Jan Macháček


Výsledky hledání

Czech Business Weekly

‘Brotherhood‘ closes in on CzechInvest

18. 06. 2007
One of CzechInvest’s achievements is that during almost a decade of existence it’s avoided the clutches of the various “brotherhoods” that circulate and sniff around close to Czech politics.

It was an agency full of young, relatively idealistic professionals, many with elite foreign educations and most of them conversant in several foreign languages. Even in the notorious times of opposition agreement, even under Minister of Industry and Trade Vladimír Grégr, they were left alone to focus on their jobs, which proved very fruitful for the Czech economy.

Now, under Topolánek’s government and under the directives of the Minister of Industry and Trade Martin Říman, CzechInvest is evidently on the way to being dismantled—with the trust it has built up in shambles. Three reasons lie behind this.

First, this government is filling every key position with its own people, be it at Letiště Praha, in Czech forestry or in transport infrastructure. Second, ˘Ríman is a devout economic libertarian who despises the investment incentives system. He speaks out against incentives and is now exacting his revenge on the agency he regards as their standard bearer. The third reason is that CzechInvest is also a main distributor of EU money flowing into this country. The Civic Democrats (ODS) probably couldn’t resist the temptation to move in on this.

The list of the agency’s new appointees looks ominous. New CzechInvest chief Roman Čermák is an ODS partisan. In his previous position in Brno he took charge of investments, meaning he had to be close to controversial projects like the irrational Kč 40 billion (€ 1.4 billion) relocation of a railway station. While working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before 2002, new financial director Pavel Jaroš faced accusations of contract overcharging and corruption, but was acquitted by the courts. New chief of investment projects Vladimír Nešpůrek was accused of blackmailing former Česká banka director Ivar Fišer. He was also acquitted.

Acquittals are one thing, reputations are quite another. How will all this play with potential investors and partners of this country? These people might have been absolved by the courts, but everyone knows that during the opposition agreement period Foreign Ministry contracts were regularly overcharged or flawed.

Culture snub

The government’s early approval of the budget proposal for next year probably occurred because it wants to demonstrate unity ahead of the crucial reform package vote. Symbolic savings in some areas run in tandem with a dramatic culture budget cut of almost 15 percent.

Czech arts and culture are already underfunded, which is bewildering as they’re one of the nation’s few great assets. Millions of tourists arrive here because of past investments in culture made under Emperors Charles IV, Rudolf II and others. They unhesitatingly invited the best European artists and intellectuals into this country and paid them handsomely to stay.

Investing in culture not only improves a country’s quality of life, it also produces economic rewards. Denmark used to produce few movies but is rapidly becoming a significant European film industry player. Denmark has also made huge modern architecture investments—and through them its international profile has risen, activating economic growth through areas such as tourism.

Cut “pork barrel spending” wherever possible, but what about the tens of billions of crowns in agriculture and industry subsidies or the absolute fortune spent on social welfare? Culture sustains a country despite political boundaries and evolutions—and is the last thing we can afford to cut.

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