Vision 2035 for the Czech Republic, for our children
WHAT I DREAM OF WHEN I HAPPEN TO SLEEP
WHAT I DREAM OF WHEN I HAPPEN TO SLEEP Andrej Babiš
Why I did it I remember that September evening in 2011 as though it were yesterday. It was just before midnight. I'd just got home and everyone was asleep apart from the dogs, who came to welcome me. Otherwise, there was complete silence, so I went to the kitchen to get myself a beer and some breadsticks. I decided to watch a bit of telly before going to bed. They were showing an interview with Václav Klaus.
Have you seen him give any interviews? They're all the same. The same hackneyed phrases, the same prevarications, the same colossal ego. Then they started discussing corruption. Klaus was saying that corruption was hardly more rife in the Czech Republic than in France. I beg your pardon?! Well, when he said that, my first reaction was to give a hearty laugh. And I immediately asked myself, what about Dalík and Topolánek? What about Řebíček? Roman from energy giant ČEZ? Janoušek the "Godfather"? Kalousek and Háva? Pokorný – Sobotka's shadow? How about the savage privatisation of the 1990s and the asset
stripping that followed? The Pandur armoured vehicles, the Karlovy Vary "lottery", the judicial mafia... As more and more names and more and more scandals kept popping up in my head, my amusement was supplanted by disgust. And then I got angry. Furious, in fact. Does Klaus seriously believe that the level of corruption in the Czech Republic is no worse than anywhere else in the West?! I can't believe what I'm hearing. Absurd! I turned the TV off and went to bed. Perhaps my anger would subside if I had a good night's rest. But it didn't. It was still there the next day. And the next week.So I decided that I could at least channel it into something useful because it was high time we tackled this situation in the country. I set up the ANO movement. You may well have heard of it. At the time, it did not occur to me that I would be its leader as I had no intention of entering politics. I wanted to spend time with the family that, sadly, I had neglected in the pursuit of my business dealings. I had no idea that in two years my family would be taking even more of a back seat. While my plan had been to give ANO legs, I had imagined that the movement would be spearheaded by a brave and capable leader. Over time, I realised that true change could only come from the benches of Parliament and that, like it or not, I’d have to get my own hands dirty because it wouldn't be fair for me to remain an éminence grise in the shadows. I doubted, though, that many people would vote for me. Someone hailing from Slovakia whose Czech is rather dubious? Someone who'd been a member of the Communist Party for a while? And rich to boot? Absolutely ludicrous. And when we ended up second in the early elections in 2013, it hit home just how
frustrated the people must have been with the politics that the traditional parties had privatised for themselves and their cronies. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't surprised by ANO's success. Unblemished by politics, my colleagues and I had to jump into the political arena head first as there was no time for us to take our bearings. It was a completely different world for me. A world fraught with hypocrisy, animosity, lies and manipulation. Promises and handshakes meant nothing.
One thing was said in private and something else entirely in front of the cameras. This was an incredible shock for a businessman. During the various coalition negotiations and, subsequently, at cabinet meetings or parliamentary sessions, there are many times when I recalled Aristotle's words that politicians should be our ablest, most skilful and wisest citizens. Instead, the people I met were downright incapable or, conversely, capable of anything, buck-passers and double-crossers. This was meant to be the nation's elite? The handful of decent people were merely the exception proving the rule. I had never previously needed our politicians. I had not been involved in voucher privatisation and, besides, it was Václav Klaus who stopped Czech banks from lending me money at the request of the boss at Chemapol, infamous for the biggest bankruptcy in modern history. The only way Agrofert was able to grow was courtesy of loans from the US's Citibank, which had no interest in political connections. All it was interested in was my business plan. Starting with nothing, I discovered first-hand what it's like to work from dawn to dusk and bed down in a rented office on Wenceslas Square. I valued every penny I earned and thought twice about what to spend it on. I learnt to turn the lights off, to use the reverse side of printouts as notepaper, and to negotiate the best possible data plans for the company. I found out that I had to correct the mistakes I had made as quickly as possible myself because no one else would do it for me and otherwise I would soon be up to my neck in them. I discovered that what is most important for a business is not a gleaming limousine, but its employees – from the doorman to the director. That's why I invested the money I had made back into our people. I wasn't afraid to surround myself with those who were cleverer and abler than me. I learnt that while it's great to earn money, this is not a goal in itself because any prosperous business must
have a vision and must give its people job security. I also found out that, for everything to work smoothly, the boss must take care of himself last. I thank my humble beginnings and the painful lessons I learnt for where I am today. It was these circumstances that, in 2016, helped me to achieve the Czech Republic's best economic performance since it came into being – the budget ended up with a surplus of CZK 61.8 billion and, over my time as finance minister, I had reduced the sovereign debt by CZK 70 billion. I am often chided for saying that the state should be run like a business. Well, perhaps I should be saying that it would be better to manage the state as a family business or, even better, that in some respects the state should operate like a family. It is often forgotten that the greatest asset of a family, business or state is its people. A good son will not leave his ageing parents in the lurch, a mother will nurse her sick daughter, and the state has a duty of care to its people who need it. Young children. The disabled, seniors, single mothers. A responsible family compares prices in shops and online before buying a new washing machine and does not saddle itself with years of debt just to take a luxurious holiday. Likewise, the state should buy hospital instruments wisely and not rush headlong into debt. Just as a good dad will bring his insolent son into line, the state should discipline those get their kicks out of making others' lives unpleasant. Solidarity, responsibility, thrift, efficiency, rules and common sense should be the mainstays not only of a family or business, but also of the state. But that's not all. You also need a vision, something our political establishment gave up more than 25 years ago. In the absence of a state vision, the void has been filled by
lobbyists, selfish interests and corruption. The state is run by people who cannot see beyond the end of their term and who have a tendency to view politics as a smart way to get rich quick. What does it matter that, by raking it in themselves, they will burdening us all with debt for several generations to come? They don't give a fig. To be sure, they are not the ones who will be worrying how to pay the rent on a high-rise flat out of a pension of just ten thousand crowns. The left-right split melted long ago and, over the years, the traditional, fusty political parties have let their ideology evaporate. We can still see the very same people who have been gorging on political spoils for more than twenty years. Despite their different slogans, they are pursuing one and the same goal: to stay where they are for as long as they can and, when this becomes impossible, to find another way of bleeding the state. They know very well that they could never earn such a good living, if any, on Civvy Street. They feed off of politics. Political office and its fruits – that is their ideology. It is my staunch belief that such people do not belong in politics. Politics should be for those who have done something with their lives, who view politics as a service and calling, who have a vision. And I know very well that there are many such people in the Czech Republic. I know them. We have so many skilled craftsmen, teachers, doctors, scientists, lone traders, entrepreneurs, rescue workers, athletes, police officers, firefighters and people from many other professions. Perhaps some of them could also do society a favour by entering politics, because our country needs their help. I refuse to accept that the political arena is no place for upright citizens. Our nation has a deep well of human potential, it is incredibly capable and there are so many reasons and people why it should be proud of
itself. And I don't just mean when Jaromír Jágr happens to be scoring yet again. We have heaps of inspirational good examples. My personal inspiration and unsurpassable role model, on account of his business acumen and – more importantly – humanity, is Jan Antonín Baťa. This was a man who took his business very seriously and responsibly because he considered it a service to the people who worked for his company.
Most of all, he was a man with a vision. A vision of Czechoslovakia, which in 1937 he wrote up as the book "Building a State for Forty Million People". Sadly, that's as far as it went because our country was invaded by Hitler not long after, only to be followed by Communist rule. Baťa's ideas should not be left to sink into oblivion, however, as the Czech Republic needs a clear vision to head for. We ought to be entertaining some notion of how our motorway and rail network should look. What we want our children to know. How we are going to generate energy. How we are going to deliver an efficient welfare state that will take care of those who need help. How we're going to provide a top-class health service for everyone. What sort of business sectors we are going to support. What principles the Czech Republic will be backing across the world. How we will provide for our seniors. How we will service our debts. What we are going to do with the surpluses we make. A whole slew of questions remain unanswered and no one other than Jan Antonín Baťa has really tried to deal with them. I would like to give it a go. Perhaps this humble book might become as inspiring as Baťa and his book were for me. Elections to the Chamber of Deputies are coming up this year. There is a lot at stake. Whether or not we ultimately succeed is in your hands. Whatever the outcome, I don't regret my decision to enter politics. I'd like to think I have given some people fresh hope and shown them that the state can be changed for the better. Yes, it can. We have already chalked up success. And if you are willing, together we can achieve even more. Much more. This is my vision of the Czech Republic in 2035.
Prologue HOW MANY OF US ARE THERE? Part One A COUNTRY WHERE LIFE IS GOOD A dream of a country that works 25 A dream of solidarity 42 A dream of healthy people 65 A dream of fair play 79 A dream of a clean landscape 93 A dream of justice 107 A dream of honest politics 123 Part Two HOW WE'LL SET THE BALL ROLLING A dream of what our children will know 141 A dream of culture for everyone 159
A dream of a country where everything is within reach 177 A dream of smart cities 191 A dream of a vibrant countryside 205 A dream of principled business 219 Part Three HOW WE'LL WIN A dream of success 237 A dream of security 254 A dream of independence 270
HOW MANY OF US ARE THERE?
