COVID-19 & Slovenia, Mid-day 24 March: Help for Self-Employed, Economic Impact, Cultural Institutions

By , 24 Mar 2020, 11:59 AM Politics
COVID-19 & Slovenia, Mid-day 24 March: Help for Self-Employed, Economic Impact, Cultural Institutions Arjan Pregl

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All our stories on coronavirus are here, while those covering covid-19 and Croatia are here. We'll have an update at the end of the day, and if you want newsflashes then we'll post those on Facebook

We can’t have pictures of COVID-19 every day. So instead we’ll try and show the works of Slovenian artists. Today it’s Arjan Pregl. You can see more of his work here.


Govt announces EUR 2bn stimulus package for economy

Crisis already reflecting in sole proprietorship, unemployment figures

Slovenian cultural institutions to suffer significant loss of income

Govt announces EUR 2bn stimulus package for economy

STA, 24 March 2020 - The government has prepared a package of economic stimulus measures worth roughly EUR 2 billion to keep society running during the coronavirus crisis. The measures include loan guarantees for companies, purchase of claims to companies, co-financing of social contributions, temporary basic income for the self-employed and allowances for pensioners.

Presenting the outlines of the "coronapackage" on Tuesday, Prime Minister Janez Janša said the measures were designed to protect jobs and keep society in general functioning through the crisis.

They are valued at roughly EUR 2 billion, the biggest stimulus ever in Slovenian history, according to Matej Lahovnik, the economist who heads a special task force of economists and business executives that has advised the government on the measures.

One of the principal measures helping the corporate sector will be a broad expansion of support for companies, both for those that continue to operate and those that are forced to scale back operations.

Part-financing of temporary layoffs had been provided as part of the first package of measures but this kind of financing will now be expanded: the state will fully cover up to two months of social contributions.

The measure will be in place until 31 May but may be extended if necessary, according to Janša.

To keep companies functioning, the state plans to step in and cover the employer and employee pension contributions of private sector workers who remain working during the crisis.

Janša also announced what he called a "financial cannon": a guarantee scheme for companies and purchases of corporate claims.

According to Lahovnik, companies will be able to sell unenforceable claims to a public institution. While the bad bank had initially been mentioned as the institution to handle such claims, Lahovnik said this had not been finalised yet.

Sick pay of all those who fall ill during the crisis will be fully covered by the public health insurance rather than employers having to cover the first 30 working days of absence. Unemployment benefits will automatically kick in on the first day of unemployment.

Corporate income tax payments will be provisionally suspended and suppliers dealing with the state will be paid in 8 days, down from a minimum of 30 at the moment.

The prime minister also announced extra funding for scientific and research institutions helping to develop coronavirus vaccines, drugs to alleviate coronavirus symptoms and protective equipment.

The self-employed will get a waiver of contributions and a monthly basic income of 70% of minimum pay. To be eligible, all they will have to do is to submit statements that their business has been affected by the crisis.

Lahovnik said it was crucial to keep this system simple and eschew red tape. The statements will be checked retroactively.

Pensioners with pensions below EUR 700 will get a special allowance to help them better cope, according to Janša. The one-off payment will be in the EUR 130-300 range and will be transferred on 15 April.

A special set of measures will be dedicated to farmers, with direct transfers and cancelled contributions planned for farmers who may contract coronavirus.

There will also be some savings measures, including a 30% pay cut for holders of public office and a 30% cut in fees for members of supervisory boards in state-owned companies.

While the judiciary will be exempted under a Constitutional Court ruling on the matter, Janša called on decision-makers there to voluntarily join the effort.

Lahovnik said follow-up measures focused on liquidity were already under discussion as well and would be presented "in a few weeks". He said it was crucial to act fast since the corporate sector risked entering "chain illiquidity" otherwise.

Janša said the state will provide "as much funding as necessary". "The fundamental aim is to freeze the existing situation in Slovenia so that we protect people and preserve jobs and potentials in business, science, research, culture and society in general."

The guidelines will be transformed into formal legislative proposals by the end of the week.

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Slovenian cultural institutions to suffer significant loss of income

STA, 24 March 2020 - Slovenia's public cultural organisations are trying to work out to what extent the coronavirus outbreak will affect their business if they stay closed for two weeks, a month or more. Some have opted to offer their production online as a gesture of good will for many staying at home, but this will not improve their bottom line.

All events have been cancelled, work largely suspended or reorganised from home, with those unable to work from home being put on hold, or instructed to use days off.

At Cankarjev Dom, the largest cultural centre in the country, only security guards and those vitally needed for the centre to be maintained come to work daily.

All the other employees are working from home, but there is no shortage of things to do, its director Uršula Cetinski told the STA.

"We're working on finances, staffing, cancellations or rescheduling of events, and we're also busy with preparations for the eagerly-awaited moment when we reopen."

The situation is similar at the SNG Drama Ljubljana, the leading theatre in Slovenia.

"Our business offices are open only a few hours a day for the employees to pick up the most urgent material or tools to work from home.

"This is also a time when our premises are being cleaned and disinfected as a precaution," the theatre explained for the STA.

Slovenian Philharmonic musicians are practising for post-coronavirus concerts at home, and National Gallery curators are busy with research related to future exhibitions.

Estimates of the loss incurred due to the coronavirus pandemic have not yet been finalised but Cetinski said Cankarjev Dom would lose EUR 416,000 if closed for a month.

The Drama SNG Ljubljana does not yet have the final figure, but the cancellation of its shows until the end of March should cost it over EUR 200,000.

What is more, it expects not to be able to reschedule most of the shows it was to play around Slovenia or among the Slovenian minority in neighbouring countries this season, which usually ends in May or June.

Given the situation, it will probably also have to cancel three major guest appearances abroad scheduled for the coming months, which will cause a major loss of income.

The Slovenian Philharmonic estimates its loss for March at some EUR 30,000 as a result of cancelled concerts and cancelled renting of its halls.

As for alternatives to live events, Cankarjev Dom offers on its website only an audio guide to a major exhibition on Ancient Greece's science and technology.

Cetinski explained that in order to stream an event, it would have to be first produced in an empty hall, which would pose a risk for artists to get infected.

Ljubljana's Drama has made some of its past events available on its YouTube channel and will have some TV adaptations of its productions broadcast by national broadcaster RTV Slovenija.

The SNG Maribor, another major theatre bringing together drama, ballet and opera, is planning to put some of its productions on the internet, but is still negotiating copyright, explained director Danilo Rošker.

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