The Future Planning Committee

Before we all scatter to our respective festivals of light, a small write-up. In what was deemed an important announcement, the President of the Parliament Janko Veber yesterday, while recapping the year, said all parliamentary groups decided to make an important step in seeking a way out of the crisis. This will, apparently allow heads of the parliamentary groups to partake in the general political push forward, hear suggestions from all walks of life and promote their own views. This, apparently informal mechanism, will be called… wait for it… The Future Committee.

Janko Veber really should meed Malcolm Tucker (photoshop by yours truly)

Are you fucking kidding me? The Future Committee? An informal group? What the hell is this? The local gardening society? This is supposed to be the parliament, the supreme legislative body of this country, representing the sovereign, the people. Members of the parliament have monies allocated especially to finance their constituency field offices to stay in touch with their electorate. Their work is public. They can summon anyone for a hearing. The current parliament has twenty-six separate committees, three of those are parliamentary inquiry (investigation) committees as well as the Council of the president, comprised of the same people as this cockamamie informal group and yet some bright soul thought it would be a good idea to form the Future Committee?

Future Committee, my ass. What exactly will they be doing informally? Munching over finger-food about how “something needs to be done”? What in the flying fuck prevents the MPs to take part in whatever part of whatever process they wish as things stand now? This is beyond Churchill’s maxim that if you want something swept under the rug, you ought to form a committee. This is, plain and simple, filling the noticeable lack of ideas with big words. It also shows that the only reason the parliament is being sidelined in the political process (something Veber lamented about at the same event) is because not a single person in that particular chamber has any idea how to effectively use the plethora of political and procedural tools at their disposal. The fact the Future Committee is supposed to be informal also shows they haven’t got the balls to do it, too.

The only future this committee will meet will also be the future of this particular batch of parliamentarians. Right out the nearest hole in the wall. Most of them, anyway. The only possible reference for this aborted mental process is the Future Planning Committee from In the Loop. If you haven’t seen it, do so over the coming holidays. This country needs a bit of Malcolm Tucker. All of him, actually 😀

Have a merry Christmas, everyone :mrgreen:


Boxing Solidarity

A new political party was formed in Slovenia on Saturday. In a country with 78 political parties and organisations this might not seem terribly important, but since Solidarnost (Solidarity) was formed by several people and groups integral to the popular uprisings in late 2011/early 2012, they do deserve a second glance.

The collective presidency of Solidarnost (source)

There has always been talk about new parties being formed out of the protest movement. But – as always – going from reaction to proaction proved much harder than many imagined at the height of the protest wave. Thus it is no wonder that it took almost a year for a new party to form. Especially since this is (broadly speaking) a left-wing party we’re dealing with here. And while political forces on the right traditionally care strongly only about a handful of issues, left-wing players care strongly about a zillion things. Each of them about a zillion different things.

OK, so pengovsky is exaggerating to make a point, but you get my meaning. If the common denominator of the protest movement was the administration of Janez Janša and its broad-sworded austerity policies, it was anything but easy to find a new common denominator of a heterogeneous group of strongly opinionated people whose initial motivation for entering the political arena was the questionable legitimacy of the existing political establishment and its power structure. I guess the best, albeit slightly stretched comparison would be if the NY Occupy movement tried to enter the race for New York mayor. In fact, the process was apparently so difficult, the party does not have a president, but rather a three-member presidency, comprised of Uroš Lubej (leader of one of the protest groups), Damjan Mandelc (a sociologist and political activist) and Marina Tavčar Krajnc (professor at Maribor University).

Anyways, point is that it took a while for Solidarnost to form. Now what? Interestingly enough, several polls published in weeks leading up to formation of the party showed a “protest movement party” would resonate heavily with voters, with at least one poll giving such a party as much as 40%. However, that was before Solidarnost’s platform was adopted and published. And therein lies the key to understanding the phenomenon.

People smarter than me (yes, there are a few of those, shocking as it may seem) made a good observation that the new party could become a focal point of voters’ wishes and projections. This, in fact, is probably the reason why “a protest party” scored so high in the polls. It is a pool of votes Solidarty can draw from. But if the difficulty of party-forming process is anything to go by, the expectations the voters have of the new party are even more wildly apart from each other than those of the founding members were.

Which is why it could very well be that the 12-point and 22-page platform, although addressing several key issues this country faces, will prove to be the problem rather than the solution. And for one reason only: it is, in pengovksy’s opinion, too specific. The left-wing, traditionally at odds with itself, is always happy to shoot itself in the knee and take issues with its own kind over even the most marginal of issues. Or the lack thereof. Case in point being the TEŠ6 clusterfuck, which is conspicuously lacking but a mention in the document. (EDIT: turns out TEŠ6 is mentioned, albeit only briefly (page 20). Still, the point generally stands.)

Point being, that Solidarnost is entering a heavily opinionated, heavily populated and heavily fractured territory, where few breaks are given. Not that the new party leadership is helping it cause, indiscriminately portraying the entire existing spectrum as “parties of the capital”, positioning itself further to the left. And despite what Slavoj Žižek recently wrote, that the only true left is today known as the “far left”, that is not a recipe for capturing much of the aforementioned 40%. Even worse, comparisons with German die Linke were floated around, which isn’t exactly helping if you’re trying to capture a plethora of voters of wildly different profiles.

