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Minister and banker honoured

At last month's IMF/World Bank meeting, amid the rococo splendour of Prague's Kaunicky Palace, Padraic Fallon, chairman of Euromoney Institutional Investor, presented the annual finance minister of the year award to Slovakia's Brigita Schmögnerová and the central bank governor of the year award to Turkey's Gazi Ercel.

Schmögnerová has been heavily criticized at home, even by members of her own party, for forcing through tough measures - including a public sector wage freeze, cuts in public spending and energy price liberalization - which were urgently needed to stabilize Slovakia's finances and reduce its fiscal and current account deficits. She described the award as "a surprise", and acknowledged that her efforts have often been unpopular.

"I wish to all future finance ministers who win this prize that it may help them regain popularity for reforms which are for the benefit of the people." She also praised the courage of her cabinet colleagues, "who were forced to understand that they had to cut expenditures in order to restructure [Slovakia's] finances". She also paid tribute to the resilience of her husband and son through a trying time. "I haven't been able to look after my family so well."

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