Slovakia is one of the most economically successful countries in Central and Eastern Europe. Economic reforms and EU accession coupled with significant inflows of foreign direct investment led to a long-term economic growth and job creation. However, development of Slovakia is not territorially balanced. Economic growth benefited mainly western part of the country, while its central and eastern parts are lagging behind. Actually, regional disparities in Slovakia are among the highest in the OECD countries and are rising over time.
In Slovakia 1.1 million people, which is 20.5 percent of the population, are at risk of poverty 2. The goal of the Slovak government is to reduce this number by 170 000 by year 2020 as stated in the National Strategy for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion in the Slovak Republic. Most of low-income and socially excluded people are concentrated in lagging regions in central and eastern Slovakia.
To accelerate development of lagging regions the government of Slovakia has passed the Law on Support of Lagging Regions (Act No. 336/2015 Coll.). Initially the support is provided to 12 out of 79 districts of Slovakia with the highest unemployment rate. In these 12 districts unemployment rate was 1.6 times above the national average in at least 9 of 12 consecutive quarters. Starting in January 2018, the support will be provided to 17 districts of Slovakia where the unemployment rate is 1.4 times above the national average.
Subsequently, the Plenipotentiary of the Government for the Support of the Lagging Regions has been appointed as the principal advisor to the Government. The Plenipotentiary seats at the Slovak Government office and cooperates with all Ministries of the Slovak Government as well as with other relevant agencies and institutions to provide support to lagging regions.
To unleash the potential of lagging regions and their local communities, bottom-up developmental approach is adopted. Lagging regions at the level of districts form Regional Councils of which members are leaders of local government, businesses, the NGO sector, schools as well as other relevant stakeholders. Regional Councils in cooperation with experts prepare a plan for the development of the district, i.e. Action Plan. Regional Councils make all decisions on the development strategy and selection of the priorities to be pursued as well as projects and measures to be taken in their districts. The bottom-up approach is combined with top-down decision-making of national and regional authorities.
Action Plans identify specific goals of lagging regions and propose ways how to achieve them. They include measures to overcome, in the most efficient way, market failures or reforms of policies that hinder regional development. Action plans contain measures and projects at the district level as well as proposals for measures at the national or regional levels. Specifically the focus of action plans is on development of transport infrastructure and accessibility of the peripheral regions, improvement of labour mobility, matching the needs of current and potential employers with local labour supply, improving the quality of primary and secondary education in the region, supporting vocational education and training as well as providing consulting services to starting entrepreneurs, small businesses or municipalities. Action plans also contain pilot projects that have long-term impact on sustainable development of the lagging regions. These projects use local resources and create jobs in sectors in which lagging regions have comparative advantages: for example family farming and viticulture combined with processing of agricultural products, agro-tourism and traditional crafts. Many projects deal with long-term unemployed workers who have no or minimum qualification. For these people, supported municipal social enterprises are created that help the long-term unemployed to develop skills and working habits enabling them to smoothly move to the labour market.
Specific attention is given in the Action Plans to marginalized Roma communities which are often socially and economically excluded due to various types of discrimination, low education or work experience of their members.
The main objective of all projects and measures adopted at either local, regional or national level is to reduce unemployment in lagging regions and to set them on the growth path.
Action plans are implemented for the period 2016-2020 and are funded from the national budget, European structural and investment funds, budgets of local municipalities as well as from private sources.
The Action Plan is specific for each lagging region, because each of them has its own specific causes of economic backwardness and requires different specificsolution. All these instruments pursue a single objective – to give people work in order to improve life of their families so that they do not need to leave their home country to work abroad and have a place to come back to.
The government approved the first Action Plan for development of Kežmarok District on 10 February 2016. It became a binding development plan for five years and the basis for intensive cooperation of the Government, self-governing region, district, cities and municipalities. Its aim is to decrease the unemployment rate and to support the creation of approximately 2,000 new jobs by 2020. The plan envisages total budget of a minimum of EUR 52 mil., of which EUR 8 million from private sources and EUR 44 million from public finance.
The integrated programme allow provision of similar support for all other lagging regions - Lučenec, Poltár, Revúca, Rimavská Sobota, Veľký Krtíš, Sabinov, Svidník, Vranov nad Topľou, Rožňava, Sobrance and Trebišov starting from 2016 and for Košice – okolie, Gelnica, Bardejov, Snina and Medzilaborce starting from 2018.
The content of this website is mostly in Slovak version. We encourage you to contact us with any questions in case you would like to know more about Slovak support of lagging regions in our country.