With the release of the unpleasant national average unemployment figure of almost 15% last week, Prime Minister Robert Fico and his Smer(ry) men fought back with a serious of spirit lifting, if not confusing, statements to calm the nation’s masses that all was in order.
Many analysts obviously put the growing number of jobless down to the ‘consolidation’ measures adopted by the government, especially the new tax and levy rules, which have put students, the elderly, part-time workers and the self-employed at risk. The PM doesn’t seem to agree, however, and has said that the recent changes to the Labour Code would, of course, remain in place. In his opinion, there is no connection between the changes (higher corporate taxes, higher payroll levies, etc.) and the unemployment rate.
Ironically, on Thursday PM Fico told the press how politicians must pay heed to the needs of the people when consolidating public finances. Fico didn’t forget to point out how “they” (apparently referring to those aloof on parliament hill) understand people’s legitimate right to a better life.
Fico played down the high unemployment rate, the highest since Slovakia joined the European Union, as a problem affecting all of Europe and not just Slovakia. Naturally, the opposition attacked the government’s policies and the Prime Minister’s statements, pointing to how the living standard in the country is on the decline.
PM Fico defends the steps he and his government have taken, but he may be starting to edge a little backwards as he noted how “if consolidation measures start to affect the business environment negatively, then they will be revised”. He says the government will now start concentrating on economic growth and boosting employment, as if it was a chore that has been set aside to be done separately from other policies.