IN SHORT

If Smer ruled the country...

IF THE OPPOSITION party Smer were in the cabinet, the party would abolish, change, and re-consider many of what are today seen as the current cabinet's reformist steps.

At a recent party meeting, Smer outlined their cabinet plans in a special document.

According to the Slovak daily SME, measures included in the program are, for example, the cancellation of health fees of Sk20 (€0.50) and Sk50 (€1.20) for drug prescriptions, doctor visits, and stays in hospitals.

Smer, which today enjoys a popular support of about 26 percent according to polls, would also change the current Labour Code and increase the powers of the labour unions.

The party, led by the ambitious Robert Fico, would also reintroduce progressive taxation opposing the recently approved flat tax reform that, as of January 2004, will unify taxes at 19 percent for both individuals and legal entities. Smer also protests the unified 19 percent value-added tax.

Smer wants to delay the launch of the second pillar of the cabinet's pension reform and would not hesitate to plan budgets with a deficit of up to 4.9 percent of the GDP. The current cabinet plans a 2004 deficit of 3.9 percent. Smer would use the extra money for what they see as priority items, including the building of infrastructure.

While the Communist Party embraced Smer's plan, a representative of the country's second biggest opposition party, Movement for a Democratic Slovakia deputy chairman Sergej Kozlík was cautious about Smer's plans.

Analysts as well as some coalition MPs warned that Fico's aggressive strategy against the ruling coalition could make it difficult for Smer to find coalition partners in a possible cabinet involving the self-described centre-left party.

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