President tells Czechs to grit their teeth and support pro-reform government

In his traditional New Year’s address to the nation President Václav Klaus gave his full backing to the country’s pro-reform government telling Czechs they had been living beyond their means for years and it was time to pay their dues. Mr. Klaus said it was essential that everyone pull their weight and indicated he had little patience with those who wanted out or grumbled.

Václav Klaus, photo: CTKVáclav Klaus, photo: CTK Traditionally the president’s New Year’s address is a barometer reflecting the mood and problems of Czech society and the underlying message in the president’s 2011 address was perfectly clear. Mr. Klaus said this was no time for discontent. Like the rest of Europe, Czechs had been living beyond their means for years and it was time to pay their dues. He stressed that any other government in office would have no choice but to implement far-reaching reforms.

“If the government reforms are implemented quickly, rationally and with courage and if they are properly explained to the public then I am sure that the Czech people will understand and support them. I also expect this from the opposition parties, and I hope that a feeling of co-responsibility for the country’s future will win out over the usual political skirmishes. Because the unpopular measures that the government is taking and the reforms it is preparing are something that any government in office would now have to undertake.“

Aware of bubbling discontent over lay-offs and salary cuts, Mr. Klaus asked the public to grit their teeth and pull their weight since a sober fiscal policy and far-reaching reforms were inevitable if the country wanted to avoid bankruptcy. The president indicated that he had little respect or patience with anyone not willing to make the effort. Mr. Klaus was indirectly alluding to the planned mass exodus of doctors who have threatened to seek better paid work abroad if the government failed to triple their basic salaries this year.

“There were times in the country’s history when it may have made sense to leave for a better life abroad. Those days are long gone. And appeals for an organized exodus in certain professions are not something we can condone. Such appeals are unacceptable blackmail.”

To emphasize his point President Klaus briefly stepped into the realm of poetry – citing a dire warning from a poem by Viktor Dyk about the dangers of leaving one’s homeland – “I will survive if you leave me – but without me you will surely die”. Finally, the president ended his pep-talk with a reference to a well-known Czech trait – grumbling.

“We must not let ourselves be disheartened by the moaners and pessimists among us, by those who thrive on criticizing everyone and everything, by those who are motivated by ill-will and jealousy. On my travels around the country I meet a great many sane, hard-working and creative people and that gives me reason to look with optimism into our future.”