Friday, 20 October 2017

Týden: Restart plan for poor regions is disappointing

ČTK |
25 July 2017

Prague, July 24 (CTK) - The long-awaited and long-prepared programme Restart for the reconstruction of three Czech coal-mining regions is a disappointment because it is not a well-considered and comprehensive plan, Petr Musil writes in weekly Tyden out on Monday.

Earlier this month, the government earmarked 42 billion crowns for the neglected Usti, Karlovy Vary and Moravia-Silesia regions that have been suffering from high unemployment and environmental damage caused by former industrial companies for years.

Within the programme, six billion crowns are to be spent in the northwestern part of Bohemia bordering Germany and northern Moravia bordering Poland this year. Further 11 billion are to be spent there in 2018 and 25 billion in 2019.

Musil says those who expected a Czech analogy to the Marshall Plan will be disappointed. The two-year effort of various councils, commissions and expert groups resulted in more than three hundred pages of text that is full of strategies, measures and plans - a heap of general promises, but nothing in particular, he writes.

The Restart programme certainly is no programme because it does not show a clear path from one point to another, with clear points of reference and clearly set results. The government simply gave 42 billion to the regions and told them to find ways of spending the money, Musil writes.

Yet a poor road network and the trend of people moving from villages to towns have been mentioned for decades. Instead of general proclamations, the government could have planned a motorway from Karlovy Vary to Usti nad Labem and a good railway connection with Prague, or a system motivating quality doctors, teachers and researchers to work in these regions, Musil writes.

Restart is a minor regional and operational programme following the example of European subsidy programmes. The finances will go to those who manage to properly fill in all the required forms, which means it is a good business for consulting firms, he says.

Moreover, local politicians know how to profit from such subsidies, especially in the Karlovy Vary and Usti regions, Musil writes, referring to large-scale manipulations with the subsidies.

He says suspicious projects such as the reconstruction of the railway station in Decin, north Bohemia, and planting of trees on the mounds people made during coal mining, have already been discussed.

It seems not surprising that the Restart programme was approved in such a form now, three months ahead of the general election, when Czech politicians promise as much money as possible to the voters and billions of crowns are wasted, Musil writes.

When the achievements of the programme is assessed after four years, the outcome is likely to be bad, he says.

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