Wednesday, 23 April 2014

LN: Gov't ends up in passive, defeatist position

21 February 2013

Prague, Feb 20 (CTK) - The Czech coalition government of Petr Necas fears the consequences of its steps and is retreating from its reform efforts, while the upcoming president Milos Zeman will definitely use its weakness in his favour, Lenka Zlamalova writes in daily Lidove noviny (LN) Wednesday.

The centre-right government of Necas's Civic Democrats (ODS), TOP 09 and LIDEM has a peculiar programme for its last year in office. It is postponing the reform steps that it previously pushed through to avoid further mistakes and annoy voters ahead of the general election, due in mid-2014, Zlamalova says.

It started inconspicuously last week when Necas announced that his cabinet would not make any other tax changes, though it may seem positive at first sight after all the chaos around VAT rates, she adds.

Now it has become apparent that the paralysis of the government's activity is much deeper.

The ODS's long-term promise to establish the introduction of a single collection point is to be postponed, too. The reform should concentrate the collecting of all state payments, taxes, health and social insurance, at financial offices to save businesspeople' time and money as from January 2014, Zlamalova writes.

However, now the ODS has started pushing for postponing this step until 2015.

The offices' merger would namely cause the dismissal of hundreds of civil servants in the time when the unemployment rate si record high in the country. Besides, government fears another IT fiasco after the collapse of the new car register and problems with electronic cards for welfare payments, Zlamalova notes.

The government would thereby admit that it does not believe it has the public administration sufficiently in control to be capable of carrying out such a fundamental reform, she added.

However, the implementation of a single collection point (JIM) is the only significant reform that Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek (TOP 09) could present before the election. Kalousek therefore immediately proposed that the new civic code, prepared by an ODS-headed ministry, be postponed too, Zlamalova says.

The above examples show the government's defeatist mentality and lack of confidence. Its escapism and the strategy of doing nothing not to annoy anyone cannot attract voters, Zlamalova points out.

Besides, Necas and Kalousek will not be able to claim that the record low support for their government is the price they had to pay for unpopular but necessary reforms, Zlamalova writes.

She points out that the newly elected president Milos Zeman certainly plays a role in the government's considerations.

Zeman is good at picking up popular topics and stirring up a public debate on them. He would definitely use any uncertainty the government would cause and point to Necas's incompetence.

However, like his predecessor, outgoing President Vaclav Klaus, Zeman is able to "scent weakness" and is chasing after it. He will "relish " the retreating Necas and Kalousek, Zlamalova writes ironically.

At the end she expresses hope that an intervention from outside may "divert the government from this passive defeatist route."

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