Summer's getting hot

26-07-2003

It's been an extremely hot summer here in the Czech Republic. Well, the older generation would say just another hot summer - only young skeptics talk about a possible climate change. Many enjoy the amount of sun we've been having, but for others, it is yet another reason to complain about their plight - such as farmers who never fail to be surprised by the seasonal changes in the weather, and are always demanding compensations from the government for what other entrepreneurs have to take as business risk. Nevertheless, the farmers only add to the countless hands stretched towards the treasury.

Besides being harmful to crops, the sun seems to have impaired the reason of some people, most notably in parliament as it kicked off discussion over the government's crucial financial reform package. We have seen proposals such as to pay a certain amount of money monthly to all, rich and poor, to replace pension and health insurance as well as unemployment benefits. People would simply save up to support themselves in case of illness, loss of job and retirement. The idea, presented seriously by a right-wing opposition leader, met with a barrage of criticism. The author then described it as a mere "contribution to the discussion" and mentioned it no more.

This June, it's been three years since the collapse of the once grand banking house - the IPB bank. The government back then imposed a forced administration on it and sold it to a rival bank, although IPB had a legitimate foreign owner. The trouble is that the cabinet provided an unlimited guarantee to the new owner for liabilities and non-performing assets. The bill for the Czech government: 160 billion crowns and counting. Some say it could reach as much as 200 billion - almost a third of the annual state budget.

In the meantime, the president vetoed a bill that would have seen the value added tax on many goods and services rise by 17 percent - the government's effort to make an extra 10 billion crowns or so annually as part of the reforms.

It seems from this and other reform proposals that the government will do anything to squeeze every crown they can from taxpayers, probably hoping that, blinded by the sun and their reason impaired by the heat, they will not notice where the money will actually go.

Anyhow, we have had a beautiful summer, haven't we?

26-07-2003