Slovakia

   

Policy Performance

#29

Economic Policies

#32
Despite steady economic growth, Slovakia receives a relatively low overall ranking (rank 32) with regard to economic policies. Its score on this measure has increased by 0.3 points as compared to its 2014 level.

Growth rates have been steady and robust, reaching above 4% in 2018. This trend has been driven largely by household spending growth, a solid labor-market recovery and a rise in exports. New auto-production agreements are positive, but have increased the country’s dependence on this single sector.

Unemployment rates have fallen steadily, passing the 7% mark in 2018. Long-term unemployment rates are high, and labor-market participation rates are low among Roma, young people, women with children and low-skilled people. Labor mobility is also low, creating significant geographical differences in unemployment rates. A shortage of skilled labor for industrial production has emerged.

Tax policy has most recently focused on fighting tax evasion. Revenues have grown thanks to the growing economy, but remain low in relation to GDP. Deficits have been reduced to sustainable levels, thanks both to strong growth and restrained expenditures, with a balanced budget expected in 2019. Public debt levels nonetheless remain relatively high.

Social Policies

#35
With several notable weaknesses, Slovakia scores relatively poorly in international comparison (rank 35) with regard to social policies. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.3 points relative to its 2014 level.

Education funding is rising, but remains very low in comparative terms. A new dual vocational-training system has drawn only limited interest. Huge regional gaps in outcomes exist, and disadvantaged students show poor achievement levels. While health insurance is mandatory, quality and efficiency are concerns. A number of health care reform plans have stalled, but a hospital reorganization is underway.

The poverty risk is low, but regional disparities are substantial. The Roma community is badly marginalized. Women bear primary domestic responsibilities, with child-care provision limited. The government has begun to shift its family-support focus from cash benefits to child care. However, women’s employment rates remain quite low, especially among parents.

A pension indexing system has been reversed, with benefit levels increased. The resulting costs may become a budgetary concern. The new prime minister has softened his predecessor’s hard rhetorical stance against refugees, agreeing to accept more migrants and easing foreign access to the Slovak labor market. Public spending on public safety is very high in international comparison.

Environmental Policies

#28
With growth generally given a higher priority than conservation, Slovakia falls into the lower-middle ranks (rank 28) with regard to environmental policies. Its score on this measure is unchanged relative to its 2014 level.

The country’s approach to environmental issues has been somewhat patchy, with weak implementation of existing laws. Energy demand for industrial production is high.

The country relies heavily on nuclear power, with around 54% of the energy mix coming from this source, and more plants currently under construction. Renewable energy sources account for just 6.8% of energy production. Current regulations hinder the installation of household turbines, and the country hosts just two small wind parks.

The government has been drafting a new environmental policy strategy, slated to stretch through 2030. The country ratified the Paris climate accords in 2016, but the country is not an international agenda-setter. The government has questioned EU renewable-energy targets, which will be difficult for Slovakia to achieve.

Democracy

#30

Quality of Democracy

#30
Despite fair and inclusive electoral procedures, Slovakia scores relatively poorly (rank 30) with respect to democracy quality. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.5 points since 2014.

Formal campaign-financing rules have been repeatedly strengthened, but enforcement remains weak. Referenda rights are robust, though rarely used. Protests and pushback by journalists and the public forced the public media group to restore an investigative program and back away from its pro-government bias. A large number of private media outlets are controlled by politically well-connected groups.

Civil rights are largely respected. Discrimination against women, LGTBI persons, migrants, and particularly Roma remains a problem. A Justice Ministry campaign to improve transparency and fight corruption in the court system has improved the system, but levels of public trust in the court system remain low.

The murder of a prominent journalist and his fiancée, following his investigation into ruling-party corruption issues, triggered widespread protests, criticism of the state and ultimately the resignation of Prime Minster Fico. The subsequent investigation has been criticized for being lackluster, and a new anti-corruption movement has formed.

Governance

#36

Executive Capacity

#34
With a number of notable weaknesses, Slovakia receives a relatively low overall score (rank 34) in the area of executive capacity. Its score on this measure has fallen by 0.8 points relative to 2014.

The Government Office lacks strategic-planning capacities and sectoral policy-evaluation expertise. Line ministries draft bills with comparatively little substantive oversight. Informal coordination has also been important, both in coalition councils and – until his departure – under the personal influence of Prime Minister Fico.

A new, stronger RIA methodology has been adopted. The current government engages in little meaningful consultation with societal actors. The March 2018 government reshuffle did little to change policy goals, but implementation of the original electoral manifesto has been limited. Ministerial compliance weakened under the 2016 coalition arrangement, with some ministers resigning after the journalist murders.

The degree of decentralization is relatively high, but funding for subnational governments is precarious. Government agencies demonstrate bias in their enforcement of regulations. The current government has distanced itself from the euroskeptic Visegrad countries, prioritizing EU relations.

Executive Accountability

#32
With a number of outstanding gaps, Slovakia scores relatively poorly overall (rank 32) with regard to executive accountability. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.3 points relative to 2014.

Parliamentarians have moderate resources. Oversight powers are not always respected by the executive, and the government’s legislative majority limits scrutiny. The audit office’s independence from the government has been questioned. The ombudswoman has strongly supported groups facing discrimination, while the data-protection office’s effectiveness has been limited by resource constraints.

Disenchantment with politics has contributed to declining popular policy awareness, a situation exacerbated by the government’s paternalistic governing style. However, the murder of a journalist and his fiancée has kindled greater political interest among some, and spurred journalists to engage in more investigative reporting. The quality of media reporting is nonetheless not high overall.

Slovak parties tend to be dominated by their leaders, although several newly formed centrist parties are more democratic. Business lobbying groups are active and produce comprehensive analyses of reform needs, while unions are more fragmented. The vibrant civil society strongly influences public discourse.
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