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Voters Decide Whether to Require Disclosure of Privatization Money

October 22, 1994

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) _ Struggling to survive in a market economy, citizens of this newly independent country vote today on whether to force Slovakia’s new entrepreneurs to disclose where they got their money.

At least 50 percent of Slovakia’s 3.5 million registered voters must participate in today’s referendum - unique in the post-Communist world - for results to be valid. Polls say it’s uncertain if the 50 percent threshold will be reached.

The referendum asks whether the origin of money used to purchase shops or companies in privatization deals should be revealed. It would apply retroactively to all such deals since 1990.

Slovakia’s parliament passed a law last summer requiring disclosure of tax payments and bank accounts in future privatization deals. But supporters of the referendum argue that the law is insufficient.

Referendum backers portray the country’s new monied class as little more than thieves profiting at the expense of a hard-working, poorly compensated majority.

The source of privatization money is an issue in most post-Communist countries of East-Central Europe and the former Soviet Union. There is suspicion that some public money is being diverted to buy shops and companies.

In some countries, a certain level of corruption is regarded as a necessary evil to ensure rapid privatization.

″I will participate so they can finally discover those thieves,″ said 54- year-old shop assistant Terezia Nemcekova. After 25 years of work, Nemcekova said she can’t afford to buy an apartment for her son, while others snap up whole shops or businesses.

Slovakia gained independence on Jan. 1, 1993, in the breakup of Czechoslovakia. Slovaks are suffering from high unemployment and stagnant living standards in an economy weakened by inefficient heavy industry geared to production for the former Soviet bloc.

Jan Luptak, head of the leftist Association of Workers, a splinter group of the former Communist Party, collected more than 350,000 signatures backing the referendum.

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