Robert Fico changes history
More than one-third of voters support his government, a goal Dzurinda never achieved.
The post-election period in Slovakia can clearly be called the Fico era. Not only is his Smer-Social Democrat party breaking current records for popularity, but they have been doing so consistently for over one year.
According to research carried out by the MVK Agency, Fico's cabinet is seen as successful by over one-third of those questioned, while only twenty percent disagree, with the remainder having only slight reservations. Agency director Pavel Haulík does not remember that a government has ever been so popular, and considers the findings an anomaly on the Slovak political scene -- "From 1998, when we started monitoring, governments have always moved in the red numbers -- negative assessments have exceeded positive ones. Sometimes the difference was a chasm".
Vice-premier Robert Kaliňák is not hiding his satisfaction with the results -- "The Government's task has been to join economic demands and international policies with the requirements of the populace, and if we have been somewhat successful in this, then we are happy".
The recipe for Fico's achievement sounds quite prosaic -- communication. "The previous government underestimated communication with the citizen, who had to reach deeper into his pocket, and they looked down on him from the heights, which was perceived very negatively by people", Haulík commented. For illustration: Mikuláš Dzurinda's second government in 2003 (a year after the elections) was seen as successful by only ten percent of the population, while two-thirds gave it a negative report. June 6
Over-heating not a danger
The Slovak economy is in good condition and is standing on solid footings. The Statistics Bureau has adjusted its original growth estimate (in permanent prices) for the first quarter-year upward by one-tenth, to nine percent. The gross domestic product structure is balanced and nothing suggests that prices are being forced higher. Moreover, the economy still has potential. "The new manufacturing plants are still not working to full capacity", reported Pavol Baláž of the Statistics Bureau, adding that double-figure growth in the coming period is not ruled out.
If data is compared from all European Union countries, we occupy third place, as usual behind Latvia and Estonia, even though these Baltic nations are showing signs of a levelling-out of growth. Moreover, Latvia has begun to show signs of over-heating due to an expansive fiscal policy and interest rate rises. Inflation growth is also a problem there.
As expected, figures show that exports are driving our economy. Foreign demand was up about a quarter, contributing 5,6 percent to G.D.P. growth. On the other hand, domestic demand, although still rising, is showing a declining trend. In the first quarter-year it increased by 3,9 percent, the lowest level since a similar period three years ago. Household consumption remains strong, and we purchased 6,5 percent more than at the same time last year. June 4
Wages increasing, but not equally
If you are a man with a PhD, you are an executive living in the Bratislava region and are involved in financial intermediation, you are the prototype of a well-paid Slovak.
If on the other hand you are an inhabitant of the Prešov region working as a low-qualified employee in the services and trade sector with only basic education, you fall into the opposite category. These are the findings of the Statistics Bureau, which calculates that employee wages have practically doubled over the last ten years.
"The average gross monthly wage in companies, without taking into account employed free traders, has increased by 96 percent over the last decade", reported the General Director of the Bureau's social statistics section, Milan Olexa. In nominal comparisons salaries have grown by 9 688 crowns per month, but in real figures we can afford somewhat less: taking into account inflation development, the actual increase in employee wages amounts to only 1 300 crowns. Despite these increases, there still exists a large group of employees with below-average wages and a small group with high incomes.
Although Slovak's purchasing power has risen, Ivan Chrapa of the Statistics Bureau points out the differences between salaries for men and women. The gap according to this categorization is very wide. "Women's average income does not amount to even three-quarters of that of males, and the difference has become ever greater". June 1
CURRENT EXPENDITURES OF HOMES (%)
Food, alcohol and tobacco 20,32
Clothes and shoes 4,36
Housing and energy 33,7
Healthcare, transport, postal and telecommunications services 15,76
Holidays and culture 7,98
Source: Statistical Office
English translation by Kevin Slavin