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Slovenia PM promises jobs, growth; cabinet approved
March 20, 2013 / 7:48 PM / 5 years ago

Slovenia PM promises jobs, growth; cabinet approved

Slovenian Prime Minister Alenka Bratusek speaks after her cabinet was confirmed in Ljubljana March 20, 2013. REUTERS/Srdjan Zivulovic

LJUBLJANA (Reuters) - Prime Minister Alenka Bratusek said on Wednesday she was determined to revive the economy, overhaul Slovenia’s crumbling banks and avoid an international bailout as parliament approved her new cabinet.

Bratusek, Slovenia’s first female prime minister, and her centre-left Positive Slovenia party have taken over from Prime Minister Janez Jansa’s conservatives, who lost their majority in parliament in January over a corruption scandal.

Her four-party coalition controls 49 of 90 seats in parliament. She told deputies before the vote that her cabinet plans to ensure fiscal and political stability, increase the competitiveness and create jobs for the young.

“I expect a consolidation of the public finances that will not reduce economic growth,” Bratusek added, marking a departure from Jansa’s unpopular austerity drive.

She said the government would focus on solving the problems of local banks, whose 7 billion euros (5.9 billion pounds) of bad loans amount to 20 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

“All (coalition) partners are aware that solving the problems of the banking sector is necessary and we will continue with it in a somewhat different form,” said Bratusek.

She gave no details but finance-minister-to-be Uros Cufer said on Tuesday the new government would set up a “bad bank” as planned by the previous conservative cabinet.

AILING BANKS A PRIORITY

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said the three largest Slovenian banks, all majority or partially state-owned, would need a capital boost of about 1 billion euros in 2013 and cautioned that “deteriorating economic conditions could increase the need for capital in (later) years”.

Positive Slovenia (PS) leader Alenka Bratusek speaks during a news conference after the parliament dismissed Slovenia's Prime Minister Janez Jansa's ruling coalition in Ljubljana February 27, 2013. REUTERS/Srdjan Zivulovic

It said in a statement on Wednesday that Slovenia would have to borrow about 3 billion euros this year and possibly more, depending on bank recapitalisation needs.

The IMF said Slovenia should facilitate debt restructuring of companies, improve corporate governance and attract more foreign investment by privatisation, which has been on the back burner for years.

The country’s banks, mostly state-owned, are at the heart of speculation that the ex-Yugoslav republic of 2 million people may have to follow Cyprus and other vulnerable euro zone states in seeking a bailout.

Analysts said creating a “bad bank” was a priority for the new government.

“Fitch’s current assumption is still that Slovenia will not request international financial assistance, which implies that the incoming government will successfully complete and implement key legislation on the bad bank,” Matteo Napolitano of Fitch Ratings said.

He said Fitch would review Slovenia’s sovereign rating, currently at A- with a negative outlook, by early August.

Slovenia, which also is struggling with a renewed recession due to weak demand for its exports and budget cuts squeezing spending, managed to issue its first sovereign bond in 19 months in October, averting a bailout at least until June.

The European Commission expects Slovenia’s GDP to fall by 2 percent this year after a contraction of 2.3 percent in 2012. The government’s macroeconomic institute expects unemployment, currently at a 14-year-high of 13.6 percent, to fall significantly only in 2015.

Bratusek said she would ask for a confidence vote in parliament in one year, in line with a coalition agreement, giving her partners a chance to opt for a snap election.

The next regular election is due in late 2015.

Reporting By Marja Novak; Editing by Zoran Radosavljevic and Michael Roddy

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