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EDITORIAL

Still raiding the family jewels

AS THE government prepares its new law on extending privatisation, some still wonder whether the proceeds from the sale of the family jewels will go towards the cost of the reforms, as Finance Minister Ivan Mikloš claims, or to Swiss bank accounts as many suspect.
Unless this sale is radically different from the rest of the privatisations carried out since Slovakia's independence the answer is probably a bit of both.
It would be improper to suggest that money would find its way directly into the pockets of the country's politicians, but there will probably be various consultation fees distributed along the way.

AS THE government prepares its new law on extending privatisation, some still wonder whether the proceeds from the sale of the family jewels will go towards the cost of the reforms, as Finance Minister Ivan Mikloš claims, or to Swiss bank accounts as many suspect.

Unless this sale is radically different from the rest of the privatisations carried out since Slovakia's independence the answer is probably a bit of both.

It would be improper to suggest that money would find its way directly into the pockets of the country's politicians, but there will probably be various consultation fees distributed along the way.

And apart from a low grumbling among the general population it will probably be accepted - after years of graft, the population expects corruption to be the norm, not the exception, among politicians.

While Smer leader Robert Fico is often shown in opinion poll results to be the most trusted politician in Slovakia, when you read the small print you find that the runaway winner is always "no one".

So, on with the privatisations with the hope of at least less dishonesty.

We are already in a situation of rapidly diminishing returns. It seems as if the country is scraping the barrel with its troubled attempts to sell energy producer Slovenské elektrárne with its nuclear lodestone.

So now the government is considering going back to the "strategic" companies that have already been partially privatised and removing the 49 percent limit.

That could mean increases in Deutsche Telekom's stake in Slovak Telecom (ST), despite the company having allegedly reneged on its investment promises, and ST's obstruction to fully opening up the market to competition despite pressure from clients and interest groups.

It could also mean further foreign investment in gas supplier SPP, the company that has already forced huge price increases on the public.

If the proceeds of these sales were used to pay for the current reforms this year and next, how would their long-term effects be paid for? Slovak politicians too often look towards the current electoral term and not beyond.

Are the short-term gains really worth it? Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda says that he believes they are not, at least in the case of SPP. However, he is apt to change his mind.

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