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By Marja Novak
LJUBLJANA, Sept 6 (Reuters) - Slovenia’s new government plans to maintain the country’s plans to sell at least 50 percent of state bank Nova Ljubljanska Banka (NLB) via a stock market listing this year and sell a further stake next year, its incoming finance minister said on Thursday.
It will also sell all of state bank Abanka next year, as planned under the previous government, and aims to reduce public debt to within EU limits by 2021, Andrej Bertoncelj told a parliamentary hearing.
He is due to become finance minister next week when parliament is expected to confirm the minority centre-left government of prime minister-designate Marjan Sarec.
Slovenia, which narrowly avoided an international bailout for its banks in 2013, agreed to sell majority stakes in NLB and Abanka in exchange for the European Commission’s approval of state aid to those banks in 2013, but the sales have been long delayed.
“We plan to complete the sale of NLB and Abanka in the years 2018 and 2019,” Bertoncelj told the hearing, without giving more details.
The government will maintain a 25 percent stake in NLB so that it has a say in key business decisions, but will sell all of Abanka.
Bertoncelj, 61, also said the new government planned to reduce public debt to less than 60 percent of gross domestic product.
“The plan is to reduce debt to below 60 percent of GDP by 2021,” Bertoncelj said. At present Slovenian public debt amounts to about 70 percent of GDP, well above the maximum limit of 60 percent of GDP that is allowed for EU members.
The coalition agreement of five centre-left parties, signed last week, showed the incoming government plans to increase taxes. That prompted warnings from several business groups and companies that higher taxation could lead to lower investment and economic growth and fewer jobs.
Bertoncelj said a general tax overhaul is needed but gave no details, saying no decisions will be taken in haste but would be based on thorough analyses.
The coalition agreement indicates taxes on capital, labour and real estate are likely to be increased.
Bertoncelj said the incoming government will also adjust the 2019 budget plan in October because public sector wages are expected to rise next year by more than earlier expected while the absorption of European Union funds is slower than previously envisaged.
Under the previous government, the finance ministry said Slovenia would end 2018 with a budget surplus of 0.4 percent, versus a surplus of 0.03 percent last year, and would run a surplus in 2019. Bertoncelj did not give new targets. (Reporting by Marja Novak; Editing by Jason Neely and Susan Fenton)