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HUNGARIANS MAKE PITCH FOR FDI

Opposition united on economic cures, government parties demur

István Harna, an economic expert with the Party of the Hungarian Coalition (SMK), said he felt that his party's economic program had always been overshadowed by the SMK's ethnic orientation. "The current government accused us of dealing with ethnic problems exclusively," he said, "but we are interested in solving all problems, with extra emphasis on minority issues."
For Harna, the main thrust of the SMK's economic programme was to use increased FDI to jumpstart Slovakia's deteriorating economy. "One of the goals of the next government should be an attempt to reduce the gap between Slovakia and western economies," he said, "and try to reach the status of the countries in the first wave of EU integration process."
Calling the current economy "dysfunctional," Harna proposed radical restructuring aimed at making the export sector more competitive.

István Harna, an economic expert with the Party of the Hungarian Coalition (SMK), said he felt that his party's economic program had always been overshadowed by the SMK's ethnic orientation. "The current government accused us of dealing with ethnic problems exclusively," he said, "but we are interested in solving all problems, with extra emphasis on minority issues."

For Harna, the main thrust of the SMK's economic programme was to use increased FDI to jumpstart Slovakia's deteriorating economy. "One of the goals of the next government should be an attempt to reduce the gap between Slovakia and western economies," he said, "and try to reach the status of the countries in the first wave of EU integration process."

Calling the current economy "dysfunctional," Harna proposed radical restructuring aimed at making the export sector more competitive. "Concerning foreign capital, the current government made a big mistake not allowing foreign investors to participate in privatization, as they were in Hungary, for instance," Harna said. "Foreign capital could bring money, know-how, new technologies, and could open new markets for Slovak products."

But foreign capital, Harna warned, could not be attracted unless the confidence of investors was given a boost, and this would require revamping Slovakia's privatization process. "Privatization occured under the watchful eye of the ruling HZDS party, and in several cases laws were violated," Harna said.

"The next government will have to reconsider every single privatization project - perhaps a special commission should be established for the purpose - and in cases where the law was violated, it's obvious that the state will have to take control of businesses whose owners are found guilty, at least until these businesses can be privatized according to the law."

Harna said he believed that this 're-privatization' would not harm investor confidence, but would in fact increase trust in the legal foundations of the Slovak economy. "I think that if privatization were not reviewed, it would send negative signals abroad," he said.

"That's because the legal awareness of people in western economies is at such a level that they would expect us to take this step immediately. Potential foreign investors will require it, because otherwise it would prove that anyone can privatize in Slovakia, whether legally or illegally, and there are no valid rules in this country."

Once the task of securing investor confidence is completed, Harna said, a general restructuring project for the entire economy could commence. "We need to increase the portion of 'sophisticated production' (i.e. production that uses only small amounts of imported materials), and increase FDI up to $ 2-3 billion annually," said Harna.

"But first, we have to create stable and reliable political conditions in which foreign investors would feel safe. And that means securing a functional democratic political system, a transparent and just legal system and a flexible and unimpeachable state apparatus"

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