Government hits the 100-day mark
The tenth of March marked the end of the first 100 days of the mandate of the current government, led by Prime Minister Janez Drnovšek. The coalition government is composed of Drnovšek's Liberal Democrats (LDS), the United List of Social Democrats (ZLSD), the pensioners' party DeSUS and the SLS+SKD Slovene People's Party.
Opposition parties made statements this week sharply criticizing the government. Janez Janša of the Social Democrats (SDS) said that the fact that the Slovene Youth Party (SMS) and even at times the Nationalists (SNS) have allied themselves with the coalition is giving it a dangerously high majority and making the oversight role of the actual opposition difficult to execute.
Former primer minister Andrej Bajuk of the New Slovenia (NSi) party said that a full 100 days into the government's mandate, the coalition has yet to show that it intends to tackle some of the country's most pressing problems.
Drnovšek's campaign promises reform of public administration, an increase in the use of information technology in the government and society at large, an anti-bureaucracy program, a reorganization of the ministries and increased attention on harmonizing Slovene legislation with that of the EU.
So far, the record is mixed. Public administration reform began only this week (see below). A special Ministry for an Information Society was established, however it is understaffed and without permanent office space. The ministries have been reorganized, but the effectiveness of the reorganization largely remains to be seen.
Mitja Gaspari nominated to head National Bank
On 14 March, President Kučan submitted the name of Mitja Gaspari to the National Assembly for appointment to the post of Governor of the National Bank of Slovenia. Current governor France Arhar's second mandate is set to expire on 31 March 2001.
In proposing Gaspari, Kučan stressed that he was not at all dissatisfied with the work Arhar has done in that post for the past ten years, but he believes Gaspari has more support in parliament.
Parliament's Commission on Elections, Appointments and Administrative Questions (KVIAZ) voted 13:6 to endorse Gaspari's appointment. The National Assembly is expected to vote on Gaspari's appointment at its session on 20 March.
Governing coalition MPs support Gaspari, publicly stating that after ten years under Arhar, the Bank needs new leadership. Of course, the fact that Gaspari is a member of the ruling Liberal Democrats helps his case a great deal.
MPs of the opposition Social Democratic and New Slovenia parties are protesting the fact that the appointment is purely political. None of the candidates for the post have presented programs for their leadership of the National Bank and so it is impossible for MPs to vote based on the candidates' stances on issues.
The Liberal Democrats, however, say that the law does not call for candidates to present platforms or programs to parliament, and it is wrong to try to change the rules of the game this far into the process.
In any case, Gaspari does have an impressive resume, including positions such as the assistant director of the National Bank of Yugoslavia and Minister of Finance under Prime Minister Janez Drnovšek from 1992 to 2000. Gaspari is currently a Member of Parliament of the Liberal Democratic Party of Slovenia.
Public administration reform underway
Late last week, Minister of the Interior Rado Bohinc announced that the much needed reform of public administration was finally underway. At its 8 March session, the National Assembly passed a bill on the wage system in the public sector, an order on hours of operation and working hours in the state administration and an order on the criteria for dismissal from a position in the public sector.
The political will does seem to be in place to finally resolve the problem of public administration reform. In addition to the three acts already adopted, several others are set to be adopted in the coming weeks.
Public administration reform is a pressing issue. In May 2000, the Ombudsman for Human Rights announced that a significant number of human rights violations in the country are the result of poor public administration. It was also one of the major complaints in last year's European Commission Progress Report.
And in other news...
- This year's winners of the ta Ptica (Golden Bird) awards for achievement by young artists were announced this week. Five awards were given, to translator Martin Marinčič, director Tomi Janežič, actor Martin Srebotnjak, internet artist Vuk Čosič and the band The Stroj. The awards will be presented at a ceremony on 21 March at the Metelkova arts complex in Ljubljana.
- Minister of Culture Andreja Rihter announced this week that her ministry would increase the amount of funding it will give to the Academy of Theatre, Radio, Film, and Television (AGRFT) this year, but encouraged the Academy to seek a long-term solution. The move comes just weeks after the national Film Fund announced it had to cut funds for AGRFT. The Academy protested, saying that the funds were necessary to maintain the high level of quality of its students' film projects. In recent years, AGRFT student films have been shown at several international festivals, and will be shown at festivals in Munich and Lodz later this year.
- On 13 March, director Matjaž Pograjc and his Betontanc company performed at the Sarajevo Winter 2001 festival in the Bosnian capital. This was Pograjc's second show at the festival, as he also directed the Slovene Youth Theatre's production of Who's Afraid of Tennessee Williams?
- The Fourth International Film Festival of Skopje began this week in the Macedonian capital. Among the more than sixty films being shown in eight programs is Damjan Kozolet's highly acclaimed Porno Film, which debuted at last year's Porotrož festival.
- It was announced this week that a retrospective of Slovene film is being organized in Prague, Czech Republic. From 12 to 14 April, about half a dozen films will be shown, including Kozolet's Porno Film, Janez Burger's V Leru (Idle Running) and Andrej Košak's Outsider.
Brian J Požun, 16 March 2001
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