SOP vows "prosperous economy"

As a seven month-old newcomer to Slovakia's political scene, the Party of Civic Understanding (SOP) is still a little sketchy on the details of its economic program. The left-of-center grouping, led by populist Košice mayor Rudolf Schuster, intends to provide "good legislative conditions for economic prosperity," for private businesses, foreign investors, small and medium enterprises alike. And this, according to the party's official program, should lead to "the prosperity of the state and a rising standard of living for the people."
To bring increased foreign investments to Slovakia, the SOP is angling "to secure political stability in the country, and provide the legislative and economic conditions which would attract foreign direct investors," said Ferdinand Petrák, SOP vice-chairman and economic specialist.

As a seven month-old newcomer to Slovakia's political scene, the Party of Civic Understanding (SOP) is still a little sketchy on the details of its economic program. The left-of-center grouping, led by populist Košice mayor Rudolf Schuster, intends to provide "good legislative conditions for economic prosperity," for private businesses, foreign investors, small and medium enterprises alike. And this, according to the party's official program, should lead to "the prosperity of the state and a rising standard of living for the people."

To bring increased foreign investments to Slovakia, the SOP is angling "to secure political stability in the country, and provide the legislative and economic conditions which would attract foreign direct investors," said Ferdinand Petrák, SOP vice-chairman and economic specialist.

The ballooning state budget deficit would be solved by "limiting and decreasing public spending, and using state money more effectively."At the same time, Petrák continued, the SOP would "improve the economic situation of [Slovak] citizens by increasing real wages in accordance with labour productivity, and by creating a system of social insurance that will provide for comfortable conditions during old age and illness."

Turning to specifics, Petrák said that the present trade deficit had been caused by the declining competitiveness of Slovak products and problems in the export sector. The SOP, he said, wanted to "increase competetive ability on the basis of industrial restructuring , and then support proexport programs designed to increase exports to Russia."

SOP in its pre-election campaign is set to emphasize the importance of small and medium enterprises, Petrák said, which had lost a lot of ground from 1995 to 1997. The first job would be clearly to identify small traders and small and medium enterprises, with the aim of making support programs more transparent and direct. "Business licenses should be the way of lowering the administrative burden," said Petrák, "as well as increasing the level of legislative and economic help to start-up companies, lowering their fees and taxes and increasing the provision of loans."

Petrák declared that the SOP was in favour of reprivatization. "The SOP will re-evaluate privatization projects, and those companies which were privatized in contravention of the law will be returned to the state and transparently reprivatized."

Finally, capital markets would receive a throrough overhaul if the SOP had its way. "By supporting the independent control of capital market, by minimizing state competencies, by increasing transparency and bringing legislation in line with European standards , we plan to revive the Slovak capital market." Petrák said.

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