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HN: Finance Minister Pilný warns of gloomy prospects

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Prague, July 18 (CTK) – Finance Minister Ivan Pilny recently warned that the present pension system is not sustainable and that the country will not have money for science and road construction once it stops receiving EU subsidies, Petr Honzejk writes in daily Hospodarske noviny (HN) today.

Honzejk says Pilny (ANO) has no need to appeal to voters because he is not running in the autumn general election, his mandate is to expire soon and he has no political ambition. At the age of 73, he can well understand the operation of the state and has no illusions about politics, Honzejk adds.

Pilny actually tells the people that the idea that the situation in the country is going to be better and better is false and that politicians offer comforting lies to voters, Honzejk says.

Pilny’s statements illustrate the Czech attitude to political correctness: when political correctness concerns others, either nations or minorities, it is sharply rejected in the name of fighting for the truth, but when it concerns Czechs themselves, a discussion about the uncomfortable issues, such as the untenable pension system, is avoided, Honzejk writes.

According to Pilny, the Czech pay-as-you-go pension system has no future and the state is not going to have enough money to pay out pensions soon. If people do not have their own savings in old age, they will have to work almost until the end of their lives, Honzejk cites the minister’s warning.

Surprisingly, almost nobody wants to hear the bad news, despite the population ageing and the low natality. But the public opinion accepted without any fuss that no pension reform has been prepared in a situation where most people do not have sufficient savings for their old age. The only one who is criticised in the public debate is Pilny who dared to tell the people the bad news, Honzejk writes.

Pilny talks not only about pensions but also about further challenges and risks. In a recent interview with daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD), he says finances for research and development, road construction and repairs and other projects will be lacking once the Czech Republic stops receiving subsidies from the EU funds, Honzejk writes.

He says people do not want to hear such a thing in an atmosphere where politicians often call for Czech sovereignty and criticise Brussels as the source of all evil.

The criticism of the European Union is also part of the Czech version of political correctness: people are unwilling to admit that the country itself is to blame for most of its problems, although its politicians like to put the blame on EU institutions. The Czechs are not ready to assess the pros and cons of the membership of the EU in a matter-of-fact way, Honzejk writes.

Czechs are incapable of drawing the EU subsidies available to their country, but they should not reproach Brussels for the too difficult conditions because these conditions were set by Czech state bodies, Honzejk writes.

The key message of Pilny is that life is not going to be easier and more comfortable in the Czech Republic. In future, the Czech state will not be able to guarantee all that people got used to, such as pensions and health care services without any fees paid by patients. Like it or not, demography will beat political wishful thinking, Honzejk says.

The present standard of services that Czech citizens receive for free or for low fees will be difficult to maintain. This is not a message anybody would like to be giving in an election campaign, Honzejk writes.

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