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Slovakian report Slovakian report
by Euro Reporter
2011-12-10 11:26:00
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Slovakia cancels bond auction Dec 12

The Slovak Debt and Liquidity Management Agency, or Ardal, said Monday it will cancel a government bond auction originally scheduled for Dec. 12, citing "decreasing demand for bonds." Ardal's announcement may resemble funding fears seen among other non-core euro-zone countries as the continent's debt crisis engulfs a wide range of states with credit ratings weaker than triple-A. But Slovakia's position is significantly different from that of Italy or Spain, seen as countries running the highest risk of losing market access unless European politicians come up with a comprehensive solution to tackle the debt crisis.

Slovakia, thanks to its relatively healthy budget stance, isn't under any immediate funding pressure. However, analysts say, the country may just try to win some time ahead of an expected avalanche of government debt issuance in the euro zone in January, traditionally one of the busiest months in terms of gross supply. "I think they'll use the T-bills (to be sold later in December) to carry over current market uncertainties and will hope that the (euro debt) crisis will subside and investors will be able to appreciate solid Slovak fundaments," said Jaromir Sindel, Citi's economist for Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Slovakia's debt to gross domestic product ratio is expected to peak at 43% in 2011, Ardal's head Daniel Bytcanek told Dow Jones Newswires earlier this year.

This figure is way below the euro zone's average of 85.4% in 2010, according to recent Eurostat data. The cancelled bond auction would have been Slovakia's last scheduled government bond auction this year. Ardal planned to auction the October 2025-dated bond, which may have been too long a maturity as liquidity is drying up in the euro-zone bond market, while Ardal, given no funding pressure, is unwilling to pay too-high yields to attract investors. "As Slovakia is in a good shape when it comes to fiscal management and debt position, but same as the rest of the euro zone, the country is facing systemic problems at present," Sindel said.


Proud of historical figures, ashamed of current politicians

While Slovaks take pride mainly in figures from the past, current politicians are a source of shame, according to a recent Public Affairs Institute (IVO) survey on historical awareness. Politician, aviator and astronomer Milan Rastislav Štefánik (1880-1918) and 1968 Prague Spring leader Alexander Dubček are the two figures that Slovaks are most proud of, with 32 percent choosing each of them, the TASR newswire reported, citing the survey. In third place was Slovak-language codifier and fighter for the unification of Slovaks into a nation Ľudovít Štúr, followed by popular bandit Juraj Jánošík, politician Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk – though he is normally regarded as a Czech, he had a Slovak father and was the leading figure in the foundation of Czechoslovakia in 1918 – and poet Pavol Országh Hviezdoslav.

Only 17 percent of respondents were unable to name someone that they were proud of, while 9 percent claimed that no such person exists. IVO noted that the results mark a shift since 1990, when nearly 40 percent of respondents in a similar survey stated that no national figure made them feel proud.

Conversely, the list of shame was headed by Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) leader and former prime minister Vladimír Mečiar (chosen by 19 percent), closely followed by head of the Nazi-allied Slovak State during World War II Jozef Tiso (16 percent) and current Slovak National Party (SNS) leader Ján Slota (14 percent).


Slovakia health system in crisis as doctors walk out

Slovak healthcare unions warned on Thursday the country's medical sector may disintegrate after doctors walked out due to an ongoing dispute over wage hikes, forcing the government to ask neighbouring countries for medical support. Around one fifth of country's 7,000 doctors did not show up for work, according to Slovak media, in a protest that mirrors industrial action in recent years in the Czech Republic and Hungary, where doctors have also long campaigned to bring their wages closer to west European standards.

Euro zone member Slovakia introduced a state of emergency at 15 selected hospitals this week -- forcing staff to show up under threat of penalties -- after doctors rejected an offer to raise their monthly salaries by 300 Euros ($400). The average monthly pay for doctors in Slovakia is around 1,500 Euros, according to data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. "The result (of the government's stance) is a critical situation in Slovakia's hospitals," Marian Kollar, head of the doctors' unions told reporters on Thursday.

Slovakia, which has been struggling to reform its health system since becoming independent in 1993, asked its neighbours on Wednesday to send doctors to reinforce its medical facilities. The Czech Republic will debate on Friday plans to provide army doctors. Slovakia has asked Hungary to send extra staff to hospitals close to their common border, but Hungary also faces threats by some 2,500 young doctors to leave the country unless their monthly wages are lifted by 100,000 Hungarian forints ($440). Slovak Health Minister Ivan Uhliarik, who offered to resign after talks with union leaders failed on Thursday, said Poland and Austria were also ready to help.

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