When Kinder govern Slovakia

They call it kinder management in Slovakia. I once saw a photograph of the people negotiating the current liberal economic reforms in this country. They were these young, happy people that just made a career and who are most probably enthusiastic about the possibility to be among those, who bring a change to Slovakia. One of the laws changed was that on social benefits. The allowances were cut down and it were not only the Roma who were unhappy about it. “Work activization” is offered as one of the solutions for the existing social security/aid system. This system is seen as costly and as one which fosters growth of dependency of the beneficiaries. Plotki conducted an interview with Marta Kulíková, who thinks along with other commentators about the situation in Slovakia that the “government wasn´t able to analyze the consequences of the reforms”.

Question of Survival?

“If according to the old system of social benefits, a family with five children was getting 16.000 Slovak Crowns and now only 8.000”, says Laci Babuščak, our second interviewee from Slovakia and continues: “I´m not surprised that these people have radically shown their dissatisfaction”. In eastern Slovakia, a region struck by high unemployment the situation has been tense and there were riots of Roma in the second half of February. Mainly Roma from a few colonies were involved in the riots and protests; these colonies in which part of the Slovak Roma community lives are commonly described as “middle-ages”. It is a question of starvation or survival, was the argument raised by those Roma who were stealing food in shops. However, it was reported that alcohol and cigarettes were also stolen. The government , taken by surprise sent in the police as well as the army. When the Minister of Interior was asked by journalists he had difficulties finding other examples of such massive use of police force since 1989. Some international organizations, such as the European Roma Rights Center raised the issue of human rights abuses and asked for an investigation to be opened.

What is the place of Roma in Slovak society?

This is one of the questions that may be asked in connection with recent happenings in Slovakia. According to Laci Babuščak many of the locals in Slovakia share the view that Roma “live from our money and don´t give anything back to the society”. The estimates of unemployment rates among Roma are astounding. There are fewer and fewer jobs that are manual or require low skills; this has been the main work domain of the majority of Roma. When referring to the era of transformation, they belong to its “looser”. However, there are also ethnic Slovaks who are poor, with low education and unemployed. These may be glad in the end that Roma fight for changes in the way the social reform takes place, Marta Kulíková suggests in the interview. “Read Marx and his writings about how peasants were made redundant in the new economic system to understand the situation of poor Roma”, I was told by a sociologist who was Marx-fed during his studies in the sixties. Who needs them in the current economy? – one could put it bluntly.

Interview with Laci Babuscak.
„If according to the old system of social benefits, a family with five children was getting 16.000 Slovak Crowns and now it is 8.000, I am not surprised that these people have radically shown their dissatisfaction.“

Interview with Marta Kulíková.
“We are not like the ones from the East, we are not stealing”

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