When I was little, I thought about how things would be in 2000. Boyhood dreams, you know the sort. And I'd say that, on the whole, they came true. Well, apart from that Wimbledon final. I wasn't bad at tennis, but you can't have everything. Now I'm sitting here and trying to picture our children, the boys and girls who have been and will be born this year, in 2017. What their lives will be like in 2035, when they're 18 and adults. It occurs to me that they are lucky to come into the world right here. Bohemians,
Moravians and Silesians are a nation of exceptionally resourceful and creative people. Though our country is not as big as Germany, Italy or Poland, we are a great nation when it comes to our talent for working out the lie of the land and springing surprises. During the interwar period of the First Republic, we were one of Europe's drivers. In the 1920s, we were wealthier than the Austrians, the Italians and the Dutch. More productive than the Germans. We were one of the world's ten richest countries. We enjoyed double-digit economic growth higher than that reported by China today. Baťa, Škoda, ČKD, Tatra, Koh-i-Noor, Jawa, the ČZ arms factory – at the time, these were global brands. We have been handed down unbelievable architectural heritage, world-class music culture and technical virtuosity. Not even fifty years of stifled freedom and creativity could purge us of Baťa's legacy, of the skills and capabilities that are in our DNA: resourcefulness, creativity and exceptional craftsmanship. And Czech tenacity. The strength to pick ourselves up from the ground. In the past century, every generation has had to ask: just how many of us are there? Well, not as many as there were. Thousands fewer. Hundreds of thousands. The first took off after 1918. Nazism exterminated well over 300,000, and others fled. Tens of thousands were hounded out by the Communist putsch. The regime killed hundreds more, decimated the lives of hundreds of thousands, and squandered their talents. After the occupation in 1968 and during the normalisation era, at least 200,000 people more gradually left the country. And what happened every time? Each subsequent generation rallied and performed prodigiously in all manner of fields. In industry, in science, medicine, the arts, sport… Often in defiance of the big cheeses and tanks, and frequently while they were still
on their knees. Thanks to Professor Wichterle, we can wear contact lenses instead of glasses when we play football. He also gave us the synthetic fibre silon. Professor Heyrovský discovered polarography and won the Nobel Prize. Professor Vojta developed a method that is used to help children with polio around the world. Our Egyptologists and ethnographers are acclaimed worldwide. Expo 58 in Brussels was a triumph for us. Věra Čáslavská bagged seven Olympic golds and was applauded on all continents for her courage. Martina Navrátilová won Wimbledon so many times that, in the end, she had nowhere to put all of her trophies. Crooner Karel Gott also became a pop star in Germany. My fellow-workers can come up with other examples off the top of their heads: Forman's films, Kundera's books, and Kilián and Radok's productions have enriched world art… And what now? We have made hundreds of mistakes and there is no way we are Central Europe's answer to Switzerland, no matter what we tell ourselves. In the wake of November 1989, at least another 200,000 people took their leave of us because they saw opportunities for their lives elsewhere.
Something's afoot In recent months, however, I've noticed something new. I've felt a waft of change. Well, more than a waft. As I make my way around towns and small villages, I can see that a lot of people have stopped worrying about the future. They are not so concerned about whether they'll be able to make a living, whether they'll have jobs and a place to live,
whether inflation will wipe out their savings, or whether they'll be able to learn how to use new technologies. They've taken a deep breath and, all of a sudden, they have more confidence in themselves. Once again, we have a generation of outstanding individuals. I'm sure you've heard of the plastic surgeon Bohdan Pomahač. Professor Jiří Bartek, the most cited Czech scientist, researches cancer in Copenhagen and Olomouc, with whispers of a Nobel Prize every year. The city of Ostrava is home to one of the most powerful computers in Europe. The discoveries made by Miroslav Bárta's team of Egyptologists are rewriting the history books. Vladimír Mařík is a leading light in the field of cybernetics. We have the Czech Philharmonic. We have elite sports figures, such as the biathlete Gabriela Koukalová. Tennis. Children all over the world have heard of Kvitová, Berdych and Plíšková. We have Jágr, Čech, the rower Synek, the judoka Krpálek, the snowboarder Samková and the pilot Šonka. Cutting-edge technology entrepreneurs such as Jan Řežáb and Josef Průša. The young composer Jaroslav Beck is now composing music for computer games in Hollywood. Absolutely top-class.
The great Czech family brands live on, as exemplified by Koh-i-noor and the piano maker Petrof. And extremely successful new ones have germinated. These are not assembly plants that will prove unsustainable in the future, but companies delivering high added value. Avast develops anti-virus programs for 400 million people. Sipral, a family business, is an expert at aluminium and glass construction systems, which it delivers to top architects in countries such as the US, the UK and Denmark. The Liberec-based Elmarco is a world leader in nanofibres. František Piškanin has transformed Hopi into a smoothly run logistics behemoth. There are many other examples. These are the ones, though, really pushing the envelope. And, as always, the change was triggered by strong and talented individuals. They see things differently. They are never content with what they've got. They find a way forward and show it to others. This is precisely why we have such national talent. You've probably grasped that I'm not just talking about the elite here. People who do unobtrusively important things have my admiration. You may have heard or read about the lawyer Alena Vlachová, who defends the rights of abandoned children across the country pro bono in her free time. The senior Pavel Floriš invents windpumps that supply water to people in Africa. Every day, Vilém Štěpán provides refuge to children from 40 villages without after-school care at his rectory in the west of Bohemia. I read and hear about stories like this on a daily basis. People are changing before our eyes. They are learning languages at an age when this is hard work for them. Their children test them. Women from small pubs and shops sometimes give me an earful for introducing electronic cash registers but, when all is said and done, they've come to grips with them. Building on that, they are now also computer literate. Parents are constantly at the wheel,
transporting their children around so they can do sport, attend clubs, and explore the countryside. Something's happening. And it's as though everyone had reached an agreement, telling me they are ready to get things off the ground. If only there were more decency, solidarity, cooperation and order. And in this situation, I tell myself that the children born in 2017 are also lucky for coming into the world at this particular time. As long as we don't waste this opportunity, perhaps they will not take to their heels in 2035. Or perhaps they will see what it's like beyond our borders, gain some experience and then come home in the knowledge that this is a great place to be. So, how many of us are there? Ten? A hundred? A million? Or am I talking about all of us?
A COUNTRY WHERE LIFE IS GOOD
A DREAM OF A COUNTRY THAT WORKS
I thought it was a joke. You need a new ID card and a new driving licence. You have to wait your turn in two different lines because it's impossible to sort everything out at a single counter. At the counter for ID cards, the official takes a picture of you. But when you need a driving licence, you're meant to bring a developed photograph yourself. This is despite the fact that ID cards and driving licences are often processed by the same authority and produced by one and the same state enterprise. Thinking this sounded a little far-fetched, I decided to take a closer look. And it really isn't a joke. The fact of the matter is that ID cards and passports are in the hands of the Ministry of the Interior, while driving licences are issued by the Ministry of Transport. And if you require authorisation to carry on a trade, then that falls within the remit of the Ministry of Industry and Trade. Needless to say, they'll be waiting for you at a completely different counter. Why on earth can't they come to some sort of agreement? Alternatively, why isn't a single authority made responsible for this? I'll tell you why. In the 28 years that have passed since November 1989, not one of those who have built our functioning state has asked one particular question. The most important question of all.
How do people feel when they want something from the state? Identifying how people feel is called the user experience, or "UX". This is a great field. I've just discovered it and I'm really enthusiastic about it. So I ask myself, just how do you feel when you want something from the state? A building permit, the registration of a permanent residence, or perhaps you've just got married? It turns out that you feel uneasy. Of course, the people who deal with public administration are very nice. Some of them. Pleasant. Quick. But then there are also people who are not so nice. Perhaps they woke up on the wrong side of the bed. But I don't think that's the worst of it. The worst aspects are the wretched organisation, the backwardness and the hundreds of hours of lost time. We have found an unbelievable example. Parents decide to have their baby in Černé Voděrady. A nice place in Central Bohemia. Surrounded by woodland and not that far from Prague. But when your baby is born, first of all you must: 1. Drive five kilometres to the registry office in Jevany so that they will issue you with a birth certificate. 2. Then you have to make your way to the town hall and register your baby so you can pay extra for your waste collection charge. 3. You need to get to the labour office 20 kilometres away in Říčany to apply for a childbirth allowance and other benefits. 4. Then hurry along to congested Prague to sort out your maternity leave
at the Czech Social Security Administration. Are we done? No way. 5. You still have to have to register your baby with the health insurance company. And everywhere you go, obviously, you're dragging around a briefcase overflowing with documents, filled-in forms and certificates. This is not how I imagine a smoothly running state to be. Why can't it be simpler? Why doesn't the first authority where the parents present themselves – say, the town hall – just pass on information to the others and that's it, sorted? We've been caught napping. In Estonia they used to need eight different papers to organise maternity leave. Now all Estonians need do is notify the number of the account where they would like the money – the childbirth allowance, the parental allowance and the maternity benefit – to be sent. No bumf, no certificates, no hanging around at various authorities. Just nice and easy online from the comfort of your own home. This is part of the future I dream of.
I want a digital Czech Republic People in Estonia compete to see who can fill out their tax return the fastest over their mobile phone. As I write this, the current record is around the two-minute mark. It took their prime minister four minutes. On an iPad. He filed his return when he had a free moment at the airport. In Qatar, nearly all communication with public administration bodies takes place via
a mobile app. No waiting. Immediately. It takes entrepreneurs from Estonia 18 minutes to set up a new business over the internet. Young politicians from Finland and Canada are attracting technology companies and innovators to their countries, who are creating thousands of jobs there. It clicked when I recently saw two people arguing about whether we would ever be as rich as Germany or Austria, while a nice girl next to them was Skyping with her colleague who, going by his accent, was somewhere in America. The only way we can get ahead of those countries that we have been trying to catch up with for years is to start playing a completely different game. To be sure, countries in the West have a better economy or industry, but when it comes to innovation and digitalisation, the playing field is level. And the Czechs have the wherewithal to capitalise on this revolution and return to the status we enjoyed a hundred years ago. A place among the top ten most advanced countries. A world leader. In technology. And the state will provide its citizens with first-class services without being a nuisance. In the slightest. We have a gift for digitalisation. We are an e-shop superpower. We lead the world in antivirus programming. Czech companies have penetrated the US market with their mobile apps. Avast's antivirus solutions. Liftago, a service we use to get around Prague and Brno. Socialbakers social network analysts. STRV mobile app developers. Průša Research, offering the best 3D printer in the world. Kiwi.com for plane ticket purchases. Keboola, the big data specialist. These are companies I admire. Add to that the astonishing industrial tradition, Czech craftsmanship and the ability to tackle virtually any task, and it's as clear as day. This is where the future lies. I have to
tell you, as I write this it sends shivers down my spine when I picture everything we are capable of.
