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Zeman’s fund to support children, not repay Czech state debt

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Prague, Dec 17 (CTK) – President Milos Zeman decided to transform his foundation aimed at the reduction of the Czech state debt into a foundation supporting the Fund for Children in Need (FOD), he said after handing over a symbolical cheque for 2.5 million crowns to the highly indebted FOD on Thursday.

Zeman established the foundation shortly after he became president in early 2013 and he promised to send one third of his salary to it.

“The endowment was originally meant for the repayment of the state debt and I had firmly believed that other constitutional officials would be donators as well, which has not happened, with a single exception,” Zeman said.

Finance Minister Andrej Babis (ANO), a rich businessman, sent half a million crowns to the foundation.

Zeman said other constitutional officials did not want to contribute to the foundation either because they consider their salaries too low or because they consider the foundation´s purpose unclear.

He said five million crowns have been sent to the endowment for the repayment of the state debt.

The state debt decreased by 0.6 billion crowns to 1,663 billion as from the end of September, which is an average of 158,000 crowns per capita.

Observers noted previously that the sum raised by Zeman´s foundation would compensate the state debt ́s rise for only several minutes.

FOD director Jan Vanek who received the cheque at Prague Castle yesterday said the FOD was very grateful for the donation. “It seems to be a signal and call on other sponsors to help us in a hard situation,” he said.

The operation of the Klokanek facilities for children in need was threatened due to debts that reached 120 million crowns earlier this year.

Vanek, who replaced FOD long-standing director Marie Vodickova in June, said the FOD managed to lower the debt and cut the costs by 57 million.

In August, the government did not grant a special subsidy of 20 million crowns to the FOD. Zeman sharply criticised the decision.

Labour and Social Affairs Minister Michaela Marksova (Social Democrats, CSSD) said such an exclusive and nontransparent support for a single organisation would be unfair. She indicated that it probably even would be against law.

Marksova said then the FOD opened new facilities irrespective of how much finances were available to it.

The FOD is the biggest institution for children in need in the country. It gets a monthly subsidy of 22,800 crowns per child, same as the other organisations.

Marksova said previously the children in need living the Klokanek facilities would be moved to other institutions if the highly indebted FOD had to stop operating.

There are about 280 children in the Klokanek facilities now. The FOD operated 28 Klokanek facilities at the beginning of the year, but their number has been gradually lowered in order to cut the running costs. Vanek said 17 facilities would be operating next year.

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