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Coalition stands by plan to connect Zvolen to Košice with express dual-carriageway

PM Fico is dismissive of critical economic analysis by Finance Ministry.

Andrej Danko, Robert Fico and Béla Bugár, from left(Source: TASR)

The construction of the R2 express dual-carriageway from Zvolen (Banská Bystrica Region) in the direction of Košice will continue as set out in the four-year programme of the current cabinet, leaders of three coalition parties agreed on August 3.

“We’ve made clear our adherence to making good on the commitment enacted in the Government Manifesto to carry on with the construction of the R2 from Zvolen in the direction of Košice,” said Prime Minister and Smer leader Robert Fico after talks with Slovak National Party (SNS) leader and Speaker of Parliament Andrej Danko and Most-Híd chairman Béla Bugár.

Fico was dismissive of a preliminary opinion of the Finance Ministry’s Value for Money unit, which assessed continuing to build the R2 express dual-carriageway as unprofitable. It instead suggested expanding some sections of an existing road or building a two-line express dual-carriageway in some sections.

“I couldn’t care less about what some clerk thinks,” said Fico as cited by the TASR newswire. “It’s made clear in the Government Manifesto, and it’s the duty of all of us who hold some sway over it to make decisions that will deliver on this commitment.”

Fico added that he expects Transport and Construction Minister Árpád Érsek (Most-Híd) to prepare decisions for the continuation and to ensure that the R2 continues to be built. Bugár and Danko also pledged the government’s commitment to completing the R2 express dual-carriageway.

The ruling coalition sees completion of the network of highways and express dual-carriageway as a solution for so-called hunger valleys. It believes that a better road connection would bring more investments there and would thus bring jobs to local people. There are several hunger valleys in southern Slovakia that would be serviced by the new highway.

Read also: Read also:The cure for unemployment in poor regions is an inclusive market, says think tank

Value for Money

The launch of the analytical team of Value for Money at the Finance Ministry (ÚHD) was inspired by an initiative of the late economist Martin Filko called ‘Best of All Possible Worlds – Value for Money in Slovak Public Policies’. Its main idea was that government’s decisions should be based on analyses which lead to an effective and performance-oriented public administration. While this may sound simple and obvious, it requires a change in the way of thinking of the state that prevents state politicians from deciding subjectively.

The analytical team claims that it has never wanted to halt construction of the R2 express dual-carriageway and that some uncertainties occurred after partial information from evaluation of individual stretches were medialised.

“Works on the R2 project are going on so that we will achieve the best solution possible and one which will contribute to meeting of the Government Manifesto, which is to build the R2 and follow the principles of value for money,” wrote the Government Proxy for express dual-carriageways Igor Janckulík and director of ÚHD Štefan Kišš in a joint statement after their meeting on August 3.

The analysts have again asked the National Highway Company for the latest data, which they will use in updating their calculations and publishing an evaluation of the R2 projects underway. They stressed that they are not questioning the need to build the Zvolen-Košice R2 express dual-carriageway but are looking for less costly alternatives.

Analyses and conclusions by the analytical team only serve as recommendations for the government.

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