Remarks to members of the National Assembly, National Council, and Economic and Social Council of Slovenia
Ljubljana, Slovenia, 5 September 2017
Excellency, President of the National Assembly,
Distinguished Members of the National Assembly,
Your Excellency Ambassador Sodin,
I am delighted to be back in Ljubljana. Yesterday, I spoke at the Bled Strategic Forum of the global economic context in which my visit takes place: a slightly improved outlook, but with some way to go; the legacies of the crisis, and in particular high inequality, and the erosion of trust in governments; and the phenomena of globalisation and digitalisation which – while presenting huge opportunities – often come under fire from a public that is increasing worried about what the future holds.
Earlier today, I launched our latest Economic Survey of Slovenia alongside the Minister of Finance, Mateja Vranicar Erman. This is our biennial assessment of where the Slovenian economy stands, and it sets out some recommendations for the future.
Against the uncertain global economic backdrop I just mentioned, the overall message of our economic survey is a positive one: Slovenia’s recovery from the crisis has gone from strength to strength, and past reforms appear to be paying off. Growth has accelerated and could exceed 4½% this year. The unemployment rate is expected to fall below 6% in 2018, from above 10% five years earlier.
Income inequality is relatively low in Slovenia and the country also does well in terms of environmental outcomes.
Our Survey also sets out some of the areas in which Slovenia will need to make more progress if the recent pace of growth is to be sustained going forward. Low productivity growth in Slovenia remains an overarching challenge.
First, when it comes to Slovenia’s public finances, we have seen significant improvements, with the budget deficit now standing at only 1.8% of GDP. Slovenia needs to continue fiscal consolidation, and to act now if it is to avoid rising public debt by 2030.
One area where action will need to be taken to contain public spending concerns population ageing. Total ageing-related spending is projected to increase by 6.9 percentage points of GDP by 2060, well above the projected EU average increase of 1.7 percentage points. This is why we stress the need to find a solution to the pensions issue, and also to reform health and long-term care.
Second, we look in detail at some of the labour market challenges facing Slovenia. While unemployment has fallen significantly, those left without jobs are increasingly difficult-to-employ. Investments in skills will be crucial. Moreover, decentralising wage bargaining and eliminating the current requirement that wages increase automatically with age could be highly beneficial.
Finally, the survey looks at Slovenia’s business environment, and in particular at how regulation can be improved and competition can be enhanced to foster productivity growth. We point, for example, to the need for a better staffed competition authority, and simpler judicial proceedings. The report also highlights the need to open up more sectors to competition, including regulated professions. We also touch on the need for improved management of state-owned enterprises. As you know, some public companies – in particular banks – required subsidies of some 20% of GDP during the crisis.
Many of the challenges I have just described will require a long-term vision, sustained commitment, and solid evidence to overcome. This is why I am impressed with the leadership shown by the Slovenian authorities in the elaboration of a National Development Strategy for Slovenia.
A broad consultative process has helped Slovenia to define a national vision that considers well-being in all its forms, both for current and future generations. It is a vision that sees Slovenia achieving the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and leveraging this universal agenda for the benefit of every Slovenian citizen. But such a vision is just the first step.
The vision now needs to be underpinned by a fully-fledged strategy that translates the vision into concrete policy goals and targets, and, over time, an action plan and a suitable institutional framework to support implementation. I am hopeful that the Strategy can be launched over the coming months, and that it will benefit from broad support across the political spectrum, as well as from civil society and business. Your role, as members of the National Assembly, will be crucial to the success of the Strategy.
In April this year, Minister Alenka Smerkolj presented plans for the National Development Strategy at a special session of the OECD Council, and this initiative was received with great interest by the other OECD Members. Slovenia also made an impressive presentation at this year’s High Level Political Forum on the Sustainable Development Goals in New York. In short: the world is watching Slovenia’s leadership in this area with great interest.
Slovenia’s work on its vision and its National Development Strategy has also challenged the OECD to put its tools at the disposal of a Member country in new and different ways. We were privileged to benefit from very close collaboration with the Slovenian authorities on statistics, strategic foresight, and economic modelling as the project unfolded.
We are eager to continue this collaboration, and to support Slovenia during the next steps of this exciting initiative.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
The OECD is working with Slovenia and for Slovenia also in many other areas. Allow me to mention just a couple of additional examples:
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
Slovenia is a very active Member of the OECD, and I am grateful for the role that the Slovenian authorities play in shaping the standards and work of the OECD. Our work to promote Inclusive Growth, a fairer global tax system, and trade that benefits all citizens, are just a few examples of major undertakings in the challenging environment that I discussed at the outset. Thank you Slovenia. Thank you, Ambassador Sodin.
Together, I believe that we are well placed to design, develop and deliver Better Policies for Better Lives.