Archive for May, 2009

Shall We Overcome?

When Borut Pahor took over as PM, pengovsky (a self-important asshole that he is) wrote a public appeal to Pahor, which included the following:

[Y]ou were always big on words. Admittedly, you recognised that at the time you yourself lack specific economic knowledge to tackle the crisis, but will rely on your all-star team instead. However, you should bear in mind that you were not elected to snow us with big words, but because you flat out promised to do a much better job than Janez Janša. Even more – you echoed people’s worries about the economy, while Janša refused to admit that there is a crisis approaching, and this too got you elected. What I am trying to say is, that you will have to deliver regardless of the crisis. You will not be able to feign ignorance four years from now and say “I didn’t know it was going to be that bad”. You knew, we all knew. Except Janša. But that’s why you’ll be the one answering during Q&A sessions of the Parliament.

20090821 blog Shall We Overcome?
PM Pahor during Monday’s Q&A session (source)

Monday last, after six months at the helm of his government, Borut Pahor took part in one of those Q&A sessions, where – among others – he talked about how the government is tackling the crisis (transcript, Slovenian only):

We find ourselves in a difficult position, but Slovenia is relatively successful in tackling the crisis. Success will be complete when the crisis is finally overcome and today I say to you that we shall overcome. We shall.

Successful?

In the last six months at least 25,000 people lost their jobs. Companies are going bankrupt. The credit crisis hasn’t abated. GDP dropped as much as 4 percent in the first quarter and some projections say that it will dive even lower. State and municipal budgets are hardly worth the paper they’re printed on. Quality of life has fallen again, as people are cutting back even on the quality of bread they buy, to save money.

Without trying to sound too cynical – if this is success, one wonders what does failure look like?

At the same time, this government is wasting time by non-transparently appointing CEOs of state-owned companies, obviously as a result of political deals, and then – when shit hits the fan – removing them the very same way, and is bleeding much-needed credibility in the process. This is not just the case of Nova Ljubljanska Banka. The same thing occured when appointing a new CEO of Slovene Railways, ditto for appointing CEO of Hit Casions and will probably happen when naming a new CEO of Petrol – to name but a few examples.

Don’t get me wrong. Obivously no government – let alone this one – can work miracles. Things have been done. Or – at the very least – will be done, apparently rather soon. Today, the government will approve additional guarantees for DARS to continue constructing the highway system. The very same thing which added to overheating Slovene economy four years ago might now prevent it from dropping dead completely. Ministers for Development and Finance, Mitja Gaspari and Franci Križanič promised to introduce a scheme to back up banks lending to businesses by the end of the month.

But trying to placate the people by Churchillesque phrases will not work. The old fart knew exactly what to say and when to say it. For example, when British expeditionary forces (the bulk of British armed forces) were successfully evacuated at Dunkirk, people were thrilled, but instead of lulling them into a false sense of success, Winston told them that rather than a victory, Dunkirk was an epic defeat and that wars are not won by evacuations. So instead of idolising Churchill, Slovene PM would do well to imitate him and present the true state of Slovenian economy, its strong sides as well as its weak points. So that facts will be known and the government’s acts judged against them.

This government will not get us out of the crisis. Not by itself it will not. It must win cooperation, respect and trust both by businesses as well as employees. This is done by laying out bare facts as well as guaranteeing that suffering of those who will get the long end of the stick (businesses and employees alike) will not have been in vain. People must know that it will be worth it. Only than shall we – perhaps – overcome.

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

You’re Fired!

After only four months Draško Veselinovič in no longer CEO of Nova Ljubljanska Banka (NLB). In a surprise move the bank’s Supervisory Board accepted resignation Veselinovič submitted a month ago. The move is surprising because it was a) obvious from the start that Veselinovič offered to resign (but stopped short of actually resigning) only to placate those who screamed for blood when it transpired that NLB extended a loan taken out by Infond Holding (one of many companies in a web that controls Laško Brewery) to help out in Boško Šrot’s takeover of Laško. Even more surprising is the fact that Supervisory board accepted the resignation a month after it was submitted. The debate was initially scheduled only days after Veselinovič made his move, but then the session was cancelled, seemingly to protect Veselinovič and defuse the situation which reached boiling point when Minister of Economy Matej Lahovnik threatened to resign.

20090519 drasko Youre Fired!
Draško Veselinovič during happier times at the helm of NLB (photo by Matej Družnik/Delo, source)

At this juncture is not exactly clear what happened. Draško Veselinovič is a prominent figure of Katarina Kresal’s LDS, who was about to become MP after KK was appointed Minister of Interior. Draško took a pass, however, and enabled Tone Anderlič, an old LDS hand to become MP. In return Veselinovič was named CEO of NLB, a position he was overtly interested in. And since LDS and Katarina Kresal didn’t make a lot of trouble during the coalition negotiations, things just fell into place. With the small exception of Veselinovič being named without a tender, although NLB is still controlled by the state and that the Quartet promised greater transparency in selecting leading cadre in state-owned companies.

