LOCATION AND SIZE.
The Slovak Republic is a land-locked nation in the eastern portion of Central Europe, with access to the Black Sea via the Danube River. Its neighbors are the Czech Republic to the northwest, Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east, Hungary to the south, and Austria to the west. The country's total area is 48,845 square kilometers (18,859 square miles). Much of its northern and central terrain is composed of striking mountains, similar to the American Rockies. Terrain in southern Slovakia consists of plains in the west and rolling hills. Slovakia is about the size of South Carolina, and it does not border a sea. The capital, Bratislava, is located near the country's western border and is not far from Vienna, Austria. Other major cities include Košice in the east and Banská Bystrica in the center of the country.
The population of Slovakia was estimated to be 5,407,956 in July 2000, an increase of 3.25 percent over the 1980 population of approximately 4,996,000. The birth rate stood at 10 per 1,000 in 2000, and the death rate was 9.29 per 1,000, resulting in a growth rate of .12 percent for 2000. Following this trend, the population for 2010 is projected at 5,473,203. The population has become increasingly urbanized, with 56.7 percent of Slovaks living in cities in 1999, up from 49.2 percent in 1980 and 32.8 percent in 1960.
Several ethnic groups make up the population. About 85.7 percent of the people are Slovak, and 10.6 percent are ethnic Hungarians. Although the census data registers 1.6 percent of the population as Romany (Gypsy), this figure is believed to be an underrepresentation, with some experts estimating as many as 500,000 Romany living in Slovakia. There are also small numbers of Czechs, Moravians, Silesians, Ruthenians, Ukrainians, and Poles. Approximately 60 percent of the population is Roman Catholic, about 10 percent is atheist, 8 percent is Protestant, 4 percent is Orthodox, and 17.5 percent list their religion as "other."
Many of the remaining manufacturing plants that were privatized after communism included outdated equipment. Thus, foreign direct investment has been extremely important in determining which industries survive the transition to a market economy. Foreign investment was particularly helpful in the areas of transport machines, auto production, and steel production. The most sizable investments were made by the German company Volkswagen and by U.S. Steel, which purchased the large East Slovakia VSŽ Steel plant in the late 1990s. Automobiles and steel are among Slovakia's most successful exports. Chemical production has recently averaged approximately 18 percent of total industrial output and includes chemical fibers and plastics. Other important sectors are the production of textiles, clothing, and leather products such as footwear, fuel and power production, and construction.
The late 1990s saw some decreases in the production of manufactured products, as well as in chemicals, while exports of crude materials remained at steady levels. According to employment figures for 1999, employment trends in various manufacturing sectors varied widely. There have been significant declines in employment in the areas of basic metals and fabricated metal products, machinery and equipment, and construction. The following manufacturing areas registered positive increases between 1998 and 1999: textiles, electrical and optical equipment, pulp and paper products, leather products, and transport equipment.
Approximately 4.6 million tons of coal are mined in Slovakia each year. Other significant minerals include iron, copper, lead, manganese, zinc, mercury, and lignite. Employment in the mining sector declined during the 1990s.
Construction levels initially increased dramatically after 1989, and building materials represent over 3 percent of industrial output. However, at the end of the 1990s, construction began to experience some fluctuations in employment.
FINANCE, BANKING, AND INSURANCE.
As insurance was not provided under the communist system, there was significant growth in this area during the 1990s. Financial services and consulting companies experienced similar growth. Although foreign companies initiated growth in this sector, they now have some domestic competitors. An increasing number of commercial banks are under private and/or foreign ownership.
The retail portion of the service sector has undergone dramatic changes since 1989. Under the communist economic system, retail was limited to state-owned shops where product shortages were common and the displays unattractive. In an effort to promote full employment , these stores maintained a complicated point-of-purchase system that required several steps with different clerks at each level (selecting the product, paying for it, and receiving it). Retail stores were privatized as part of the process that took place under the Czechoslovak state before 1993. The current retail sector consists of privatized, restructured stores as well as completely new stores that have adopted capitalist marketing methods. Among the most popular products for consumer consumption are automobiles and foreign-produced appliances, such as televisions, VCRs, and stereos. The repair sector is also growing.
Tourism has increased significantly since 1989, and it is targeted as a primary sector of growth. Slovakia's chief urban attractions are its largest cities, the capital city of Bratislava and Košice. The country's best known feature is the striking High Tatra mountains, comparable to the American Rockies, which offer numerous opportunities for outdoor tourism such as skiing, hiking, mountain climbing, and cave exploration. Visitors are also attracted by the region's historic spas and castles. Slovakia hopes to make a bid to be a site for a future Winter Olympics.
The number of tourists visiting Slovakia steadily increased after 1989, with the majority of visitors coming from Western Europe and neighboring countries. The dramatic increase in tourism has led to an increased need for tourist services, particularly hotels, and hotel accommodation income increased from 1.1 billion korunas in 1993 to 1.8 billion korunas in 1995. In 2000, some 2.8 million tourists spent US$431 million in Slovakia. Unlike the situation under the communist system, which featured a state-run, monopolistic tourist bureau, the majority of tourist facilities have now been privatized.
Slovakia has no territories or colonies.
Slovenská koruna (Sk). One koruna equals 100 hellers. There are coins of 10, 20, and 50 hellers, and 1, 2, 5, and 10 korunas. There are notes of 20, 50, 100, 500, 1,000, and 5,000 korunas. The koruna came into being with the division of Czechoslovakia into the Czech and Slovak Republics in 1993 and is now valued at a different rate than the Czech currency.
Machinery and transport equipment, intermediate manufactured goods, chemicals, raw materials.
Machinery and transport equipment, intermediate manufactured goods, fuels, chemicals.
GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT:
US$45.9 billion (purchasing power parity, 1999 est.).
BALANCE OF TRADE:
Exports: US$10.1 billion (f.o.b., 1999 est.). Imports: US$11.2 billion (f.o.b., 1999 est.).