People of Zatec mourn Hyundai decision not to build car plant in Czech Rep

26-11-2003

The South Korean car maker Hyundai has told the Czech Republic it will not be building its 1.5 billion-dollar car plant in the north-west Bohemian town of Zatec, and will be looking to neighbouring Slovakia or Poland instead. The news comes as a blow for thousands of people in the area looking for work.

Rob Cameron joins me in the studio now - Rob, bad news for Zatec and for the Czech Republic as a whole I guess?

"Absolutely, it would have been a very important investment. The Czech Republic had offered Hyundai its Triangle industrial zone, on the outskirts of Zatec. If Hyundai had said yes, the car plant would have employed around 4,000 people, and many more of course in sub-contracting work. And all that in a region suffering from high unemployment."

Right, so how are the people of Zatec reacting?

"Putting a brave face on it I think is the right expression. The mayor of Zatec said Hyundai had made a big mistake, and that conditions in the area were unique. Meanwhile the mayor of nearby Louny said he was confident another big investor could be found."

What about the Czech government, what was their reaction?

Slovak Economy Minister Pavol Rusko, photo: CTKSlovak Economy Minister Pavol Rusko, photo: CTK "They're not trying to hide their disappointment, but Martin Jahn from the country's investment agency Czechinvest pointed out that the two countries which have been shortlisted - Poland and Slovakia - did have very real advantages over the Czech Republic. Poland's market, for example, is around four times bigger, while Slovakia has recently slashed corporate taxes and has a very cheap labour force. The opposition have, however, been quick to criticise the government for failing to clinch the Hyundai deal."

And presumably Slovakia and Poland are rubbing their hands with glee...

"Yes, not surprisingly. The Slovaks in particular are having a good snigger at the Czechs, The Slovak Economy Minister Pavol Rusko quoted as saying the Czechs had been behaving like they'd already won the tender, and it was those who were a little more modest who won the day. Mr Rusko went on to say it was a good thing that Slovakia had beaten the Czech Republic in direct economic confrontation. It's not often that the Slovaks get the chance to beat the Czechs at anything, so perhaps it's not so surprising that they're so happy about it."

26-11-2003