Following an eight-hour slog through the night, the quartet of coalition leaders concluded their discussions to produce the Government Manifesto early Tuesday morning. Prime Minister Iveta Radicova said the partners had reached agreement on all areas, but that many changes had been made compared to the preliminary working version, many of them significant.
The most discussed area was healthcare, every sentence of which had to be dissected, and the chapter of the Ministry of Economy had to be totally rewritten. Big changes are also projected for the agenda of the Ministry of Transport.
The Manifesto focuses primarily on stabilising public finances, improving the business environment and on reforming the system of education and the judiciary. It will also preserve the 10% VAT on books and drugs, and the 6% VAT on sold home produce foodstuffs. A ‘super-gross wage’ will be introduced, and income and payroll taxes will be combined. Sickness and unemployment insurance will not yet be voluntary, as was previously speculated. Levies to the second pension pillar will remain intact, and the retirement age will not be raised (set at 62), but Radicova agreed with labour minister Mihal that major reform of the levies system will be required.
The government has also opened the door for strategic investors to enter rail cargo company Cargo and also Bratislava airport. The system of e-procurement will be boosted and all contracts with the state are to be made public.
Where public finances are concerned, the first thing will be to conduct ministry audits, after which the ministries will have until the end of August to come up with their proposals. The government intends to combat overspending by either halting or scrapping overpriced public procurements, among other things.
The coalition partners can now present their proposed revisions and comments to the final version before it is passed at the government session tomorrow, 28 July. The Prime Minister referred to the Manifesto as the bedrock for Slovakia’s recovery, saying it responds to the crisis and the current situation in the country and that of its people.