(Adds detail, background)
By Marja Novak
LJUBLJANA, Aug 27 (Reuters) - Economist Andrej Bertoncelj is to become Slovenia’s finance minister in the minority centre-left government of Prime Minister designate Marjan Sarec, a spokeswoman for Sarec’s party said on Monday.
Bertoncelj’s main task will be to keep a lid on public spending in the small Alpine country and reduce public debt which reached 73.6 percent of GDP last year, down from 78.6 percent in 2016, but was still well above the 60 percent of GDP level allowed for European Union members.
Outgoing Prime Minister Miro Cerar will become foreign minister, replacing Karl Erjavec who shifts to defence, while Economy Minister Zdravko Pocivalsek will retain his portfolio, the spokeswoman, Nika Vrhovnik, told Reuters.
Parliament is due to confirm the new government in the first half of September after ministers have presented themselves to parliamentary hearings.
Bertoncelj, who is an independent, is a member of the management board of state investment fund Slovenian Sovereign Holding, which manages state assets and is in charge of privatisation of state firms.
Before that he worked at a university as a professor of management after holding top positions in two pharmaceutical companies previously. He will replace the outgoing finance minister Mateja Vranicar Erman.
Earlier in August parliament elected Sarec as the next prime minister following a June 3 election in which the centre-right anti-immigrant Slovenian Democratic Party got most votes but lacked coalition partners to form a government.
Sarec, who heads the The List of Marjan Sarec (LMS) party, formed a coalition with four other centre-left parties - the Social Democrats, the Party of Modern Centre, the Party of Alenka Bratusek and pensioners’ party Desus.
The five parties hold 43 out of 90 parliamentary seats but have agreed with the left-wing party the Left, which holds 9 seats, that it will support the government in its key projects although it will not join the coalition.
Some analysts say the minority government will find it hard to complete its four year mandate due to differences between the coalition partners.
One of the first tasks of the new government will be to sell a majority in Slovenia’s largest bank Nova Ljubljanska Banka (NLB). Slovenia has committed itself to selling the bank in exchange for European Commission’s approval of state aid to the bank in 2013.
Slovenians will also be looking to the new government to improve the inefficient national health system. Pension reform to ease the burden of the rapidly ageing population on the state budget will also be a challenge.
Editing by Richard Balmforth