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CORRUPTION AND UNEMPLOYMENT MAIN CHALLENGES FOR THE NEW GOVERNMENT

Policy proposals laid out

Over the next four years the ruling coalition is planning to crack down on corruption and reduce unemployment, two areas identified as key problems for the country by a European Commission (EC) report released October 9.
After signing an agreement on their future cooperation, the coalition parties forming the new government released a list of policy proposals laying out their main intentions. These will be voted on by parliament, once the new government is in place.
Reacting to EC criticism of the country's history of corruption, which the Commission's report called "grounds for serious concern," the proposed policies for the Interior Ministry address corruption within the police force. One measure, intended to reveal any suspicious income, requires police officials and their family members to submit detailed property statements.


LEADERS of Slovakia's four coalition parties have their work cut out for them.
photo: TASR

Over the next four years the ruling coalition is planning to crack down on corruption and reduce unemployment, two areas identified as key problems for the country by a European Commission (EC) report released October 9.

After signing an agreement on their future cooperation, the coalition parties forming the new government released a list of policy proposals laying out their main intentions. These will be voted on by parliament, once the new government is in place.

Reacting to EC criticism of the country's history of corruption, which the Commission's report called "grounds for serious concern," the proposed policies for the Interior Ministry address corruption within the police force. One measure, intended to reveal any suspicious income, requires police officials and their family members to submit detailed property statements.

Daniel Lipšic, the new head of the Justice Ministry, will have a tough job improving the courts' shattered reputation.

"Justice is viewed by the public as one of the most corrupt fields, along with health care and the police. Measures aimed at fighting it will be inevitable," political scientist Jozef Majchrák told the daily Národná Obroda.

To tackle the problem, the government is planning to speed up the application of a new court management system, designed to stamp out corruption in the courts.

"I will focus on introducing the court management system [to courts that don't already have it], which not only has an anti-corruption effect, but also makes proceedings more efficient," said Lipšic.

Besides court management, the coalition programme defines other ways of dealing with the problem. These include tougher sanctions on judges, introducing a "zero-tolerance principle" for all legal professionals and passing a law that would appoint special prosecutors to combat corruption and organised crime.

In the general policy section of the proposals, the government declares its intention to "reduce unemployment", which, despite recent declines, is still at an alarming level.

Many analysts blame the previous Social Affairs Minister Peter Magvaši, a member of the Democratic Left Party, for the country's catastrophic jobless rate, and they recommend the government adopt a new approach.

"It is necessary for the ministry to depart from the route it took under Magvaši," said Viliam Pätoprstý, analyst for Unibank.

The ministry's plans include an amendment to the Labour Code, which currently gives many rights to employees, discouraging employers to hire people. According to the proposals, social benefits for the long-term unemployed should only fulfil the function of a temporary aid and should not be used as a permanent source of income.

Other measures designed to limit the number of people working illegally were also mentioned, but no specific details were given.

Despite the wide welcome given to the government's proposed policies, experts warn against too much optimism.

In 1998 the government also set out on a pro-reform course, but the ruling coalition covered a wide political spectrum and disputes between members slowed down or blocked many reforms.

"These [proposals] are great ideas, but we shall see whether or not they can be realised. We must remember that the previous government's programme also appeared to promise much, but it never lived up to expectations," said Pätoprstý.

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