It took PM Pahor a lot of energy to calm down the shitstorm that erupted after Veselinovič was appointed, and it is entirely possible that he just couldn’t hold Gregor Golobič and Matej Lahovnik of Zares back anymore and had to give in. Unconfirmed rumours have it that president of the Supervisory board met with Finance Minsiter Franci Križanič only minutes before the session started and this line of thought goes that Križanič relayed a message saying that Veselinovič ran out of political cover.

Whether or not the above is true is actually only of tangential relevance. What is more important is the effect Veselinovič’s removal will have on the relations within the coalition. LDS president Katarina Kresal publicly stated that the decision was for the Supervisory Board to take and that it must be respected. However, is obvious that her party was just denied an extremely strong powerbase and that must not go down lightly either with her or LDS leadership in general (on that note: it will be interesting to see if her authority within the party will get challenged as a result).

On the other hand, this is a very big victory for Zares’ Gregor Golobič and Matej Lahovnik, who were extremely disconcerted by the fact that their former brethren in LDS were re-establishing themselves so quickly, as well as by the manner in which this was achieved. Truth be told, there is more than meets the eye to their continuous calls for tenders to be held instead of taking cloak-and-dagger decisions, but this will have to wait for another day.

And finally, it seems that PM Pahor had to give in to Golobič if he wanted to avoid appearing as if he condones the so-called “tycoon loans”.

However, Newton’s third law applies in politics as well. Every action is met with equal but opposite reaction. And it will be interesting how LDS will hit back. Because hit back it will

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

Shut Up, Rado!

20090514 pezdir Shut Up, Rado!

Since this country is facing the latest instalment of a joke called European elections, it is only fitting to take a look at a political process which makes little sense. First, we must ask ourselves, what did Slovenian MEPs of the first term do for us? Rather than of course running up high costs – covered by the taxpayers – incurred by some twat who was explaining to his equally useless eurobuddies about Slovene potica and the suffering of Slovene mothers. Second. What are we to think about an institution as silly as the European Parliament? It has none of the functions a parliament traditionally has. It is hosting a third-rate debate club, which is deliberating questions as important as the primary source of a Basque bat. And third: Why must we vote for these local clowns? Isn’t this a European election? Why can’t we vote for a German party if we feel that it would better represent our interests? Again, we are limited to the trivial choice of Pahor/Janša-type, albeit with a European flavour. It would be best if Slovenia gave up this expensive an useless circus and lets Brussels know that until European Parliament becomes a proper parliament, Slovenia will not take part in this Eurosong contest.

Economist Rado Pezdir on Vest.si (source via DrugiDom)

The fact that Rado Pezdir is one of the self-styled shock-jocks of Slovenian economics should be more than enough to preclude any substantial comment to a text which clearly falls under the AW category. And if his macroeconomic antics, which echoed those of Mičo Mrkaič, Jože P. Damijan and other members of the Slovene Macroeconomic Forum (or Sexy Motherfuckers as they wanted to be known at first), were still somehow understandable (you cannot expect a Thatcherite to make an about-turn just because the reality had changed), his swipe at upcoming European elections is completely unforgivable.

Granted, European elections and -by extension- the European Parliament (EP) are not all that they could be. I will not go into the history of evolution of EP, but suffice it to say that it did indeed start as a debate club for elderly gentleman who were way past their due date. But it has grown considerably, both in terms of representation as well as in the scope of its powers. Budgetary powers of a parliament are among the most important powers in this day and age. And in this respect EP is not lacking. Furthermore, the parliament approves and can recall the European Commission (the “executive branch” insofar as we can talk of division of power on the EU level), which is another important factor in the game of checks and balances. Even if we can put Pezdir’s lack knowledge on political intricacies down to his economic background (for which he is dully forgiven), his lacking in the basics outlined above is below the acceptable minimum.

With this in mind it seems pointless to go delving deeper into shallowness of Pezdir’s text. But hey . you only live twice, or so the song goes. Maybe in his next lifetime, provided that he does not reincarnate as a member of Tephritidae persuasion, Rado Pezdir will learn that indeed one can vote for a German (or Latvian, or British) candidate or even a party, provided that such a party would find it reasonable to run its candidates in Slovenia and conform to Slovenian legislation on political parties. The fact that no non-Slovene parties or candidates do such a thing proves only that the Slovenian political market is saturated with little room for expansion. As an economist, Pezdir should be able to understand that, but he doesn’t. Which could tell us something about his overall abilities of perception as well.

And finally, if Rado Pezdir really believes that MEPs debate on geographical origins of food and animals, his arrogance and ignorance are truly infinite. It takes only a quick glance to see that during its last session (May 4 to 7) the EP – among other items on the agenda debated credit requirements directives, electronic communications networks, personal data and the protection of privacy and frequency bands for mobile communications.

To cut a long story short: As it is, Rado Pezdir has once again shown that he favours style over substance. This time, however, he is way out of his depth and has ashamed himself as well as Vest.si which ran his piece. But truth be told, this is only the last and most blatant example of the fact that Rado Pezdir has nothing important left to say. And in that respect one feels that Tom Lehrer, a matematician/musician pengovsky only recently discovered, was right when he said that if a person has problems communicating the very least he can do is to shut up.

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

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