Blaško: It is sad to hear Slovakia is unable to spend EU funds

We should think first about what to reform to fulfil our vision and only then look for money to cover the costs, says AmCham director.

Ronald Blaško, executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham). Ronald Blaško, executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham). (Source: Courtesy of AmCham)

It is not enough to create good strategies; it is more important to stick to them and pursue long-term visions to ensure Slovakia remains competitive in the changing world, says Ronald Blaško, executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham). In his view, a consensus is needed between the coalition and the opposition to make sure reforms do not change after each election.

The Slovak Spectator spoke with Blaško about Slovakia's Recovery and Resilience Plan, the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and about what Slovakia should do to attract new investments.

The Slovak Spectator (TSS): What is the role of AmCham during the Covid-19 pandemic? How can you help your member companies?

Ronald Blaško (RB): AmCham’s tasks have not significantly changed during the pandemic. Only one task has become more important — passing information from the government and ministries to our members and vice versa. We have also been a platform for sharing best practices among our members. We switched to the online environment immediately after the pandemic hit in March 2020 and by June 2020, we had held 30 webinars and online discussions on topics ranging from legislation through finances up to outlooks for when the pandemic might end. We invited representatives of the public sector to take part, including deputy governor of the central bank, government ministers, bankers, lawyers and others. We discussed the programme statement as the new government was just taking power after the parliamentary election, assistance to companies during the pandemic, and the recovery plan. Many of our arguments were heard and reflected in final decisions and documents.

Networking, which is a traditional task of foreign chambers, receded along with business development since many companies fought for survival during the first and second wave of the pandemic.

TSS: How has the pandemic affected AmCham members?

RB: Our membership, numbering some 300 companies, is very diverse and includes small and big companies from various sectors originating not only from the US but also from Slovakia and other countries. Some of them have fared well while others have been significantly harmed by the pandemic. Compared with other countries in this region in which AmCham operates, there is a smaller share of companies negatively hit by the pandemic in Slovakia. This is also because none of our members are airline companies. Some of our members manage hotels, but tourism was not such a strong sector in Slovakia unlike, for example, Croatia or the Czech Republic, before the pandemic. The coronavirus crisis has thus had less of an impact on the local hospitality sector. On the other hand, Bratislava is one of the cities hit significantly in this respect and it is questionable when the situation will improve.

TSS: Which segments have thrived during the pandemic?

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