SLOVAK WORD OF THE WEEK

Lesník

YOU REALLY have to wonder what makes running the Aviation Weather Service more difficult – the fact that you can’t walk around an airfield by yourself, because you don’t have security clearance, or the fact that for the last 20 years you’ve been working not as a meteorologist but as a forester (lesník).

YOU REALLY have to wonder what makes running the Aviation Weather Service more difficult – the fact that you can’t walk around an airfield by yourself, because you don’t have security clearance, or the fact that for the last 20 years you’ve been working not as a meteorologist but as a forester (lesník).

Jozef Minďáš has to deal with both these handicaps. Plus there is the unfortunate business of him being investigated for non-transparent sale of wood and unfavourable leases of hunting ranges while he was boss of the state forestry company under the first Fico government.

Minďáš is by no means the only strange nomination by this administration. The Labour Ministry’s Education Centre is headed by Martin Ružička, whom Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajčák accused of formerly having a “phantom contract” at his ministry. The parliamentary financial committee is run by Daniel Duchoň, who worked as manager for a Russian entrepreneur suspected of mafia ties. The list could go on and on.

Such appointments illustrate two phenomena. Firstly, how difficult it is to fill all spots available to the ruling party, especially in a country of Slovakia’s size. Even if Smer suddenly wished to find people without a troubled past, where would they look? Secondly, it proves that the Slovak proverb “a fish rots from the head” is not fully correct. Yes, leaders show us the way and top-level decisions certainly influence both the quality of governance and the level of corruption. But even Robert Fico can only go so far.

The country is full of bureaucrats and businessmen hoping to enrich themselves from public funds. Some steal a little, and some steal a lot. But there are a lot of them at all levels. It is therefore little surprise that public service isn’t very attractive for those that truly wish to serve the public.

Another local proverb says that “those who are afraid, should not go into the woods.” Let’s hope enough decent people find the courage and motivation to operate in the jungle of Slovak public administration. Otherwise we’ll be stuck with the foresters.

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