Safe harbor, ahoy!
This week, during questions to government in Parliament, Prime Minister Nečas called the Czech Republic a safe harbor in the rough seas of the financial crisis. The questioning should have been dealing with the behavior of the Minister of Finance, Miroslav Kalousek, who not only publicly attacked the police, but who has also been suspected of attempts to thwart the investigation into his party colleague, MP and former Minister of Defence, Vlasta Parkanová. Such suspicions have been expressed by some opposition politicians and Mr. Kalousek even tried to start a public dispute with the Police President only to confirm the suspicion in the eyes of the public.
Just to recapitulate the whole story, Mrs. Parkanová has been suspected by police investigators of overcharging, or, more accurately, of not properly supervising a military contract for the purchase of Spanish CASA transport planes via the main Czech weapons dealer, the Omnipol company. The planes were overpriced by several tens of millions of euros, compared with their usual price and most probably to the benefit of the local dealer. Not to mention that the army uses these planes for transporting wild Przewalski horses from Prague Zoo back to their natural habitat in Mongolia, since its own light vehicles needed in Afghanistan do not fit inside.
The police prepared the charges properly and asked Parliament to hand over the suspected MP. However, the Minister of Finance has not just stood on the side of not handing her over to the investigators. Even more surprisingly he accused the police of a plot aiming to overthrow the government. Nevertheless, one should not be surprised. Mr. Kalousek served earlier as Deputy Defence Minister and is known to have well established contacts with the Omnipol management. The Chairman of his party, the amusingly named TOP-09, and the Foreign Minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, dismissed all suggestions that the case could possibly be related to the funding of the party by saying that always and everywhere military conctracts relate to party funding. So, one probably should not investigate it, since it is common practice. Luckily and thanks to the disunity of the Government garrison in Parliament, the lady will have her right to remain silent or not, facing the investigation.
All this not only confirms the state of permanent political warfare raging in the Czech Republic, but also the rotten state of the whole environment in which it rages. It represents a new level. Mr. Kalousek and his followers have attacked the police instead of pretending they did not know anything. Also the Prime Minister vigorously opposed the rule of a „bunch of colonels“, who „will not decide on the Government“. To put it briefly, the new stage of the political conflict in the Czech Republic is a stage of conflict between the Government and the State itself.
This weird situation led once again to a vote of no confidence, triggered in Parliament by the opposition. A futile attempt, of course. Opinion polls clearly show the Government parties that there will be no further term for their MP´s. What MP of the 104/96 majority would vote no confidence in such a situation? None. However, according to the PM, their real reason for sticking to power is that they have succeeded in these harsh times. Two of the three major credit rating agencies announced they were not planning to reduce the rating of the Czech Republic. Such a success really is astonishing and makes up for everything. The Czech Republic is, according to its colonels-challenging PM, a „safe harbor“.
At the same time the total amount of individual debt of individuals in the country nearly reached the equivalent of the state budget. There are approximately 1 million Czechs, or 10 percent of the inhabitants, living on less than 360 euros a month and 60 percent of the individual debts are effectively unenforceable by the creditors, regardless of their exceptional rights in the country´s legislation. It is a safe habor for some, indeed. Even safe from investigations, maybe. But it seems to be increasingly crowded by those just waiting for their place in a hold to take them overseas.