Health of a nation

The latest Global Health Security Index placed Slovenia among the 13 nations best prepared for the epidemic. TrulySlovenia came out of the coronavirus crisis with a low number of victims and with an economy which could almost fully recover by the end of 2021.

Health of a nation

Like the rest of Europe, Slovenia came to a virtual standstill in early March due to the COVID19 virus. All the neighboring countries were hit by the epidemics, especially its western neighbor Italy. The spread of the virus in Slovenia was contained rather quickly with less than 1,500 reported cases of infection and a death toll of around 100. One of the reasons behind this relatively favorable outcome were quick and decisive measures taken by the government. The second factor was the disciplined and responsible behavior of the population. 

The successful containment of the epidemic should not come as a complete surprise. The latest Global Health Security Index puts Slovenia in 12th place among the countries most prepared to deal with infectious disease outbreaks. The index is “the first comprehensive assessment and benchmarking of health security and related capabilities across the 195 countries”. It was created by the Nuclear Threat Initiative, John Hopkins Center for Health Security, and the Economist Intelligence Unit. The key finding of the report, published last October, was that “the international preparedness for epidemics and pandemics remained very weak”. Only 13 nations were assessed as “prepared”. Slovenia scored particularly well in prevention of the emergence of pathogens and in the norms: commitments to improving national capacity, financing plans to address gaps and adherence to global norms.

The coronavirus epidemic in Slovenia officially ended on June the first. The first wave of the epidemic is over with a relatively low number of victims in Slovenia. Regardless, prime minister Janez Janša warns: “We are not celebrating a victory yet. It is about containing the first wave.” And the overall price of the containment measures was high. The COVID-19 scenario, prepared by the Institute for Macroeconomic Analysis and the Development of the Republic of Slovenia (IMAD), predicts that GDP will decline by around 8 percent this year. The sharp decline in trade and services in March is already reflected in the figures published for the first quarter: they show a decline of  the GDP by 2.3 percent in comparison with the same period in 2019. Unemployment went up by one sixth and has reached 90,000 persons. This is still far from the unemployment levels reached during the financial crisis between 2008 and 2013 – also due to the government intervention. The first two packages of measures channeled direct financial aid to 1.3 million people. According to the government, these measures helped to preserve 260,000 jobs. The third package of government measures launched in May focuses on exit strategy for the economy.

Before the outbreak, the European Commission forecast a 2.7 percent growth for the Slovenian economy in 2020. In its spring forecast the Commission projected a 7 percent decline in 2020 due to the epidemic and falling demand both in domestic and international markets. The growth should pick up in 2021 and reach 6.75 percent: the GDP should thus almost fully recover by the end of the next year.

GDP growth is one element. But how will the pandemic crisis affect the competitive position of nations? This year’s international competitiveness comparisons (IMD’s World Competitiveness Ranking will be published a few days after writing this article) cannot reflect the new situation as the indices are based on data that is a few years old. But with the looming threat of a new pandemic, the resilience of nations could well represent one of the key competitive advantages in a post coronavirus world.

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