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Annual Review of Slovenian Business and Economy

Ljubljana, 10 December - Slovenia's economic growth in 2002 is expected to reach 3.2 percent, which is slightly less than anticipated in the spring. Inflation, on the other hand, is turning into a crucial macroeconomic problem, as it is expected to stand at 7.5 percent in end-December 2002. While the government was forced to supplement the budget during the year, considerable progress was made in privatisation, with 39 percent of the largest bank NLB ending in foreigners' hands. Meanwhile, takeover fever spread over Slovenia. While the "brewers' battle" between Slovenia's biggest brewery Pivovarna Lasko and Belgium's Interbrew is still awaiting the final outcome, Swiss company Novartis took over Slovenian drug-maker Lek. Valued at SIT 203bn (EUR 883.3m), this turned out to be the biggest takeover in Slovenia to date. Its effects resonated on the stock market, with stock indices breaking all records. As for agriculture, farmers demonstrated their discontent with government policy in two public rallies. On top of that, a second case of BSE in Slovenia was discovered, and so was the presence of a banned antibiotic in milk. Statistics indicate that Slovenia's foreign currency reserves - at US$ 6.82bn at the end of September - were short of the total foreign debt by US$ 1.03bn. Industrial output strengthened by 2.6 percent in the first ten months of 2002 year on year, while the average gross monthly salary rose by 2.9 percent in the first three quarters year on year. Unemployment stood at 11.7 percent in September, up 0.4 percent over September 2001, according to the National Statistics Office. Measured at Eurostat and ILO standards, unemployment went up by 0.1 percent to six percent at the end of the third quarter compared to the same period in 2001.

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