Where will we begin? With the complete digitalisation of the state, of course. The thing is, we are still filling in paper forms in one endless cycle. By hand. In 2017. And virtually all of this is data that the state already has. Your personal identification number. Sure, we have it, but we want you to tell us again. Your permanent address, too. And so on and so forth. A nightmare, isn't it? I mean, all you have to do is identify yourself, to show that you are you. And your data can then be read from the cloud. From anywhere. Wherever there's internet. And that will be everywhere. Do you see how much time this would save? All forms would simply be scrapped.
And what about seniors? It makes sense that seniors and others – like myself – who are not entirely au fait with computers would probably want to fill in everything on paper, as they have been used to. That would be factored into the equation. But most people find forms annoying. And there's more.
When we want something from the state: • we fill in all our details; • we wait; • we pay. Let's do away with that. Take Qatar, for example. There, they just scan your eye and then, using one of the machines they have on every corner or a mobile app, you can make arrangements to sell your flat or register a car, for instance, immediately and without waiting.
Instead of paperwork, we will prioritise video calls with officials. I am confident they will be in a good mood. All state services will be devised as the best digital services you know. Accessing your own data box as though you were using a web browser. Purchasing a motorway vignette as though you were in a major e-shop. Instructing a notary as easily as though you were ordering a taxi via an app. Searching reliable information on public services with a single tap or click. In short, a service that will be more convenient and, most importantly, save time.
Can anyone already do this? Estonia is easily the digitalisation leader. Eight-seven per cent of people there use eGovernment, as they call it. Not the easiest of words for a Czech to say, but otherwise an unbelievable leap forwards. The Estonian government has introduced a huge range of electronic services accessible via an electronic ID card. This card is also used as a digital signature for contracting, voting, filing tax returns, purchasing public transport tickets and checking your children's school grades. And people are using it: in 2016, 95% of all tax returns were filed electronically. Estonia, as a small country devoid of natural resources, had no choice but to follow a path of innovation. Digital services are absolutely everywhere, and this is also one of the reasons why they have such great economic growth. eGovernment is not just about sharing forms online. It is a wholesale change for citizens and for the functioning of society at large. Everything can be done on online. Apart from getting married,
divorcing and selling property. Want to set up a business? No problem. Online. Done in 18 minutes and all you need is a computer. Online tax returns take three minutes, and any surplus tax you have paid you get back within five days. Banking? 99.8% of payments are electronic. There is little room for the informal economy to gain a foothold. Going to the doctor's for a prescription? In Estonia, all you have to do is call your doctor and in five minutes you can pick up your medication. This cuts down on queues in hospitals. Routine consultations take place online. In their electronic administration listing, all citizens can see how many times state institutions – such as the police – have looked at their details. And they can demand explanations as to why they have been singled out for screening. And then, of course, there are the famous electronic elections. Are you a citizen of Estonia? Fine, you can vote wherever you are in the world. A lot of young people in the Czech Republic don't get round to sorting out their voting cards because they don't have time to visit their parents, i.e. the place where they are registered as permanently resident and where their polling station is, and therefore they forfeit their vote. Electronic voting takes three minutes and is two-and-a-half times cheaper for the state than conventional voting. This is all worthwhile financially, too. The digital signatures save Estonia around 2% of GDP annually, which is equivalent to the country's defence budget. The overall costs of state information technology are just EUR 50 million per year.
Life in a digital country Sadly, according to the UN the Czech Republic ranks around 50th in the world in terms of the level of eGovernment it has introduced. This is a shame because digital technology in the service of the public is far from just a way of cutting down on red tape. I have a few ideas that will entertain you.
Superfast internet for everyone free of charge I mean that seriously. High-speed networks will soon be available not only free of charge, but literally everywhere. We're even talking about smaller villages with fewer than 2,000 inhabitants, buses and trains. Today, this is essential if we are to move forward at all. The right to an internet connection will be firmly enshrined in law. I was recently in Němčovice, in the Plzeň region, the mayor has already established this benefit for locals. So you see that it can be done. In addition, the state will guarantee people more safety and privacy on the network, which is also good news. Strong Czech businesses, you see, will make us the unchallenged leader in cybersecurity. These companies will provide services not only commercially, but also as part of the internet connection for all citizens. The state will champion them as a component ensuring national security so that they come up with even better ideas and inventions. Besides computers, cars, washing machines, watches and even whole houses will
be hooked up to the internet. All over the world. So we can capitalise on demand for security technology made by our people.
The state will "work" for us The chances are you have experienced or heard that building a house in the Czech Republic is a nightmare. A Facebook friend of mine wrote to me about this. He's a clever young man with his own small business – he makes great colour car wraps. He got married last year and, wanting to start a family, he found a plot of land to build a house. He had looked for it for two years and now he was ready to start building. Needless to say, they told him that he would require about 28 stamps. And this would take some running around. Here we go then: • Verification of the land-use plan. • Find out which utilities exist by going to the utility managers, of which there can be many. • Contracts to connect the house to the electricity, gas, water supply and sewerage networks. • Approval from neighbours and contracts with the owners of the land across which the utilities are to run. • The local authority's opinion.
• A permit for a drive and the linking of the house to the road. • An ambient noise assessment from the regional hygiene station. • A radon report. • An opinion from archaeologists. • For a larger house, an opinion from the fire brigade. And so on and so forth. It's never-ending. The process of preparing to build in the Czech Republic is one of the longest in the world. Dozens of authorities and institutions must have a say in the building plan, with building legislation encompassing at least five ministries. I see things differently in a digital Czech Republic. You wouldn't have to do any running around. The authorities would carry out all the arrangements for you. A turnkey solution. One building authority will be responsible for everything. All you do is say what you want to build and where. By 2035, the term "tax return" will also become bereft of meaning. It will simply melt away from our lexicon. To be technical about it, we will transfer the burden of tax calculation from the taxpayer to the tax office. This is how it will work: You don't fill anything in. Not even on your computer. The tax office calculates your tax, your health insurance and your social security contributions itself. It electronically sends you a report on the calculation and on how much you are to pay. If you agree, you pay. Full-stop. Or you can appeal. The great thing about it is that the tax risk disappears, too. Even the most honest of people can make a mistake, but if the tax office does the calculation itself, it cannot then question the tax and impose additional charges.
Ratings for civil servants Officials will not disappear, but the work they do will be completely overhauled. The lady at the counter will probably become an expert adviser, and should be paid accordingly. Even if we only communicate with her electronically. And one thing has caught my eye. A colleague showed me how to order a taxi via the Liftago mobile app. I was intrigued by the fact that I can give the driver a rating of between one and five stars after my journey. Everyone is going to want to travel with someone who has five stars, so this translates into more business more money for such a driver. Those who don't have such a rating probably then have to put in more effort.
If you give a driver fewer than three stars, you are guaranteed not to be paired with him or her again. Exactly the same system is used by services such as shopping deliveries by Rohlík and meal deliveries by Dáme jídlo – and, in all likelihood, by the majority of services that are online. It occurred to me that we could use the same sort of rating for the civil servants and officials with whom we come into contact. If someone is professional and provides good advice, of course they get five stars and you can even write a letter of praise. Those with very good ratings will get a bonus. Because what is better than a rating from the citizens themselves? And what happens at the other end of the scale? If you want to know what Liftago does with drivers who have low scores, well… precisely what you think it does. It expels them from the system and they can no longer drive for Liftago. Ever. Rather harsh, but that's life. I ask myself what this could do to our state administration. Petr Morcinek, the owner of one of the largest estate agencies in the Czech Republic, explained it to me. When estate agents received praise from a client, they started emailing it to all employees. People viewed it as spam and were annoyed by it. Then they started to feel a little disgruntled that they themselves were not receiving any praise. And those that were on the receiving end of praise started to flaunt it at home to their spouse, parents or children. So they adopted this as a full-on policy at the estate agency. Today, some of the commission is only available if estate agents receive good references. Those are not praised earn less. Zero tolerance. Obviously, grabbing at people's money is a risk. Everyone's always talking about it,
but hardly anyone ever does it. Everyone is afraid that, if they do, they will lose their staff. But the estate agents did not flee. These days, everyone tells customers directly that the company wants to know how satisfied they are. Of course, customers are under no obligation to write anything, but if they can see that the other party is responsive and polite, they do. As people are not given the politeness they would like, they are pleased to engage when they do encounter it.
We will have a legal sharing economy No one in the world has really got this down to a tee yet. For example, we don't know how to reasonably tax a sharing economy. Otherwise sharing things that can also be used by others is a great idea. When you go abroad, you might look for a comfortable apartment via Airbnb. While you're away, you can rent out your own flat or cottage simply and safely. The younger generation in particular has a penchant to share rather than own various items. The sharing principle could one day transform the entire economy. People will soon be sharing cars, parking spots, flats and cottages. You will be able to earn extra money by doing what you know or offering what you have, without any onerous paperwork. Every month, you will be able to receive new toys and then hand them back. Or you won't have to cook because you can order meals from the great cook next door. A sharing economy will cut just about everyone's costs and will enable some people to work reduced hours or part-time.