In this respect, it is the least of Solidarnost’s problems that the media spotted a number of former LDS members at the event. Although this immediately resulted in it being painted a bypass-party for the heavily indebted and barely functioning LDS, Solidarnost really shouldn’t worry about that too much. They should, however, worry about being boxed into a corner and left (sic!) there to rot.

Namely, apart from the LDS connection, the evergreen rumour that former Zares leader Gregor Golobič is behind all of it. Or, – this from the right-wing media – that the new party is an “offshot of the Communist party and its remnants”. But since every self-respecting LDS member still crosses the road whenever he or she sees a Zares member approaching on the pavement and both will rather jump into the Ljubljanica river than be seen with an old communist hand, you can’t have it all. OK, I’m exaggerating a bit again, but you get the point. The left is fractioned. But the powers that be apparently see Solidarnost as enough of a threat to the “established order” that they will use every tool in their (for the time being) rhetoric arsenal to paint the party as “one of us”, the argument being that they’re all the same anyhow, but with the old guys you at least know who’s who.

Years ago Gregor Golobič “accused” pengovsky of declaring Zares D.O.A.. Fun times, those were. 🙂 But while not dead-on-arrival, Solidarnost is risking crib-death by starting to play the game others want it to play and allowing its position on the political spectrum to be determined by the established political players.

P.S.: Pengovsky’s first ever column for Nedelo more than five years ago was titled “Give us back the politics”. Solidarnost’s slogan is “give the politics back to the people”. They’re not winning any points with me for this one, but it is kind of neat 😉

Slovenian Banking Stress-Tests: The End Of A Beginning

Government of Alenka Bratušek and Bank of Slovenia will finally release the long-anticipated results of banking stress-tests later today. Performed by Oliver Wyman consulting company and overseen by a “Steering Committee” comprised of people of Bank of Slovenia, Ministry of Finance, European Commission, European Central Bank and European Banking Authority, they are meant to show the depth and breadth of bad assets in Slovenian banking system.

Bank of Slovenia (source)

Little is known publicly about how exactly the tests were performed, but a methodology paper released last month by the Bank of Slovenia shows that banks were divided into two groups. The three largest banks, Nova Ljubljanska Banka (NLB), Nova Kreditna Banka Maribor (NKBM) and ABanka were deemed “systemic”, while Gorenjska banka, Banka Celje, UniCedit banka Slovenije, Hypo Alpe Adria Bank, Raiffeisen bank, Probanka and Factor banka were included with certain limits. Additionally, the last two banks were put under receivership in early September.

In the past few years, as it was becoming obvious that Slovenian banks are riddled with holes in their assets and even cooking their books didn’t help, different and often wild numbers were floated around as to how gaping a hole actually exists. These numbers went from an overly optimistic “just” 1.2 billion euro to massively exaggerated 10 billion. And anywhere in between. A lot of these numbers had a political motivation, with 10 billion being pushed by the opposition, mostly Janez Janša’s SDS (the argument being that ten billion we can’t cope with, hence the Troika should descend, hence new elections, hence their return to power) while the 1.2 number was usually given by the government, trying to show they’re on top of things and telling everyone to calm the fuck down.

As some point the newly minted Governor of Bank of Slovenia Boštjan Jazbec floated an estimate “in the neighbourhood of four billion” and given what is heard through the grapevine in the last few days, his seems to have been the best estimate. Namely, “unnamed officials” from the European Commission apparently said they expect Slovenia to be able to handle a banking recapitalisation of around 4.7 billion euro. Which is about as much money as Slovenia currently has “in reserve”, be it as an earmarked amount in the budget, in various savings accounts in the top three banks or as debt raised in the last round.

If this number turns out to be true, this will be a major coup for Prime Minister Alenka Bratušek, who took over at the helm of the country amid the hysteria of the Troika being just around the corner and with the government of her predecessor seemingly doing everything to apply for the bailout rather than avoid it, be it out of malice or incompetence. Indeed, now that the threat of the Troika was staved off (at least temporarily), even former finance minister Janez Šušteršič had to concede (albeit with teeth gritting) Bratušek and Čufer were successful in this enterprise

But before we start sucking each others dicks, a few things should be noted. No matter how you turn it around, there still is a gaping 5 billion hole in Slovenian banking system. That’s 5,000,000,000 euros. More than fifty percent of the 2014 budget. Plugging that will be no small feat, regardless of the fact we’ve got the monies to do that. The public debt will be bloated further and the clean-up operation will move further down the ladder less mercy will be shown.

Namely, it has been said virtually all of these bad loans were granted to but a few hundred Slovenian companies, with as little as ten-or-so of them being responsible for over 60% of that amount. This is the environment in which these toxic assets will be transferred to the Bank Assets Management Company a.k.a. the “bad bank”. If pengovsky’s information is correct, the transfer will be made at the rate of thirty cents per dollar, meaning that as much as 70% of bad debt will be written off, i.e. covered by the taxpayers. And with the political elite not exactly having excess of clout, be it with each other or the electorate, the clean up will have to be not only financial but also judicial and political.

