Slovak Premier Vows More Welfare as Support Drops Before Ballot

  • Smer will seek to raise minimum wage to 500 euros by 2020
  • Social measures won't jeopardize fiscal goals, Fico says

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico pledged more social measures and a tougher stance toward immigration if voters re-elect him to power in March 5 general elections in an attempt to counter falling support ahead of the vote.

Fico’s Smer party will seek to raise the minimum wage to at least 500 euros ($563) per month from the current 405 euros by 2020, cut value-added tax on additional basic goods and reduce the gap between the richest and poorest regions of the euro-area member state, the premier told a party congress in the central Slovak city of Banska Bystrica on Saturday. His party will protect the country against immigrants, he pledged.

While economic growth has accelerated to the fastest in five years, Smer’s
lead in opinion polls has been been narrowing in recent months, suggesting the
party may no longer be able to rule on its own. The economy is enabling Fico to balance out his pledges of social measures with the commitment to cut the budget deficit and public debt, pushing Slovak government bond yields to the third-lowest in the euro-area.

“We will do the maximum to utilize the room given by the European rules to support growth and employment,” he said. “Economic growth will top 4 percent, so we are talking about measures that are feasible.”

In December, Fico pledged a 1 billion-euro spending package to be carried out if he wins the third term. The additional measures won’t jeopardize the country’s goal to reach a balanced budget by 2018, he told the congress on Saturday.

The party would win 62 of parliament’s 150 seats if elections were held this month, down from 66 seats in January, a Jan. 31-Feb. 7 poll conducted by Focus agency showed. Smer could form a government with the Slovak National Party, its partner in 2006-2010 government that isn’t currently in parliament, the survey showed.

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