We will harness a 21st -century resource I like the idea that 95% of all state information must be in the public domain. Let me explain why. Do you know how many thefts and burglaries there have been in your street in the past week? Whether it is a safe place to live? No. The British do know. Picture this. You're moving, you're looking for somewhere to live. You like the look of a house that a local estate agent is offering, but you're curious to know if it's in a safe area. The children are old enough to walk to school on their own. This is something the seller often won't tell you. Even worse, the state won't tell you either. In the UK, a world leader in transparency and open governance, people do have this option. At www.police.uk, you can see what crime has been committed not only in specific districts, but even in any one street. In the Californian city of Santa Cruz, they've gone even further, offering information about the days and times when your car is at the greatest risk of being stolen. This is known as open data. It has also been dubbed the new basic resource of the 21st century. Put simply, it means that the information and data the state collects is published at the same time. Online and immediately. It will help identify the doctor you need, a school that is appropriate for your children, or an idea for your business. The state has computers teeming with such information. I came across a great example on the Czech site of the Open Data society. As far back as 2005, The Guardian – the British daily newspaper – requested data on the success rate
of 400,000 heart operations in the past five years. When they crunched the numbers, the effect was astounding. People started selecting hospitals with a statistically more significant success rate for their operations. Surgery deaths fell by 21%, and by as much as a third for complex types of operations. Data is a special resource for economists. It is not finite and it is never depleted. On the contrary. The fact that data appears on the internet compounds its value. This is because it can't be seized by anyone. We don't know who – whether scientists, a start-up or a major corporation – or when it will be, but this data is sure to result in hundreds of projects. Perhaps including exports. For a country lacking in significant natural resources, this is a historic opportunity. We will never have more gas, coal or iron. But data? Yes. And this is where the Czech people's skill comes into play. The first Czech crime map already exists. Police statistics were used to plot it. This is the work of a non-profit organisation, although it should be a job for the state. While it is not yet possible to find out how many thefts and burglaries have occurred in your street, this information is readily available for your town or district. An excellent project! By opening up our registers, we can source several websites to look up our ancestors and find out where we come from. Open data on dishonest traders is provided by the Czech Trade Inspection Authority. Information is gathered by the Opendata server. We have price comparison websites. Trackers to tell us when there is a change in a company's management. This is already a successful line of business. We have a contracts register to make it clear what the state is spending money on and which companies it is doing business with. Last year, the European Commission changed our data openness category from
"beginners" to "followers". So, we are no longer rookies. Together with Slovakia and Luxembourg, our country has made the greatest progress. Even so, most of our open data still comes from private sources. It is collected and processed by enthusiasts and visionaries, who often mine it from the authorities. Now it is time for the state to step forward. Then, come 2035, we will find ourselves defending our "leaders" status.
The Czech Republic will be an attractive global brand And now for the crux of the matter, which I have had in mind this whole time. Our talents will no longer seek their fortune abroad. And those who have settled out of the country will perhaps make their way home. Why? It will become clear that we have a smoothly running country not bothering its people with unnecessary red tape. That innovative projects are easy to develop in the Czech Republic and can offer great work to resourceful people. That this makes the Czech Republic a draw for foreign investors, including those who are transforming the whole world with new technologies. That even Czech companies have a place among the technological elite. In particular, we will use Czech technology from Czech companies to control the functioning of the state. We will give them an opportunity. Even if they originate in Czech garages. After all, Apple was born in a garage. As was Microsoft. You can find the photos on the internet, or you may have seen one of the films about Steve Jobs.
A DREAM OF SOLIDARITY
Now let's discuss what's most important in life. Relationships between people. Within the family, at work, everywhere. If relationships are healthy, companies are successful, people earn a lot of money, they are polite to each other, they bring up lovely children, the whole country prospers, and life is better. But what if they're not? It's normal to work and look after ourselves. It's normal to bring children into this world and look after them. It's normal to look after our parents. It's normal to look after the weaker if they are unable to look after themselves. That, for me, is civilisation and solidarity. It's not normal when almost half of pensioners are on the breadline, spending most of their pension on housing and medication. It's not normal when thousands of children can't afford school dinners. Nor is it normal when it's not worth people's while going to work unless they are offered a salary of thirty thousand. That is hardly civilisation, and it's definitely not solidarity. There are always two sides to solidarity. The second is called responsibility. And that's what this chapter is about.
Who's going to foot the bill? I took a look at the list of professions that will soon be most in demand. The occupations of the future, as identified by scientists from the National Training Fund. There are professions there that would not have been listed just ten years ago: physiotherapists, nutritionists, home-helps, nurses, opticians, child carers… It couldn't be clearer. There is a need for people who will be looking after others. The numbers of those who need assistance are rising. Rapidly. First and foremost, we're getting older. Every fourth person living in the Czech Republic has now reached retirement age. Our pension system will cope for a few more years yet, but we'll reach crisis point in about 2035. The larger groups born in the 1970s will start to retire, and soon after almost a third of the people in the Czech Republic will be older than 65. Some forecasts say that up to half a million people will live beyond 85, and half of these will not exactly be independent. How are we going to look after these grandmothers and grandfathers, and who will support them? And while we're at it, who will keep the country above water? That is the burning issue before us. It all starts with having children. If the birthrate were just a little higher, there would be nothing to discuss. There would be plenty of people to work. The state would have enough for decent pensions and would easily look after anyone dealt a poor hand in life. As I write this, I have three and a half thousand requests on my desk to support the treatment of sick children, and to contribute to wheelchairs, breathing apparatus and assistants. Because the state can't afford everything. Here are two numbers to illustrate our problem.
2,1 This is the number of children that, on average, each woman should be giving birth to so that we don't die out.
1,6 This is the number of children that, on average, is born to each woman in the Czech Republic. Not looking good, is it? This isn't specific to the Czech Republic. We're mid-table when it comes to European rankings. No one in the European Union achieves aÂ figure of 2.1. Information from 2015 shows that only the French and the Irish come close. Not even the most generous welfare systems, such as the German one, appear to have an effect on the low birthrate. Germany is in much the same position as we are.
For decades, it looked like we had a popular solution to keep up a supply of children and workers in perpetuity. But the system ground to a halt. What are we going to do about it? No one knows. We don't have time for children and families. Or even, it would seem, the inclination. Young people prefer to sit at computers and live with their parents, where mother will provide them with everything on tap. Those who are more mature are under huge pressure to constantly up their performance. Others want an easy life, to have fun and travel. People are seriously deciding whether it's best to have a child or a dog. How are our families faring? Every other child in the Czech Republic is born out of wedlock. Women are now in their thirties before they have their first child. Half of marriages end in divorce. Every fourth family is brought up by a single parent. This is nothing short of a massacre of what is most important to us. When families are dysfunctional, they don't look after their weaker or infirm relatives either. The state, and the state alone, is expected to step in. But who, ultimately, is going to pay for this? Is it really all about the money? Yes, in a way. Just so you know how much we're talking about: nowadays more than CZK 600 billion is channelled into social spending every year. That is half of all the income collected by the state. That's such a flabbergasting sum that I'll repeat it: more than 600,000,000,000 crowns. Every single year. That works out at more than 60,000 per person, including babies. And it's an amount that keeps on growing. What are we going to do about it? Put up taxes? Increase the social security contributions that people pay? That would hardly make us a country where life is good and business prospers. When it comes to tax, we are just below average among members
of the OECD, the club for the world's most advanced countries, and that's where we should stay. We don't want to be a tax haven and compete with ultra-low rates. I think our taxes are reasonable. And it is also normal to pay reasonable taxes. We like to show solidarity, but not everyone has acknowledged that this is underpinned by taxes. However, I have a "tax dream". I wasn't born yesterday and I know very well what a lot of people think. When we started building a free country after 1989, we were still optimistic. Then we saw the car crash before our very eyes. First there was the privatisation corruption, then the public contracts allowing hundreds of billions to be pilfered, followed by the crookedness surrounding subsidies and funds. It was raining money, but the state remained dysfunctional, the roads and water supply systems continued to be neglected, and the bosses kept tigers and bought haciendas in the Caribbean with cash originally intended for everyone. And we're meant to be paying taxes for that?! Are you serious? I get it. But these days we keep a tighter rein to ensure that the state is a responsible steward. There will come a time when people trust it again. I have a dream that they will be proud to pay taxes. Perhaps people will be able to see that a stretch of road, a pension, and a place in a nursery exist because of what they have done. They will be proud of it. But this is a system that needs to function from top to bottom. The only way to ensure that the country shows solidarity is to work, to have advanced industry and highly skilled people, and to pay taxes and social security contributions. That means that every last able man and woman must work. It must be worth their while to work. Let's check out how worth their while it is today.