There are only a few moments in life when quoting Winston Churchill does not feel either horribly out of place or horrendously arrogant. This is one of those moments: What we are seeing today is not the end. It is not the beginning of the end. But it is, one hopes, the end of a beginning.

UPDATE @ 11:20

According to official government Twitter account, 3.012 bn euros are needed to recapitalise NLB, NKBM and ABanka.

Bank of Slovenia Governor Jazbec said recapitalisation of the three banks will commence as soon as possible, pending approval of the European Commission and that may take until April. While for the rest the Bank of Slovenia expect the owners of the banks to come up with 1.764 billion until the end of June 2014.

And that is basically it. If you need more info, check out Bank of Slovenia website

A Reshuffle By Any Other Name

What turned out to be a resignation-happy week, culminated on Friday last with a collective fuck-you-we-quit by the trio heading the KPK, Slovenia’s anti-graft body. Goran Klemenčič, Rok Praprotnik and Liljana Selinšek announced their resignations in what they called a protest against the fact that – despite their best efforts – the powers that be are doing their best to ignore the systemic issues of corruption in Slovenia (full statement in English here)

Samo Omerzel (DL) and Jernej Pikalo (SD) (source: RTVSLO)

The move opens a plethora of interesting questions, not in the least the fact that their successors must be appointed by the very man who (at least by the virtue of his position) oversaw the making of the clusterfuck that is TEŠ6 coal powerplant. That be Borut Pahor, of course, who as PM did nothing to stop the investment which soon thereafter spiraled out of control and went from a doctored 600 million to ass-whooping 1,4 billion euro without a single megawatt of energy being produced yet. But we’ll deal with that in the coming days. Mostly because there is shit going on in executive branch of the government as well.

Namely, after she ditched minister of economy Stanko Stepišnik and minister of health Tomaž Gantar bailed out of his own accord, PM Alenka Bratušek was faced with a miniature coalition crisis. Predictably it was Karl Erjavec of DeSUS who started making noises about how a proper cabinet reshuffle is overdue and that it should include head of SocDems Igor Lukšič who opted not to take on a ministerial position when Bratušek formed her government.

This flip-flop position was thus far very profitable both for Lukšič and his party. The SD is leading in every poll imaginable not in the least because Lukšič manages to avoid the daily bad press and lets senior party figures take the heat while he supports the government unless it is opportune not to do so. Seeing this, Karl Erjavec thought he might squeeze out a concession or two, saying that unless Lukšič doesn’t take on a portfolio, he himself will “think about him remaining a part of the government as well”. Naturally, no-one took him seriously and lo-behold! Erjavec has taken on the health portfolio as well, it was announced yesterday. Which makes for a fun combo: Karl Erjavec, foreign and health minister.

A rather less funny but far more intriguing combo is Uroš Čufer, who – in addition to finance – temporarily took on economy portfolio as well, thus joining two areas (supposedly) critical to turning the fortunes of this sorry little excuse for a country. Legally, this “pro tempore” solution can only be done for a period of six months (three plus three) and it seems PM Bratušek opted for it because Erjavec may still get what he wants, while Čufer will either go boom or bust in the same period. For “boom” read survive the banking stress tests and sell off at least some state-owned companies and for “bust” read none of the above.

At any rate, while no-one is calling it like that, an across the board cabinet reshuffle is in the air. Especially since the coalition will begin negotiating a new agreement, extending until next parliamentary elections in late 2015. Also, minister of infrastructure Samo Omerzel is in a bit of a fix these past few days over his company doing business with state-owned motorway company DARS and although only today the company stated that it bailed out on extending the deal, it may be to little to late. The PS is making noises that Omerzel should go for the same reason Stepišnik had to go – not because he did anything illegal, but because it was unbecoming. And on merit, they have a point. Politically, however, this can heat up things a bit and not just because the opposition is clamouring for his removal.

The thing is that not only is DL supporting their minister (obviously) but they would – if push came to a shove – probably make demands against other coalition partners as well. Which points to the conclusion that the Social Democrats will have to say goodbye to one of their own sooner rather than later. And that can only be minister of education, science and technology Jernej Pikalo. Not because he would do anything really wrong, but because he has the least clout of the three SD ministers in the Bratušek Government.

With Dejan Židan being the Number Two of the Social Democrats and the key senior government official in a recently launched anti-tax-evasion campaign while Anja Kopač Mrak is heading the labour, family and social department which is a can of worms few people want to touch let alone open in the first place. Which leaves Pikalo. His replacement would mean that each of the coalition parties had to throw one of their own under the bus and – in theory at least – everybody would be happy.

This, combined with new ground-rules being laid, the possibility of parties switching some portfolios among themselves and the fact that PM Bratušek is looking to replace three to five ministers within a year of her taking office is nothing short of a full-blown cabinet reshuffle. It’s just that nobody will be calling it that.


Enhanced by Zemanta