Why Slovak Prime Minister Matovič Needs to Resign
Understanding what really happened to Slovakia during COVID-19 is not easy as it’s a complex topic, each tribe fighting with his or her own narrative.
The main question I am asking myself for the future & beyond COVID-19 is:
Wether Matovič should stay or if he should resign or be removed.
- First by walking through the major decisions in the period from March 2020 to today (March 2021).
- Then reflecting on what may have happened.
- And last — on why Matovič should stay, resign or be removed.
Here is the 1 year COVID-19 history in Slovakia
March 2020: Matovič’s government takes charge after the new elections. Previous prime minister Pellegrini did quickly shut everything down (from businesses to borders) when first cases emerged.
April 2020: Slovakia managed COVID-19 as one of the best countries within Europe. Despite the prime minister insisted on a country blackout (not lockdown) even 3 weeks after COVID-19 peaked in Europe, based on a wrongly interpreted Government model).
May & June 2020: Slovakia opens its economy as one of the last countries in the region (ongoing fights between prime minister & economic minister).
Summer 2020: The God sent us sun & warm.
September 2020: COVID-19 reemerges, the prime minister blames holiday makers coming from Croatia or Italy for which there is zero scientific evidence and he blames the citizens — that they are the problem by not adhering to some made up non scientific guidelines, changing here & there depending on Matovic’s mood, “experts” covering their basis and overall political consensus.
The Hell Starts
October 2020: It gets worse, the major change was the wether. Since the Government went back and forth and had no concise response:
Matovič came up with Nationwide Mandatory testing for first week of November 2020.
Which was very shortly followed by:
December 2020: Slovakia is speeding up to hell while Government did no material changes in COVID-19 strategy and execution since the nationwide mandatory testing in the first week of November! Until pre-Christmas time. One and a half month completely lost.
January 2021: Slovakia hopes the cosmetic changes will help to prevent the hell. And again, we continue the nationwide Ag testing idiotic strategy, led by prime minister himself.
February 2021: Slovakia made it to hell.
Even the God could not watch it anymore and sent some warm weather after 4 months of darkness”.
March 2021: The “experts” from various competing groups and the Government had a four day sit-down and came up with cosmetic changes that do not address anything material (e.g. FFP2 vs face masks in shops, positives can’t even shop, night outdoor ban, elementary & kindergarten only for “working” people).
What may have happened
I am trying to guess, I am not trying to present my own opinion as the ultimate narrative or truth:
Slovakia got “lucky” in the first phase: the previous prime minister acted very swiftly with closing business and borders. The country took very risk averse approach to mitigate the crisis and the nation got scared and both — self-complied and took the crisis very seriously. Slovakia is not a nation of “anarchists”.
The change of Government is objectively not an ideal thing during such a big and complex crisis as COVID-19 was and still is. We are a democracy and we value those processes above all else in governing the country.
However the question of competency of the new Government stands, as majority of these representatives have never managed Government before. Which is 100% fine and non issue, if the skillset, performance and public acceptance stands.
The “luck vs skill” problem: Since Slovakia was No.1 in Europe — was it luck or was it competency? Was it competency or incoming Spring & Summer? How much of it was competency of the new Government?
Ill prepared for second wave: the “luck vs skill” caught up in the end as Slovakia was really underestimating second wave by 10x, while the worldwide consensus already in April 2020 (6 months prior to wave 2 uptick) was both: it’s coming and it will be worse (due to long winter, late vaccination, etc.).
Now, the real meat I — the complex problem solving:
- There is a complex problem like COVID-19, which needs to be solved from each angle, by going over all vectors. Lots of work, execution, etc.
- The prime minister comes up with 1 hammer, lots of nails (nationwide mandatory Ag testing) as the solution to everything, calling it even an A-bomb.
- Slovakia ends up like one of the worst countries in the world exactly 3 months after 1st testing.
Any simple solution to a complex problem, with complex system won’t work, the pretence of “it’s gonna work” is a lie, always.