Benefits versus work A young lady at the Technical University of Ostrava is writing a study on what motivates people to get a job. Apparently, some have concluded that, in order for the unemployed to be in a job rather than on benefits, their pay would have to be more than thirty thousand. This would be pure noodledom. I asked my colleagues to come up with a more precise calculation for me. Let's compare three households, each living in a rented flat in a town where the population is some fifty thousand. First, family number one. Two adults and two children. He works in a factory; she's a shop assistant. Their gross monthly wages are CZK 15,000 and CZK 12,000, respectively. They have to go to work, and they pay their health insurance and their social security contributions. Calculating their net income, including various state allowances, we arrive at a figure of just over CZK 30,000. Then there's family number two. The parents don't work, but they have two children and they're on a lot of benefits. They have no liabilities. They don't have to pay health insurance or social security contributions. If their television or fridge breaks, they can get a new one by drawing on immediate emergency assistance. They don't have to get up for work, they can heat the place to high heaven, and they don't have to save on water because they get extras and supplements for their housing. That said, they always find time to work under the table whenever they want. Their income, by which I mean the total amount they receive from the state, is more than CZK 20,000 per month. On the face of it, then, it is worthwhile for family number one to go to work. Yet things
are not that simple. The family where the father and mother work will have much greater costs than those faced by the unemployed: they have to pay to commute, to eat lunch away from home, and sometimes to have the necessary work gear. They also have many more concerns to take care of. And if, in that family of unemployed parents, someone earns cash in hand, the difference very quickly disappears. And there's our third example: a young man lives next door. He's single. Perhaps he is not particularly skilled. Or perhaps he has the qualifications but, in the absence of better prospects, he works for the minimum wage. These days, that's eleven thousand. If his commute, lunches in the works canteen and other costs come to two thousand, his monthly income is no more than if he had remained unemployed. What sort of motivation to work is that? This shows, very lucidly, just how wrong the system is. There are so many situations where there is no point in having a job. Which is why our labour offices have started to be dubbed "benefit offices". Everything there revolves around the cash office. People want the authorities to give them handouts, not offers of work. And, in the meantime, companies are finding it impossible to recruit. Last year, they were 130,000 employees short. Our system of benefits and allowances is so unspeakably convoluted that I won't bore you with the details. It is the principle that is at issue here. "Solidarity" in our country is stood on its head. We consider who is living in a given household and what they are entitled to. We come up with a sum and then we pay once, pay again, pay extra, and provide assistance. If you ask me, we need different rules. We need to calculate things differently. According to a very simple principle.
Having a job must always be the better option. Everyone who works, even if only for the minimum wage, must have a higher income than a healthy person who is on benefits. In all circumstances, active people must be much better off than those who are passive. Sure, any of us could find ourselves in a pickle. People lose their jobs, fall sick, or might be left alone to bring up the children. And these are the people that we, the luckier ones, must help. But only until they pick themselves up again. What about those who try to make a life on benefits and envious lifestyle? No way! The unemployed who are able to work but turn their noses up at any offer simply because they don't fancy it should not receive any assistance. Not a penny. You refused two job offers? Bye then! In Slovakia, they've started to do something about this. New rules have been in place since 2014. They have a hardship benefit that is just over EUR 60. It's not much. But the Slovaks were paying it to 187,000 people. That translates into almost CZK 5 billion per year. Now, though, it is only granted to those who have done at least 32 hours' work for the municipal services over the month. Hardly dramatic, just eight hours a week. This idea was supported by 90% of municipalities, and there was plenty of work to go round. Anyone working 64 hours a month gets a higher allowance.
What about those who refuse to work? They get nothing. There was uproar. Complaints about the law went all the way to the Constitutional Court, which refused to scrap it. So it was enacted and, all of a sudden, 80,000 people decided they didn't need the benefit after all. For example, those who had been on benefits but were also travelling abroad to work on the sly. We did not witness a sudden surge in homeless numbers by tens of thousands in Slovakia. I would hone this idea to include additional obligations. Children must attend school. House rules must be respected. Anyone suffering from some form of addiction must undergo treatment.
The path from debt to work Illicit work is a scourge. We conducted a major survey which showed that half the nation knows of someone who is working under the table. That's two slaps in the face for us. Not only do these immoral souls keep on receiving benefits, but they also pay no tax or social security contributions on the work that they have done illegally. This is dreadful. And almost everyone – at least according to our survey – knows that money is then missing that could be put towards, say, pensions. Yet a third of people would have no qualms about working cash in hand if they needed to earn a little extra. For the most part, these are among the half a million people who have found themselves in a spiral of debt. That's the population of a large city, larger even than Brno.
Have you any idea what aÂ spiral of debt is like? You earn 20,000 aÂ month, but the interest alone on your debts is 25,000. So you live hand to mouth, everything you have you give over to your creditors, and still your debts grow bigger, and bigger, and bigger. For the rest of your life. What'sÂ the solution? Some think the answer lies in finding illicit work. And everything they buy is in the name of their spouse or parents. They don't pay tax and, sooner or later, they end up on benefits. This is wrong. Of course, debts have to be repaid. Some people find themselves mired in debt
through their own rashness. Others because they are too trusting or they simply lost their job or were sick for ages and suddenly found themselves unable to repay, on time, what they had borrowed. Now we are looking for a way out for those half a million people. I'll describe to you the plan we have devised. We're not just going to waive people's debts. We'll give them an offer. Want to get rid of your debts? Okay, but it won't be free. We are willing to help you sell off your non-essential assets to the benefit of your creditors. Then you will have to try to hold down a well-paid job and learn how to manage your finances. And if you dutifully pay your creditors, one day we will relieve you of the rest of your debts. In three years, if you manage to pay back at least 50% of your debts. In five years, if you pay back at least 30% or, if even that is beyond you, in seven years. Does that sound fair? To make sure that you are not tempted to cheat that all the work you do is legal, everything will be supervised by an insolvency practitioner and a judge. But be careful! Once you are debt free, you must not fall into the same trap again in subsequent years. The unemployed must not have the time to work under the table. We don't want them just formally reporting to an authority or the post office. We've tried that and it didn't really work. They should be kept fully occupied with preparations for a new occupation. Education, retraining, and learning. The labour office and municipalities will keep an eye on them to make sure they really are gearing up for a new job. If they aren't, they can kiss goodbye to their benefits. If anyone is caught working illegally, I don't think it is enough simply to insist that they return the benefits that have already been paid. I would also severely penalise those who offer such work. I would halt their subsidies
and disqualify them from all public contracts. I would have no qualms about terminating their business. And now for something a little more positive. I have a dream that we will finally make decent offers to people who are having difficulty in their search for a well-paid job. Labour offices will no longer be "benefit offices", but job and training agencies. They're meant to be this already, but they aren't. Just make it clear what labour offices should be doing: • They will form a bridge between people, businesses and town halls. They will be personnel advisers for everyone. Labour offices will have a clear idea of what employers need and what skilful people we have. Jobseekers may be accompanied to recruitment interviews by an assistant if they so wish. Alternatively, the office can organise selection procedure on behalf of enterprises or provide advice on what sort of working hours would suit everyone. • Labour offices will help people to discover talents that no one had noticed before. We are capable of many things, but it hardly ever occurs to us that we could actually make a living from our gift for DIY, gardening or cooking. • First and foremost, labour offices will organise and financially support training so that people can acquire new and improved skills. Throughout their lives. Then they can find a new job and for more than the minimum wage at that. It is when we work for the minimum wage, after all, that everything starts to unravel. That's a decent offer, isn't it? There's plenty of work. And there'll be more. Especially skilled jobs.
How to stand families in good stead The whole of Europe is devising bizarre ways of increasing the birthrate. The Danes want to support longer seaside holidays for couples. Some countries hold courses on reproductive sex. Elsewhere, they advise people to move to the big cities, where there is more chance of meeting that special someone and earning more money. To no avail. Professor Ladislav Rabušic from Brno, like many of his foreign colleagues, is wondering whether we could extend the time in their lives that women have children. A first child early on, then a career, followed by further children at a later stage. There have been leaps and bounds in medicine. But the professor says there is no clear-cut recipe for this. Having children, supporting the family, bringing up the children well and enabling them to have a decent education – this is a major task in our lives. Perhaps the main one. The best one. And the most expensive one. And don't think that we just stand by and look on. The scale of our tax concessions and bonuses for families is so broad that surveys the year before last showed that we were the world's number two in this respect. Only Liechtenstein did more to support families. In fact, we may well be number one now. You see, it's not just about the money. Professor Rafael Puyol from Madrid talks about a "Europe without sentiment": "Employers do not create conditions for families to take shape. When you have a baby, you can't cope with your daily routine." I think there is a way forward here. Find a solution that allows both parents to work without losing their minds. In this way, we will kill six birds with one stone. 1. Families' incomes will increase, and this will improve their everyday lives and prospects.
2. Entitlements to benefits will fall. 3. In fact, the state will have new taxpayers. 4. Czech businesses will find many of the people they need. 5. Women who no longer have career worries could also decide to have more children. 6. New jobs will be created for people to help out with childcare and with the needs and requirements of households. How are we doing? Only about 40% of Czech women with children up to the age of six years have a job. Some of them want to stay at home with their children by choice, and that's fine because the family is important. Others, however, would also like to pursue their career, but we offer them little help in this regard. In France, on the other hand, half of women are back at work within 18 months. French mothers, unlike their Czech counterparts, don't remain on parental leave simply because they have no other way of looking after their children. If they want to stay at home longer with their children, that's entirely up to them. Besides state nursery schools and crèches, the French – and also the Germans, Austrians and other countries – have a whole raft of other family and household services. For example, there is a French register of accredited baby minders, which is open to mothers on maternity leave. In Germany and Austria, they organise reciprocal parental assistance, where mothers and fathers look after other families' little children. Company nurseries. Playgroups. Helpers accompany children to various clubs, help them with their homework, go shopping, do repairs, do the housework – basically everything that employed parents need. This is a fantastic opportunity for students and seniors alike. In Belgium, over 100,000 jobs have been created in this way. In the Czech Republic, too, families avail themselves of these services. Sadly, though, this tends to be work for cash in hand and there are risks attached.
