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Public debate on challenges and perspectives of the Savinjska region

SLOVENIA, September 13 - The Mayor of Celje, Bojan Šrot, welcomed all participants of the working consultation and announced the opening of the 52nd International Trade Fair tomorrow. He said that 31 municipalities in the Savinjska region cooperate very well and expressed satisfaction with the fact that the current government has a strong regional component.

Prime Minister Janša went on to say that the Savinjska region, which covers a little more than ten percent of Slovenia, has the most tourist farms in Slovenia, some extremely successful manufacturing companies and many good start-ups that offer good prospects for economic development in future. The Savinjska region is also the leader in hop production. He said that in the morning the Government tried to compare the figures and assessments of different departments on different areas and focused on some problems that need to be solved in the near future, not least in the energy field. It also addressed the epidemiological situation in the region.

Prime Minister Janša then gave the floor to local businesspeople and representatives of local institutions, who highlighted the issuing of visas to citizens of the Russian Federation, the recent Government Ordinance on the method of meeting the condition of recovery, vaccination and testing for almost all activities, vaccination coverage in the region, reducing government bureaucracy, support for further development of the wood processing industry in the region, unfair practices in the economy, support for investments in newer technologies in manufacturing, and greater efforts to prevent new coronavirus infections.

High vaccination coverage indicates social solidarity

The Minister of Health, Janez Poklukar, presented the vaccination coverage in the Savinjska region, where the share of vaccinated population almost reaches the Slovenian average. He said that Slovenia has enough vaccines, so it is time for the people to get vaccinated and curb the fourth wave. In recent days, there has been an increase in vaccination due to the adopted Ordinance on the method of meeting the condition of recovery, vaccination and testing. The Minister called on all participants to engage at the local level in order to achieve proper vaccination coverage. The only way to protect vulnerable persons who cannot be vaccinated and children up to the age of 12 is that all of us who can, do get vaccinated, the Minister said, adding that the epidemic is a social problem that can only be overcome through solidarity.

Regarding vaccination itself, Minister Poklukar called on all mayors and health centre managements to strengthen services at vaccination sites to provide people with immediate access to vaccination, as there is enough vaccine and further deliveries can be made. According to the ministerial order, vaccination sites in health centres should be open one hour a day per each family medicine team. Right now, when a significantly larger number of people have decided to get vaccinated, it is crucial that we get this done, said Minister Poklukar.

Prime Minister Janša emphasised the unnecessary costs of testing, which are higher than the price of the available vaccine, and warned of overcrowding in hospital facilities in the event of cases going up, which could be fatal for patients with other diseases. He underlined that the introduction of the recovered/vaccinated/tested rule is the alternative to the situation of last autumn, when Slovenia suspended activities and closed down as a society. The ‘vaccinated’ part of the rule must increasingly prevail, the Prime Minister stressed.

The economy in the Savinjska region remains at 2019 levels

Minister of Economic Development and Technology Zdravko Minister Počivalšek then presented the state of the economy in the Savinjska region and said that it remained at 2019 levels. In 2020 there were 6,840 companies operating in the region, of which 5,748 were micro-enterprises, 921 small, 125 medium-sized and 40 large enterprises. The regional economy employed slightly over 60,000 people. The companies of the Savinjska region lagged behind Slovenia in terms of productivity, with employees generating 16% less revenue and 12% lower net value added than the Slovenian average. On the other hand, the situation regarding profitability indicators is favourable. According to these indicators, companies in the region generate much more net value added with available capital and assets than average companies in Slovenia: with one hundred euros of capital, Savinjska region companies generate 63 euros per year, while the Slovenian average is 46 euros per year.

Large enterprises include Slovenian-owned companies that are large, successful and export-oriented, and large foreign-owned companies that have a slightly higher percentage of exports than others. Within the pillars of the tourism offer in Slovenia, the Savinjska region is the first by far in the spa tourism, as it has as many as seven out of 14 Slovenian natural health resorts. Given the number of providers of agritourism and two large ski resorts, it can indeed be said that this is one of the pillars of Slovenian tourism.

Minister Počivalšek underlined the importance of preserving jobs for young people via the twelve measures. The Government supports regional development and business ideas in the region. It has supported the economy with special measures worth three billion euros, of which more than one billion euros were allocated for the tourism sector, Minister Počivalšek said. Slovenia has opted for partial coverage of fixed costs rather than for lower taxes in tourism.

On the timber industry, he said that we are taking slow steps and exporting most of the logs across the northern border, so we support, and also have sufficient funds to support higher forms of processing. In Slovenia, 80% of forests are in private hands, and there is a need to take more responsible care and use this potential of wood for the Slovenian wood industry, said the Minister.

In conclusion, Minister Počivalšek commended how well work at the Celje vaccination site had been organised, where there are no delays and people go home already in possession of a certificate, saying that this should be the case everywhere in Slovenia.

As regards visas for Russian tourists visiting Rogaška Slatina, the State Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Stanislav Raščan, said that Slovenia is coordinating with other Member States of the Schengen area and is also working to relax the Russian visa regime for Slovenian businesspeople.

Regarding changes to the environmental permit for the incinerator in Celje, Minister Vizjak said that the Government was aware of the problem of inefficient and bureaucratic issuance of permits by the Slovenian Environment Agency, and had taken action by transferring the competence to issue permits to the ministry. Applications are reviewed every 14 days.

The Minister of Education and Sport, Simona Kustec, said that the Government will assist in the development of the region and stressed that investment works there are currently proceeding as planned. She also gave an assurance that the education process in schools and kindergartens across the country will run smoothly despite the COVID-19 epidemic.

Digitalisation and de-bureacratisation go hand in hand

The Minister of Digital Transformation, Mark Boris Andrijanič, said that during the visit he had seen for himself that the Savinjska region was a land of entrepreneurial, working and innovative people. He stressed that digitalisation and de-bureacratisation go hand in hand, which was confirmed by several companies during his visit. To this end, the Strategic Council for De-Bureaucratisation has drawn up a number of measures to simplify the work of small and medium-sized enterprises, which are the backbone of the Slovenian economy. Together with the Ministry of Public Administration, the council is working on a project called the Virtual Window, which will allow access to certain services provided by administrative units via the internet and a secure audio-video link. Another such measure is the uniform reporting of companies to the state. There are also plans to introduce a single e-point for all subsidies and the payment of tax by direct debit order, which will be implemented next year. As regards digitisation, he highlighted the coverage of small towns with broadband connection.

More funding for mountain and hilly areas, infrastructure

Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Jože Podgoršek has promised more funds for mountain and hilly areas, which are envisaged in the annual plan in the amount of 44 million euros. A tender worth 15 million euros has been opened for the development of non-economic activities on farms. It is intended for rural tourism, which is one of the development opportunities of the Slovenian countryside.

The Minister of Infrastructure, Jernej Vrtovec, said that the permit for the construction of the Luče bypass, which is expected to cost 9.6 million euros, was also under way. He pointed out that the Government was striving to achieve balanced development for Slovenia.

The Minister of Finance, Andrej Šircelj, presented changes to tax legislation, with the basic solutions being to relieve the burden on labour – thus improving competitiveness – and to increase the incentives to go green and digital. In terms of occupations with a deficit, there will also be relief available to employers working in these areas and for invoicing.

The Minister of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, Janez Cigler Kralj, said that the ministry connects employment services and social work centres and that the key is to activate those looking for work and to reduce the number of long-term recipients of transfers.

At the end of the public debate, Prime Minister Janša expressed his hope that together we would overcome the coronavirus crisis without closures and drew attention to the optimistic outlook for the Slovenian economy.