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CABINET MOVES FINANCE MINISTER KOZLÍK OVER TO BANK DECISION PANEL

Government tightens grip on NBS

Acting on a little-used provision in the National Bank of Slovakia's (NBS) statutes, the cabinet on February 11 commissioned deputy premier and finance minister Sergej Kozlík to sit on the NBS's bank board, the panel that makes the central bank's strategic decisions.
The move followed the government's January 28 appointment of former deputy finance minister Jozef Magula to the NBS's oversight panel, which directs the central bank's policies. As for Kozlík, he takes on his third position in the government, though he has no voting right on the eight-member panel.
The cabinet's shift of two high-level executive branch officials fuelled specualtion that its dissatisfaction with the NBS's handling of the country's fiscal policy has grown to the point where it wants to have a greater say in the bank's decisions.


Finance Minister Sergej Kozlík will sit on the NBS's bank board as an advisor with no voting rights.
Peter Brenkus

Acting on a little-used provision in the National Bank of Slovakia's (NBS) statutes, the cabinet on February 11 commissioned deputy premier and finance minister Sergej Kozlík to sit on the NBS's bank board, the panel that makes the central bank's strategic decisions.

The move followed the government's January 28 appointment of former deputy finance minister Jozef Magula to the NBS's oversight panel, which directs the central bank's policies. As for Kozlík, he takes on his third position in the government, though he has no voting right on the eight-member panel.

The cabinet's shift of two high-level executive branch officials fuelled specualtion that its dissatisfaction with the NBS's handling of the country's fiscal policy has grown to the point where it wants to have a greater say in the bank's decisions.

"The big question is now whether the NBS will stay the independent course it chose at the beginning," said Brigita Schmögnerová, an economic specialist for the Party of the Democratic Left (SDĽ), after Magula was sent over to the NBS board. "The stakes are really high, because substantial diferences between the government's fiscal policy and the NBS's monetary policy have grown apparent."

Government spokeswoman Magda Pospišílová played down the move, saying it is within the cabinet's right to fill seats on the board as they open up. "There is no reason to speculate about Kozlík's appointment," she said. "We consider him the right person for this position, and it doesn't matter that he's got two other positions." Pospišílová would not comment on why the government decided now to make use of the measure, which has existed since 1992.

Yet former Mečiar economic advisor Peter Staněk, who took over Magula's job, laid bare the fact that the government had decided the time was now to have the central bank be more of a team player in sustaining the country's economic development.

"The NBS must join in the state-banks-enterprises triangle," Staněk said. "It's unacceptable that it should step aside and claim that it cares about nothing else but inflation. If it steps in, it won't be a problem to watch the inflation rate and all the other macroeconomic indicators that it has included in its monetary plan."

The NBS board has had three vacancies since early this year. With Kozlík's appointment, bank members occupy five seats, government representatives two, while the last seat remains to be filled. Current members are: NBS Governor Vladimír Masár, vice-governors Marián Jusko and Jozef Mudrík, executive directors Elena Kohútiková and Ján Mathes, and government officials Kozlík and Magula.

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