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Businesses want early elections, no Paroubek

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Most local businessmen agree that the collapse of the government is bad news; the ČSSD coming into power, they say, would make the situation even worse.

“Businessmen are terrified. Instead of hopeful steps toward reviving the economy, they are now anticipating a deepening of the crisis, said Petr Kužel, president of the Czech Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber’s quick survey revealed that almost three quarters of more than 2,000 companies see the collapse of Topolánek’s government as bad news.

They see early elections to be the best scenario. The worst outcome would be if ČSSD leader Jiří Paroubek is entrusted with putting together a new government.

What businessmen fear most
Slowing down the implementation of crisis measures and the destabilisation of the crown. Putting off further the decision on when the Czech Republic would introduce the euro. The euro adoption date was to be set in November. “Now it is not certain at all,” says David Marek, an analyst with Patria Finance.

Most businessmen are not being too optimistic in evaluating the situation.

“I am angry with the ČSSD. I hope that a new election will give rise to a strong pro-reform party as soon as possible,” says Kvido Štěpánek, owner of Isolit Bravo, a company that manufactures car parts and electronics.

According to David Krajny, head of the real estate company Remax, the collapse of the government reveals the provincial nature of Czech politics, where personal interests are placed above those of the country. “Fortunately, we are not reliant on politics and on state commissions, so the latest events will not impact us too much,” adds Krajny.

Playing both sides
But not all companies remain unaffected by politics. Carmakers, for instance, are hoping that the Czech Republic will introduce so-called scrapping bonuses, something the Paroubek promised yesterday he would do.

“Whatever happens with the government, it will be key that the situation is resolved as quickly as possible,” says Radek Špicar, director of external relations at Škoda Auto, one of key companies in Czech industry.

The top managers at the part-state-owned energy giant ČEZ yesterday avoided making any statements. And the executive head of a top investment company said he was “politically unavailable”.

The efforts of big companies to get along well with all politicians who are or could be “at the helm” of the country is nothing new. For instance the steel magnate Tomáš Chrenek contributed at least until last year million-crown donations to the charity organisations of Topolánek’s wife, as well as to a charity founded by the wife of Topolánek’s rival Jiří Paroubek.

Administrative workers at ease

Construction companies and developers are reliant on the good will of politicians. Their association is now trying to push trough lowering or completely cancelling VAT on apartment construction. The lower VAT could help revive the faltering construction market. “This plan is now threatened. A government in resignation is not going to take any bold steps,” says Václav Matyáš, head of the Association of Building Entrepreneurs of the Czech Republic.

Companies that draw money from EU funds are also worried about the political turbulence. They fear the flow of money from Brussels could be slowed down.

But administrative workers are calm for now.”The system for drawing money from Brussels is set up well and works without the direct involvement of the government,” Says Hynek Jordán, spokesman for the Regional Development Ministry.

And yet, this is the ministry that was the target of Topolánek’s critique, and its head, KDU-ČSL Chairman Jiří Čunek had to leave the post of minister.

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