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World Bank denies meddling in Slovak politics

ALTHOUGH the World Bank provided grant money to the Mikuláš Dzurinda cabinet to carry out research prior to formulating its economic reform package, the institution denies meddling in Slovak politics, the Pravda daily reported.

The institution gave the cabinet a $350,000 grant to test the population's mood. The research, based on which the cabinet prepared its structural reforms, polled for potential support among supporters of the ruling Slovak Democratic and Christian Union and the opposition Smer parties.

Apart from the World Bank grant the Slovak cabinet came up with $117,000 of its own money to finance the research.

Two American public opinion research agencies, Greengerg, Quinan and Rosner and Markant, conducted the research. The former legal representative and partner of Markant, Tatiana Rosová, is Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda's advisor. Currently, she is the head of the cabinet's Centre of Information Strategies, the body responsible for all public opinion research.

According to the daily SME, politicians disagree on whether the World Bank’s research grant to the Dzurinda cabinet constitutes a political intervention.

The ruling coalition has used the research to create a strategic document outlining ways in which the ruling coalition should communicate the impact of the reforms to the public now that they have been implemented. Many believe this document has helped increase the public’s support for the reforms. The opposition says this gives the ruling coalition an unfair advantage in the upcoming 2006 elections.

Ingrid Brockova, a World Bank representative, explained that the research derived from the grant does not give specific advice about the political opposition. Rather, it provides information about the people who are likely to oppose the reforms. The Slovak cabinet has used this information to direct its communication campaign.

A communication expert at Comenius University, Olga Skvareninova, says the context of the strategic report suggests that the authors talk specifically about the political opposition, the daily SME added.

Political analyst Samuel Abraham said that the World Bank did not endorse the strategic report; it simply gave a grant for public opinion research. Abraham also said that the report might lose its impact after the contents are revealed.

Compiled by Beata Balogová from press reports
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