October 17, 2018 / 2:06 PM / a month ago

UPDATE 1-EBRD urges further privatisation, pension reform in Slovenia

(Updates with SDH reaction in paragraphs 5 to 7)

LJUBLJANA, Oct 17 (Reuters) - Slovenia should press ahead with privatisations to improve its competitiveness and reform its pension system over the medium-term, a senior official at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) said on Tuesday.

“Privatisation is really important for overall productivity in the economy and raising the level of competitiveness,” Charlotte Ruhe, EBRD Managing Director for Central and South Eastern Europe, said in an interview during a visit to Ljubljana.

She welcomed the fact that the new centre-left government, which took power in September, has already started privatising state-owned banks Nova Ljubljanska Banka and Abanka, adding she expected further sell-offs in the coming years.

Ruhe, after holding meetings with government officials, said the government was likely to sell some tourism firms and could start privatisation of the largest telecoms operator, Telekom Slovenia, in the second half of 2019.

Slovenia’s privatisation coordinator Slovenian Sovereign Holding (SDH) said on Wednesday the decision on whether Telekom would be sold had not been made yet.

“At present, SDH is not leading activities connected to the sale of Telekom Slovenia as a decision on the possible start of the sales process has not been made yet,” it said in a statement prepared for Reuters.

“SDH ... is preparing an annual plan of managing state assets for 2019 which will have to be approved by the government,” it added, saying the plan would also include the management plan for Telekom Slovenia among other firms.

Ruhe also said the government would have to reform the pension system to ease the burden of a rapidly ageing population on the state budget, giving no further details.

Earlier on Tuesday the government’s macroeconomic institute UMAR said Slovenia should increase productivity in order to be able to meet public sector unions’ demands for higher wages. (Reporting by Marja Novak; Editing by Gareth Jones and Mark Potter)

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