If it was so easy, you could solve poverty, hunger, climate, stagnation, COVID-19 overnight. It does not work. It requires scientific & philosophical deep thinking to search for the truth, range of experts and generalists, forming a consensus and vision then rigorous execution.
Prime minister Matovič came up with solution, no experts agreed on, the whole Government did not agree on AND it did not work as advertised.
If you tell 99% people they are “OK” — they will visit each other.
If you don’t tell 99% people they are “OK” — they will be much more careful.
Humans are social creatures..
The real meat II — the communication is beyond chaos from Hell:
- Everyone blaming everyone.
- Government blaming citizens.
- “Experts” from group 1 blaming “Experts” from group 2, “Experts” from group 3 blaming Government or “experts” from group 1.
- Guidelines are changing faster than anyone can follow, throwing exceptions here & there.
- The public is tired and giving up and the trust in Slovak Government is eroding, if any left.
There is no adult supervision left now..
Non existent army: I do not even understand why army is not utilised in full force (for strategic & operational purposes, not to police people). It’s probably the only institution left that is capable of complex planning, coordination and problem solving. Every single nation that took COVID-19 seriously deployed army in full force (logistics, data, operation, planning, execution, supply chain, etc.).
The is one caveat: Slovak economy is one of the most open economies and lots of workers, families or students go back and forth between the borders. But we know that for decades — it’s no explanation, it was supposed to serve as an input into the overall COVID-19 response and strategy.
Should Matovič stay or should he go?
The question goes beyond COVID-19, however it serves as a great example and window into the future:
- I think he made a strategic and very costly error of underestimating the secondary and tertiary order of consequences of nationwide mandatory testing. He is no great tactician or complex systems thinker. Although he is no dummy!
- He probably pulled that trigger, because his gut was probably spot on — it’s a good idea (which even I think it was), the problem was — it was his only move.
- Matovič also needed to pull the trigger for politics sake (save his face, save his Minister of Healthcare, who is disaster, etc.)
That all would be fine — there are people dying all around the world, people are trying their best, sometimes it works, sometimes it does not, however they try.
It would be fine IF, if he was able to take responsibility for it — however to date of 1-Mar-21 the prime minister never owned any of his mistakes. He keeps blaming everyone else but himself — that is the real problem going forward.
Imagine if no one in the nation took the responsibility, the private sector, the schools, the electricity companies, the telecom, the doctors, the military, the police, anyone. That is how — failing state would look like..
The Government directly incentivised this behaviour and pushed its citizens to a graveyard..
The country of Slovakia will get through some tough period in next decade and we probably can’t tolerate a leader who turned a nation into his own video game:
- There is no unified vision for Slovakia 2030. The nation needs bold vision, incrementalism will lead to poverty and young people to emigrate.
- Poverty increasing with COVID-19 & after COVID-19. The 2022–23 will be about poverty and social unrest to start with.
- The structural problems of Slovak economy, even the neighbours are growing faster. Slovakia is too dependent on production and needs to divest and become service based economy by 2030.
- Geopolitical pressures are increasing: EU wants more power, there is increasing tension between old EU & CEE, there is West & East, there is US and China, etc.
- There is decades long secular worldwide stagnation we don’t see; as Slovakia went through 30 year long bull run since the fall of communism.
- The same type of bureaucrats that cannot finish the major highway between the two of the biggest cities (400km!) in 30 years — is “schooling” your kids and I am not really sure they could compete one day with Germans, Americans, Asians or be just ready to live a fulfilling life and a career.
I leave a decision up to the actors — the prime minister himself and the public.
However I think prime minister Matovič has no grand vision for Slovakia, can’t form anymore a productive & effective coalition, exhausted himself in his meaningless internal fights and is a dopamine junkie playing a video game with the whole nation.
p.s.1: message to all the “experts” that sacrificed scientific methods for politics & to protect their jobs or grants — I hope you apologise one day. Apology is human, we all make mistakes.
p.s.:2: to everyone that spoke their mind freely without censoring themselves, without playing politics in crisis and not caring about potential consequences (to your position) — you, you are my heroes!