Not every helper is trustworthy. Nor is every family. However, the state and – especially – municipalities could guarantee reliability and quality. This is how I picture it: families looking after children could receive a "family account". I don't mean money, which would only be spent on a new television, but vouchers for services. And they would choose what to use their vouchers on from a list: on a nursery, on a home help, on tutoring… How much they get would obviously depend on the family's specific circumstances and how active it is. Those who work or actively look for work must be given greater opportunities. As must single parents with children – there are some 300,000 such families today. The list must be headed by nursery schools. Even poorer families must be able to afford nursery fees. Nurseries prepare children for school, teach them how to work together, and often offer them a way out of an environment where unemployment runs through the generations. We should be getting all healthy children into nurseries. Every single one of them. The main worry, however, is for parents to be able to combine children and work. This ball is in the employers' court. Why must children get up to go to nursery before daybreak so that their parents can get to work in time? Perhaps because only 6% of jobs in the Czech Republic are part-time at the moment. In the European Union as a whole, the figure is about three times that. And yet we live in an age that allows for various working times and even different methods of work. I don't just mean teleworking, but also flexitime and job sharing, where one job is split between two employees. In France, employers who create these jobs receive tax concessions. This also translates into support for families.
How will we take care of our seniors? Someone asked me quite pointedly: "I'm 64 years old, I'm retired, but my pension is not even ten thousand crowns. If it weren't for my husband, I'd be on the streets. A pension should be at least 80% of the average wage. When will that be possible?" Hmm, a minimum pension equal to 80% of the average wage? That's a bit too much! Today, that would mean hiking all pensions to more than twenty thousand a month! In fact, they would be higher than the net average pay because pensions are not subject to tax or social security contributions. Admittedly, a pension of ten thousand is far from ideal these days. In 2000, average pensions stood at 48% of the average wage. The figure today is only around 43%. This year, the average pension is a little over CZK 11,500, but, as you know, statistics are always a little skewed. Why do some people have such pitiful pensions? We need to make a distinction here. Let's be absolutely clear about this. To start with, we're starting to see people retire who only paid minimum contributions. Consequently, their pension is less than ten thousand. Pensioners who weren't high earners are also suffering. Perhaps they were looking after their families, relatives and other close ones and took on only occasional or parttime jobs. They may well have been unable to find work in their late fifties and decided that the best solution would be early retirement. It is also unfair that women who looked after numerous children or other dependent family members have low pensions simply because there is a gap in their earnings. Those periods are factored into their pensions but, because the income was not there,
the amount they receive is low. These people should be awarded a bonus for the periods over which they were taking care of those they love. They deserve it. However, let's get back to the 64-year-old pensioner who asked me the question. Just what are our pensions going to look like? And when? For the moment, an 80% minimum is out of reach, but I dare say that an average pension equating to 70% of the average wage is feasible. Not right now, nor in 20 years' time. It depends on how our country is faring and who the people entrust to manage it. Itdepends on how good a tax collector and steward the state is. And who will be governing it. I picture a place where pensioners can afford to go to the theatre, go out for dinner and go on holiday. Where grandmothers and grandfathers can buy their grandchildren presents, repair their ageing roof and purchase a new television without fretting about the cost. In other words, where they can lead a normal life. How are we going to afford that? We'll work for it. We'll stop money going up in smoke and put it aside for this purpose instead. I'm going to write about the first of these steps throughout this book. And I'm writing about the second step right now. What about our future pensioners, then? I think they could be even better off if we agree to play a completely different game. The rules are simple. The state is able to guarantee people a decent pension that will sustain them, but not a pension fit for a king. Anyone healthy who wants that will have to go about it themselves. We will usher in a pension system that will be operated in the same way as proper insurance. This means that we will not see half of the money we have paid in contributions disappear when our pensions are calculated. Perhaps you also have
an endowment policy. You pay an insurance company an agreed amount for 10 or 12 years, and then the insurer pays out the target sum. A normal investment. We would do something similar with pensions, although of course these would be paid out every month. Everyone who has paid decent contributions for 30 or 40 years will enjoy a high pension for as long as they are alive. People must be made aware that they will not lose their pensions and that this is a safe investment in the hands of the state. It must also be appealing to entrepreneurs and lone traders, who currently often only pay the statutory minimum into the system. They do this because, after doing their sums, it is more lucrative for them to invest their money elsewhere. And sometimes that is risky. An innovation is on the horizon. Individual pension accounts. Everyone will be able to track, even online, what they have already contributed to the system and what sort of pension awaits them. There will be no unpleasant surprises when they hit their sixties. Apart from this, the state will naturally also champion individual commercial supplementary pension schemes. And at what age will we be retiring? We will do our calculations so that people spend approximately a quarter of their life retired. But that's not all. If people have put in a decent shift all their lives but want to remain active for a few years more, who are we to stop them? Thousands of fresh pensioners say they are not ready to hang up their boots, let alone go into early retirement. Word is that this is true for as many as half of them. They claim that they are healthy and in good shape. But that they were forced out. I think we should find a way of encouraging their élan and harnessing their experience. This is something that employers
should be doing as it is surely worth their while to hold onto these sources of knowledge. Municipalities should also take an interest and launch schemes where pensioners will be invaluable. For example, they could pass on their experience in schools and colleges. It may be work that is different from what they have been accustomed to, but perhaps it will give them a lift. They may not even call it "work".
Social welfare: Who's first in the queue? This is a story you couldn't make up. Unfortunately. There was one retirement home where an old lady spent several years. This was a social case. The state would fork out an extra five thousand every month so that she could live there. Well, when she died and her estate was being settled, her relatives ended up with an inheritance of four million. Isn't that just preposterous? You see, we don't have the sort of system that can be found in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. If the old lady had lived in a retirement home in Switzerland, her stay wouldn't have cost the state a franc more. This is because everyone there must first help themselves, then comes the turn of the family, and the state steps in only as a last resort. The costs of accommodation, meals and nursing are covered in the following order: 1. Old-age and disability pensions; 2. "helplessness allowances", which are not tied to property or income (this is equivalent to the Czech care allowance);
3. voluntary supplementary pension schemes; 4. financial assets and real estate – citizens must provide the state with an asset statement for themselves and their closest relatives; 5. payments from municipal and canton budgets. So the state plays a role in funding only when the other options have been exhausted. Sure, people in Switzerland are wealthier, they can afford to pay for social care and they don't need the state for this. We do, but this basic idea of financial cooperation from the state, municipalities and families, and the idea of children's solidarity with their parents, would help us. We have over 2,000 social care providers. Tens of thousands of people are employed by various homes, hospices and other centres. That sounds pretty good. Yet, when all is said and done, finding expert help for thousands of grandmothers, grandfathers and disabled persons is still a problem. Responsible families take things in hand themselves, they look after their loved ones at home and they deserve a medal for it. But there's a hitch or two. This care may be neither professional nor safe. Sick elderly people are suffering and whole families are suffering. This is the sandwich-generation problem, where the middle-aged are looking after their children at one end and their ill parents at the other. They are overworked, family budgets run low and people burn out, with the prospect of a paltry pension. We will need many more care homes and hospices, as well as footsoldiers – carers and assistants to come into people's homes and help the families there.
What could we achieve in 18 years? • All around the country, there will be as many social services as people need. In order to pay for this, contributions to the funding will be made by users, their families, and local and central government authorities. Families will pay as much as they can. But they'll prepare for these difficult times in advance. Special insurance or savings schemes for social care will be commonplace. • Many old and sick people will be able to opt for home help as they will feel more comfortable at home. • As things stand, state spending on social care doubles every ten years, so there will be more supervision to make sure that the money is channelled into the right places. With this in mind, "social service accounts" could be introduced instead of cash payouts. There would be vouchers or prepaid cards for accredited services. • Even the seriously disabled should be given the opportunity to work if they so wish. I don't just mean in shelters, but at normal businesses. • This is already being trialled, and work of value to employers can be found for everyone. The disabled will no longer feel excluded, and people and companies will learn that we are not all the same and how we should behave towards one another. • Four fifths of people would like to spend their final days at home. Instead, this same proportion ends up dying in hospitals and social facilities. Yet we are completely ignoring home-based palliative care, i.e. assistance from doctors to alleviate the suffering of our last days, months and years. This is not covered at all by our health insurance companies. Twenty of our mobile hospices are able to operate only on account of grants, public collections and donations. In Germany and Austria,
the right to home-based palliative care is enshrined in the law. All larger towns and cities must have a mobile hospice. • This will create new jobs even in smaller municipalities, and the work entailed will be skilled, so the salaries will reflect this. It will be a boost to rural life and the incomes of the people in the regions.
People who have reached rock bottom We've probably all met someone who has fallen through the cracks. Almost 70,000 homeless people are estimated to live among us. They have lost everything. You know why. Debts, bailiffs, drugs, alcohol, gambling. Many of them are chronically sick. They're often mentally ill. I believe that towns and municipalities are faced with the great challenge of trying to restart these people's lives. They need professional assistance – psychological, medical and perhaps even institutional. The sick and substance abusers should be treated; those lacking in education should be taught something. And we should give all of them the opportunity to live somewhere, work, earn a crust and live among others. To live, not to survive. They may pass up this chance – some of them are pathological cases. But they must be offered a helping hand. Another 200,000 or so people in the Czech Republic have such low income that what they call home is unrecognisable to us. It is estimated that there are as many as 20,000 children among them. That's one provincial town. They live in makeshift accommodation or in hostels. They live in poverty. I heard about one single parent who
had odd jobs to get by and, in the end, had a hundred crowns per day to put food on the table for herself and her two children. A hundred crowns for all of them. And then it transpired that she had not even sought the social assistance so desperately needed by her children. And no one had thought to offer her that help. Who failed here? First, the family, which disintegrated. Secondly, the mother herself, who was lacking information, qualifications and the ability to work her way around the system. Thirdly, the municipality. Yes, my dream is for social assistance to be organised by municipalities. In other words, by people who can see every situation up close. Not someone staring out of the window of an office in some far-off city or even from a ministry building in Prague. And my dream is that they will be proactive in their organisation. They will notice that one of their elderly inhabitants has not been shopping for a week. That there's a family on benefits that can afford to slaughter a pig twice a year, but living directly opposite them are children who get by on 30 crowns a day for food and have no bathroom. I have a dream that municipalities will also be helped by neighbours when a family is floundering. In short, that we will be more warm-hearted and friendlier to one another. Does that sound a little naive? Well, in my dream of a country where people live well, this is how I would like it to be.
