HZDS plan, the Slovak privatization process, so intensely criticized by opposition parties and economic experts, will continue in areas such as the financial sector and health care. But Kozlík, who was the spokesman of an early August HZDS petition drive to prevent the future privatization of the energy sector, warned that "gas and electricity transporters should be excluded from privatization, in order to safeguard their important position in the Slovak economy."
Explaining his party's 'stand pat' economic program, Kozlík stressed that the HZDS sought to root its plans for the future in the accomplishments of the past. "The beauty of our movement is that we don't just make promises, we base our visions on the concrete results of our policies in the past," he said.