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Finance minister of the year 2004: Miklos has no time for bullies

Slovakia boasts the fastest growth rate in central and eastern Europe as it turns from regional laggard to leader. It has boosted growth, controlled government spending and attracted FDI with a tax policy some of its larger neighbours dislike. They won't intimidate finance minister Ivan Miklos.

IVAN MIKLOS, FINANCE minister of Slovakia, has a history of standing up to bullies. As a professor at the University of Economics in Bratislava during communist rule, he lectured on how a centrally planned economy without private property was doomed to failure. He was also at the heart of the People Against Violence anti-communist movement, which played an important role in the fall of the communist regime in the former Czechoslovakia.

The People Against Violence movement became the dominant party in the first post-Soviet government, and Miklos became an adviser to the deputy prime minister for economic transition. He rose quickly up the political ladder, being appointed first the general director of social and economic policy and then minister of privatization within the space of a year.

Then, in 1992, disaster struck for the liberal party. The Czechoslovak population blamed it for high unemployment and inflation, and it failed even to attract enough votes to win a seat in parliament. Instead, the party of nationalist politician Vladimir Meciar won the most votes, and Slovakia embarked on a totally different direction for the next five years.

"It had a very significant negative impact for the country," remembers Miklos.

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