A DREAM OF HEALTHY PEOPLE
A friend called me. As a matter of urgency. Wanted to know if I could fix up an appointment for his father to see a doctor. He needed a hip replacement. The doctor examined him and said he would be able to have an operation in a year's time! Even though we pour about 330 billion crowns into our health sector every year, it is still missing certain things. A little understanding. A little empathy. And a little organisation. It would have been great if the doctor had replied: "We can't deal with you in this hospital for a year, but I see that the hospital in Brno has capacity to fit you in next month. Can you get there yourself? Would that be okay for you? Or if you don't fancy Brno, Hradec Králové has free capacity in two months' time." Just like buying tickets to the pictures, with the lady at the counter showing you what free seats are still available. An app like this should soon be everywhere, shouldn't it? The system could be accessible to doctors and patients alike… It should be run by a health insurance company, which would purchase care for its clients and would be held liable for the quality of service. But first things first.
Prevention takes priority "Prevention" sounds a bit boring, doesn't it? Perhaps one of the most boring words I know. But I have nothing better at my disposal when I want to write about how an illness that does not occur in the first place is the easiest to "treat". So be warned, I'm about to write about prevention! How do we live these days? Well, I'm sure you know. A hectic lifestyle. Smoking. Drinking. A poor diet. Not enough exercise. More than three quarters of health spending in the Czech Republic goes on treating chronic non-communicable diseases.
These are illnesses that are largely associated with an unhealthy lifestyle. Diabetes, asthma, heart disease and depression. Consumption of antidepressants alone has almost tripled in the past 15 years. That's a real downer, isn't it? Yet according to the World Health Organisation, 80% of chronic illnesses in Europe are "preventable". In other words, we can stop them from happening. In this country, the cost of treating them comes to an estimated CZK 229 billion every year. That is equal to the salaries earned by all teachers in the past five years! The treatment of a severely obese patient costs CZK 100,000 per year. In the Czech Republic, that equates to CZK 20 billion. The cost of treating high pressure? CZK 10 billion. And so on and so forth. Prevention would save money. And that's not all. Much more importantly, people die prematurely because of these diseases. Smoking alone kills 15,500 people every year. If we add up all of the lost years that people in the Czech Republic could have lived healthily, but are sick instead, every year we arrive at a figure of 2,317,680 years. Experts talk about six main measures that should help: 1. The prevention and control of obesity and diabetes. 2. The control of blood pressure to prevent cardiovascular issues and strokes. 3. Reduced salt intake. 4. More exercise. 5. A clampdown on smoking. 6. The curbing of excessive drinking. The future of the Czech health sector should lie in prevention. Does that sound trite? The World Health Organisation estimates that up to 50% of health is affected by our behaviour and diet. That's a lot, isn't it? And my point is not just the cash that neglected
prevention costs us. What is more important is that we should live healthily for more years. What results are being reported by the Czech health sector these days?
Life expectancy at birth (OECD 2014) Czech Republic
Deaths from cancer per 100,000 persons (OECD 2013) Czech Republic
Infant mortality rate per 1,000 live births (OECD 2013) Czech Republic
Czech results are very good when it comes to the infant mortality rate, but in other areas â€“ such as life expectancy â€“ we lag behind advanced countries.
We have top-class medical centres and first-class experts, but our health system is organisationally outdated. We know how to deal with acute conditions, injuries or shortterm illnesses, but chronic diseases require aÂ completely different approach. The Czech health sector is built on its hospitals, which is where most money is headed. However, even if we were to have the finest hospitals, this does not mean that we would have the healthiest nation. Far from it. I'm sure that we are happy to be living longer in the Czech Republic. In the last 15 years alone, life expectancy has gone up by 4.2 years to 76 years for men and by 3.4 years to 82 years for women. But IÂ also have another chart here for you. An important one. It shows how many of those years we spend in rude health. When it comes to the number of years that we're actually healthy, we're not really any better off than we were in 1961. What we are extending is the lives of the sick.
First and foremost, human health should not be the responsibility of the state, an insurance company or a doctor, but of each individual. I would offer advantages to those who look after their health. I believe that this will be taken for granted all over Europe in 2035 and that the health system will be based on this principle. What about those people who fall ill despite taking care of themselves? What about genetic tendencies? Needless to say, that occurred to me. And experts have given me the answer. These days, this can be recognised according to two main risk factors. Obviously, we can find out if someone smokes during a preventive check-up. I don't think anyone today needs to have the risk of smoking explained to them. Likewise, we can tell whether anyone is at risk of obesity by simply measuring their waist. Engage interested, the average adult man should not have a waist of more than 94 cm and the average adult woman should not be more than 80 cm. We can all measure ourselves. A large amount of fatty tissue in our internal organs in the abdominal area is a good sign that someone is at risk of heart, vascular or metabolic disease. Obesity can be controlled even if we are genetically inclined towards it. And if it is caused by any other disease, that can also be spotted. Because we don't want to treat anyone unjustly. So, to be practical about it: we have two sorts of people. The first have regular preventive check-ups, don't smoke and aren't obese. Excellent, they should pay reduced insurance contributions. The second smoke or are obese, have been clearly warned by their doctor to do something about it, but simply shrug it off. They ignore their doctor. Well, in this case I can imagine introducing a surcharge on their insurance contributions. Naturally, prevention includes timely diagnosis, for example if you have high blood pressure or high blood sugar. Many people have no idea about this. The Diabetes
Association estimates that a quarter of a million Czechs have diabetes but don't know about it. That's a huge number. Yet the earlier the initial symptoms are discovered, the greater the chances are of a decent-quality life and, of course, the less the treatment costs are. This money can then be used, say, to reduce prescription charges or can be contributed to the extensive treatment of serious diseases. This is why it is so essential to promote preventive check-ups and to reinforce the role played by general practitioners, who are essential for sterling medicine. However, an excellent GP, something like a family doctor, is like gold dust today. I read how one mayor in South Bohemia had been looking for a general practitioner for nearly two years. One with 30 years' service behind him had retired, and he was about to be followed by his colleague. In recent years we have been hundreds short. Consequently, there are 250 practising GPs over the age of 70 in the Czech Republic. Hats off to them! What are we going to do about it? This sort of service should be attractive for medicine graduates, and they should be practising in rural areas and the country's remoter areas, too. We need to make two changes here. 1. 1. Support GP training centres. Young doctors and their trainers would be given financial incentives, obviously with the proviso that they remain doctors in the region for at least five years after certification. 2. GPs should be given greater powers. They will be on the front line and will not refer patients elsewhere – to a specialist – unless absolutely necessary. They will have the authority to treat patients themselves, and in doing so will draw on what they have learnt and remember why they studied. The ideal solution is for patients to receive everything – including medication – in a single place.
A doctor in your mobile They call it telemedicine. In the future, our mobiles and a bracelet or watch connected to them will keep an eye on our health in tandem with our GP. These devices will measure our pressure, examine our blood sugar, and calculate fats and how overweight we are. Doctors will then evaluate the data remotely and – just as remotely – will send recommendations. However, we need to work a lot more on the computerisation of our health sector. I've already written about the system that will find you available slots for surgery. Electronic prescriptions are just as important. We've probably all heard about this, and in particular about the fact that it has yet to work properly in the Czech Republic. However, electronic prescriptions and electronic cards are important in enhancing patient convenience and saving the doctor's time. You have probably experienced the situation where you have to explain your entire family medical history to every doctor you visit. It holds both of you up. Which is a shame when this information could be stored electronically. The main argument, though, is safety. First and foremost, we need to share data between doctors. For example, every year 230 people in the Czech Republic die of adverse drug interactions simply because one doctor doesn't know what another has prescribed. Not to mention the waste of money on duplicate examinations, laboratory tests, and the like.
In Denmark and Israel, many hospitals are operated virtually free of paper. We're talking about the sharing of clinical data on patients, electronic letters of referral, laboratory analyses, CT and magnetic resonance examinations, and electronic prescriptions. For all this, they use an intuitive mobile app for both doctors and patients so that the data sharing is as simple as possible. Patients must have as much information as possible. They are the ones deciding where they are going to receive treatment.
Getting old at home Even if we do manage to increase the number of years that we remain healthy, certain diseases are obviously associated with age. The older we get, the more we're going to need long-term professional care. You might be telling yourself that this is going to cost the state tens of billions. Perhaps even hundreds of billions. However, change is inescapable and it need not be particularly expensive. For instance, some of our smaller hospitals will be transformed into modern medical and social institutions for seniors. This is a trend that we have already identified. What is even better is if the elderly are able to stay at home. I have found a shining example in Sweden. I like the way that, in that country, all seniors are entitled to the level of care they need. In short, as long as they have paid taxes all their life, they have the right to be properly care for, even if – of course – they pay a bit extra for this care themselves. In Sweden, care provision is the responsibility of municipalities, so grandfathers and grandmothers know that help is at hand and that they don't have to get in touch with some authority hundreds of kilometres away. Home help there functions like clockwork. Even chronically ill seniors stay at home, where they are visited by trained nurses. Naturally, at home they feel more comfortable, they have a better life here, they are among people they know and, thanks to care on the ground, their families don't suffer. The aim is to allow them to live at home for as long as possible.
