Slovenia is a country of abundant opportunities, as we have the goals, the people, and the infrastructure. However, to truly make Slovenia a reference country, we have to resolve a few issues and adopt certain reforms, which will ensure long-term growth and welfare.
This was the central message of this AmCham Business Breakfast, titled “Slovenia – a State of Welfare, Breakthrough Companies, and a Stimulating Business Environment. Optimists’ reality or dreams of the naïve?” At the round table hosted by Jaka Repanšek, co-chair of the AmCham Intellectual Property Commission, Eva Štravs Podlogar, state secretary at the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology, Nevenka Kržan, president of AmCham Slovenia and senior partner, KPMG Slovenia, Mark Tanko, entrepreneur, start-up investor and manager of a fast-growing technological company in Slovenia, and Aleksander Zalaznik, president of the Managers’ Association of Slovenia, senior vice president, DEN Controls, and general manager, Danfoss Trata, presented their opinions.
Ajša Vodnik, CEO, AmCham Slovenia, initially said that the current Business Breakfast is taking on the subject of AmCham Slovenia advocacy. In the upcoming year, the work of AmCham commissions will focus on talents and the future of work, quality of living, and the reference country. “In order for Slovenia to fulfil its potential and truly become the green reference country in the digital Europe, it has to change its labor and tax legislation. Every day, 20 young people leave Slovenia. This is an excellent opportunity if they return in the future; however, if they do not, this is a tremendous loss for Slovenia. Slovenia also needs a good health-care reform, which will answer the problems of population ageing, since Slovenia holds the no. 8 spot in population ageing. All stakeholders must come together, discuss, and implement changes for the good of Slovenia, which is facing a great opportunity,” explained Ajša Vodnik.
Event host Jaka Repanšek also agreed with the above, adding that Slovenia truly can have a future as a reference country. “We live in optimistic times, Slovenian GDP growth projections exceed 4%, domestic consumption and investment outlooks are good. Nevertheless, Slovenia is still facing many challenges and problems that must be overcome, and has to implement numerous reforms, to ensure long-term growth and welfare,” said Jaka Repanšek, opening the morning discussion.
For growth, we need change
The guests first touched on three specific matters that have to be changed in Slovenia to turn it into an economic success. Nevenka Kržan listed the change of labor law, digitalization of bureaucratic procedures, and acceleration of the acquisition process for building and others permits for investors. As the key issue, Eva Štravs Podlogar listed the need for investment legislation, amendment of the labor legislation, and stimulation of cooperation and promotion of Slovenia in order to attract investments. In Aleksander Zalaznik’s opinion, it is imperative that we first change ourselves and our mentality, as Slovenians are convinced that we are not sufficiently capable, and then to change the labor legislation, adapting it to the future of labor, followed by a change of wage taxation, as the current regulation impedes our competitiveness. Mark Tanko pointed out that we have to adapt to disruptions and technological developments and changes in industries; otherwise, if we are not ready, we will be left behind.
The future of Slovenia is bright
The conclusion at this AmCham Business Breakfast was optimistic. “We live in a wonderful country, and we Slovenians are very capable. Why would investors come to Slovenia? For its competent people. And we hope this hold true in the future as well, but we have to be ready for new realities,” explained state secretary Eva Štravs Podlogar. Nevenka Kržan emphasized that we have to be proud that Slovenia succeeded in increasing economic growth projections above 4% of GDP – which no one dare to predict – but we now have to build on this further. “Slovenia is a wonderful country, but we have to take care of it. “I am convinced that with the energy present in the country and among the young who wish to do more, Slovenia has a bright future. We only need to learn to use technology properly. And the political environment has to change. Politicians should focus on those creating money, not on those spending it,” told Aleksander Zalaznik. Mark Tanko said that he is not only optimistic, but enthusiastic. “What used to be Slovenia’s weakness – its small size – is now becoming its advantage, as can be extremely adaptable. An excellent example is the blockchain technology, where Slovenia is currently no. 5 in the world. This can be our solution, as we are flexible and have access to new technologies – and I am very enthusiastic,” concluded Mark Tanko.
New realities by way of specific examples
At the AmCham Business Breakfast, the new reality was presented by way of three examples. Nevenka Črešnar Pergar and Ervin Pfeifer, co-chairs of the AmCham Investment Committee, presented “Collaborative Dialogue: Slovenia – Investment Opportunities and Challenges,” whose goal is to make Slovenia the first choice of investors in Europe. Jan Dobrilovič and Primož Ramovš, representatives of “Snowball – Center of Optimism”, presented the study by AmCham Young Professionals on talents and the future of labor, how work will look in the future, and the consequences for Slovenia. Meta Vrhnjak, representative of Cofound.it, presented the global platform that connects start-ups, their supporters, and experts.
Find more photos of the event HERE.