Q: Foreign investment to Slovenia has grown strongly since 2013. Why is this?
A: [Our] highly educated and skilled workforce, solid infrastructure, geostrategic position and high quality of life. Our privatisation process started more than five years ago. We’re very friendly to foreign investment because we're a small country with only 2 million inhabitants, so we need co-operation with others; most of us speak English, German or French. Slovenia is also among the world’s safest countries.
Q: What are some other incentives for investors?
A: We have a very skilled labour force – 35% of the employed population in Slovenia has an university education. Slovenians are known as ‘workaholics’. After the country’s independence, we moved from low-skilled jobs to added-value industries.
We had quite a severe crisis following the 2008 financial crash. As agreed with the European Commission, we completed the privatisation of our state-owned banks, [thereby] reducing our debt. Our short-term goal is to reach a 60% debt-to-GDP ratio in two years; we’re now at about 70%. Our political stability is very crucial for investors. We currently have a minority government, for the first time in history. Everyone predicted that we’d collapse – but we’re still here, with clear priorities and structural reforms in mind.
Q: In terms of privatisation, what can investors look forward to?
A: We’re looking for strategic assets to be as profitable as possible, but not at any price. The state budget has generated about €1bn in revenue from the privatisation of state assets in the past six years. With the completed privatisation process of our banks in 2019, Slovenia has lowered the state’s stake in company ownership significantly.
Of course, we've experienced different privatisation processes. Novartis, for example, bought our pharmaceutical company in 2005 – this is still recognised in Slovenia as a very good deal. But the privatisation of our airline company, Adria Airways, in 2015 went in another direction.
Q: What sectors would you like to promote?
A: Any sector with added value, especially hi-tech. We don’t want companies that don’t care about the environment or people. Tourism is very important for us. We need more hotels, but not for mass tourism, which could be a disaster for a small and beautiful country like ours. We’re focusing on high-quality, sustainable and niche tourism.
The automotive and R&D sectors have been important historic sectors for the Slovenian economy. Today, there is more than 220 companies in the Slovenian automotive manufacturing and R&D sector. [We deal mainly in automotive supply parts]. Revoz in Novo Mesto is the only car manufacturer in the country. This year, it started production of a new generation of Renault Clio, something the government has supported with a financial incentive, under our new law for supporting new investments.
For AI, we’re pioneers. Our Jožef Stefan Institute [displays a historic] dedication to the field. So we’ve always been technologically developed, and we’re continuing that. The Slovenian government is partnering with Unesco in setting up Europe’s first international AI research centre.
Q: What would make Slovenia more attractive to investment?
A:We must modernise some transport infrastructure. We also need tax stability. Investors need to know that our tax policy won’t change every year. We still have some brain drain, as is the case with many countries, but it’s not too severe here.