Slovenia’s COVID-Related Spending 40% Higher in 2021 Compared to 2020 (Feature)
While the cost for the state for tackling the Covid-19 epidemic in 2020 amounted to EUR 2 billion, expenditure only grew in 2021 by a further EUR 800 million. In 2020, the state spent the most money on preserving jobs and providing liquidity to companies, and last year expenditure was dominated by bonuses for public sector employees.
The direct cost of the epidemic-related measures from the spring of 2020 to the end of 2021 amounted to EUR 4.8 billion, as another EUR 2.8 billion was added to the cost last year. The first package of measures was adopted by the National Assembly at the end of March 2020, followed by eight anti-coronavirus laws and an emergency law to assist the tourism sector and related industries in July last year.
Just before the start of 2022, another emergency law was passed in parliament, introducing some new bonuses and compensations in the event of complications related to vaccination against Covid-19. In order to prevent lay-offs in companies in the face of declining revenue and restrictions of business, the government started taking a number of measures to preserve jobs immediately after the epidemic was declared almost two years ago. EUR 1.1 billion in such measures was paid to companies in 2020, which is more than half of the total expenditure in the first year of the epidemic, and an additional EUR 633 million was paid last year.
The best received by employees was the measure of subsidised furlough, which expired at the end of last June, while employers also had the measure of subsidised part-time work at their disposal until the end of last September. The state will also cover for the costs of wages related to quarantine or force majeure related to the epidemic until the end of February this year, if the measure is not extended. The state also financed the universal monthly basic income for the self-employed and other eligible groups in the first wave of the epidemic and again in the second wave until the end of last June, with EUR 238 million paid last out year for this purpose.
A total of EUR 630 million was spent in 2021 for job-preserving measures, which is almost 50% less than in 2020. This is due to business being restricted for a longer period in 2020 than last year, and partly due to the quicker economic recovery. Measures for maintaining liquidity were also available to companies, including deferral of taxes or payment of taxes in instalments, a loan guarantee scheme and reimbursement of fixed costs. The latter measure was implemented at the beginning of last year retroactively for as of September 2020 and has so far cost the state EUR 309 million.
The amount of paid bonuses to employees under the anti-coronavirus legislation adopted so far increased sharply last year in comparison to 2020 – from EUR 204 million to EUR 822 million. The largest amount, EUR 745 million, was earmarked for bonuses for work in hazardous conditions under the collective agreement for the public sector, which amount to 65% of the hourly rate of the basic salary of public sector employee. The largest amount of such bonuses was paid to employees in public institutions owned by municipalities, followed by healthcare employees.
The state also spent more money last year for other costs related to the management of the epidemic, including costs of protective equipment, tests and research. These costs amounted to EUR 385 million or almost three times more than in 2020. Also included in the anti-coronavirus legislation were bonuses for various social groups aimed at maintaining consumption and improving their social situation. EUR 287 million was provided for these measures last year, which is on a par with 2020.
Another EUR 630 million has been secured in the 2022 budget for anti-coronavirus measures. This is not the final figure, as the amount could be increased depending on the pace of vaccination and the spread of the Omicron variant of coronavirus.