And what about the financing? Spending on health care as a percentage of GDP (OECD countries, 2014) Czech Republic
Spending in the Czech Republic falls short of the levels in Western countries. The European average hovers around 9% of GDP. That is what we should be aiming for. In the Czech Republic, the vast majority of this spending (roughly 8%) comes from public expenditure, i.e. resources from public health insurance, the central government budget and the budgets of municipalities and regions. To make sure there is enough funding in the future, the increase in resources being channelled into the health sector should come not only from public expenditure, but also from private sources. The public money should be for areas that patients cannot typically afford. The treatment of cancer, haemophilia and multiple sclerosis. In other words, it should be spent on what saves lives and is used to treat our serious diseases. Because in the future there will be not be enough public money to pay for all simpler procedures, such as cryotherapy for warts. We should give people the opportunity to pay extra – of their own accord – for better care. They would do this by making voluntary contributions or taking out supplementary
health insurance. I have one specific example where we are making life difficult for ourselves: patients with cataracts. To fix cataracts, the lens in the eye is replaced with an artificial one. Health insurance only covers operations where the patient receives a normal lens. Yet there are some people who also have a refractive defect and want to resolve it with an artificial dioptric lens. And that is viewed as a problem. If they go ahead with it, all of this care is considered to be outside the realm of insurance. In other words, they have to pay for the complete operation and the new lens themselves. Illogical. A reasonable solution would be if they could pay the difference between the standard lens and the dioptric lens. At the moment, this is legally impossible. There should be some give and take. If we pay a little extra out of our own pockets or draw on supplementary insurance, then the services we receive must also be better. What exactly is the Czech health sector's main problem? In this country, no one measures quality. We are paying for being treated, not cured. That should be changed. For example, patients may be able to grade their doctors and healthcare facilities, in much the same way as this would be a good idea for officials. I'm certain this would make for healthy competition. That is precisely what my dream is aiming at, although handing out stars is definitely too little. We need to learn from countries such as the Netherlands and Switzerland. Unlike us, they have genuine health insurance. This means that health insurance companies can compete with each other in the services they offer and how they price their premiums. To make this possible in the Czech Republic, we would have to split contributions to the public health insurance system.
One part, as now, would comprise percentage-based contributions depending on our income. Money that is then redistributed by the state. Then there would be a second part, and this is where the paradigm shift is. A personal payment that we would make directly to the public health insurance company of our choice. Everyone would choose who to give their money to based on the services offered. Insurers would be in a position to offer, say, programmes for the chronically sick, with the possibility of bonuses based on their lifestyle. Or improved care for mothers and children. Customised programmes. This change would drive price competitiveness among insurers to the benefit of the patient. As in Switzerland and the Netherlands, this would immediately prompt competition among healthcare facilities, too. The insurers will buy care from those facilities for their clients on the basis of value for money, i.e. they would seek the highest possible quality at the lowest possible cost. This is what we call efficiency and it is seriously lacking in the Czech Republic. Since we're talking about funding, my main dream here is for our health sector to be transparent. When it comes to transparency, we are in the Stone Age. We don't know exactly what our money is being spent on. It should be used for the good of patients. Down to the last penny. But I'm not sure that's the case. I want transparency in the way we cover the cost of care, information on hospital management, and procurement. We need to get in line with the rest of Europe and gradually centralise our purchasing. The savings we make from this should be used, among other things, to improve the circumstances of doctors and nurses. Hospitals and surgeries cannot operate smoothly
if they don't have competent, happy experts. I'm not just thinking of their pay, although I know that this has long been a thorn in the side, especially for nurses. I am thinking, in part, of all those reports we read in the papers about young doctors. The way their older colleagues do not allow them to take on more specialised work for years and years, and the way they have to be on duty for shifts at a time every other weekend to the detriment of their families. I do not want to see doctors and qualified nurses – particularly the younger ones – disappear abroad. They studied here, so we should be reaping the rewards at home. What should we be offering them in addition to decent salaries? Internships, international exchanges, involvement in foreign projects, the opportunity to carry out operations and specialist work, an improved training system, rewards if they come up with innovations, guarantees that they will not be constantly overworked… They must have prospects and be given assurances that we understand and are able to appreciate their calling. Ultimately, our lives often depend on them.
A DREAM OF FAIR PLAY
You've probably noticed that over a hundred thousand children are born here every year. And that we have around a million and a half under-15s. A third of them can't engage in sport because the money isn't there. That's half a million. In the absolute majority of cases, it is families who pay for their children's sports. If they can afford it. The Czech Olympic Committee has calculated that we spend about 125 billion on sport every year, 80% of which is covered by families. That is an unacceptable amount and a poor show from the state, regions and municipalities. Who finances sport? Comparison of the Czech Republic and the EU (%)
In the Czech Republic, the state and municipalities channel only a quarter of the EU average into sport. Spending on sport by municipalities and businesses stands at just half of the EU average. It is families who shoulder the vast majority of the cost. Do they have that sort of money? Half a million of them don't. Lousy, isn't it? Sport should be a normal public service, like libraries, roads and hospitals. For the
time being it is not a public service and people in the Czech Republic – children and adults alike – are becoming less active. Only one in four people (28% of the population) engages in sport once or twice a week. The overall figure for Europe is almost 50%, while in Germany it is some three quarters. This really is a shame. This is about the health of the whole nation, of course, but not just that. Sport is great. It nurtures the most important qualities we need for a successful life, including industriousness, diligence, purposefulness, humility, discipline and responsibility. As well as the art of making quickfire decisions. And cooperating. My good friend Milan Hnilička, the ice-hockey goalie and gold medallist from Nagano, told me this story. I have to say, it made such an impression on me that I'm repeating it here. "In the United States, you go to the office of a state official, an attorney, or a surgery, and they have jerseys and trophies from various sports on display. Although I consider myself to be someone completely absorbed with the sport, many times I didn't recognise the names of the teams on those trophies at all. So I asked. Of course. Most of them come from the time these people were still students. People in America love sport. I reckon just about everyone has a favourite sports club that they are extremely proud to support. American society doesn't form a relationship with sport only in sports clubs, but in elementary schools, high schools and, later, at colleges and universities. School sports are unbelievably popular over there. This is because just about all students are involved in the school team. Obviously, not all of them can be top-flight athletes. But the schools have a system in place so that most students feel that they are an indispensable part of an organisation. Each school has
its own marching band, comprising musicians, majorettes, and conductors, and it'sÂ not unusual for it to number as many as 350 students. Other students are involved as kit managers, assistants or water carriers, and they take care of marketing, production and organisation. In fact, they cover the entire gamut of professions that we can find in real life.
University sport in the US has a huge impact. Respect for tradition, the opportunity to study under advantageous conditions, scholarships and, of course, what sport is best at: it has a social aspect, drawing people together and helping them in the natural distribution of roles." Sounds good, doesn't it? And now for one standard situation in the Czech Republic. There are thousands of families where, several times a week, a budding little icehockey player wakes up with the question: Why do I have to get up so early? Why do we train at 6 o'clock in the morning, before school starts? Well, it's simple. It's because most ice rinks are the domain of kids teams and junior teams in the afternoon, the senior team in the evening and, last of all, the adult amateur leagues, which make significant contributions to the club's coffers. Worse still, the ice rink is in the next town. There are few cubicles, and our boy does not have anywhere to dry his gear off properly after training. His parents support him by taking him the 20 km to the practice sessions and then bundle him into school. Time for a comparison. Our ice-hockey association recently had to admit that the Czech Republic has three to four times fewer indoor ice rinks than they do in Finland and Sweden. In Prague, with a population of more than a million, there are just ten. We have Martina Sáblíková, who has won multiple Olympic gold medals, and other successful speed skaters, but not a single artificial speed skating oval. This is not on. Will there be sports centres everywhere? Definitely. This is my primary dream when it comes to sport. All larger municipalities and towns will have a multipurpose sports ground for the public. Preferably attached to a school. These would be small sports "supermarkets" for everyone. Ideally they would comprise
an indoor ice rink, outdoor pitches and courts, a swimming pool and gym. Everything together. The ice hockey association has already identified 131 towns where a rink would be welcome. That's going to cost a fortune! Of course. Nothing is free. But it can be done. I was in Nehvizdy, a small town not far from Prague, where the people have already gone some
way to making this dream come true. And, for the most part, they've done it with their own money. At the local school, they have built a big hall for 62 million crowns, of which 28 million was a government subsidy. The contractor was a municipal company, and Nehvizdy would like to pay off the loan within four years. Even the Olympic Committee was astonished. The mayor, Vladimír Nekolný, told me that when the Committee saw it, they said they had never experienced such use of a "gym" in the Czech Republic. A tartan track, courts for futsal, floorball, badminton, mini-tennis and football-tennis, a climbing wall, table tennis, whatever you can think of. The hall in Nehvizdy has been devised so that the whole family can engage in sport. I have seen something similar in Pfaffenhofen, a district in Bavaria with a population of 120,000, where there is a whole network of sports grounds and entire complexes that, for the most part, can be accessed free of charge. Everyone does sport there, from young children to the elderly. These are municipal complexes and you can really see how municipalities in Germany, unlike our own, look after sport. In Switzerland, they use state-of-the-art technology for such centres as this saves on costs. You will find lots of smaller rinks under a single roof with, or right next door to, waterparks. Any surplus heat generated by freezing the icy surface can then be used to heat the water in the swimming pool. Ingenious and practical. This is also possible in the Czech Republic. One such complex already exists in Česká Lípa. It is my dream to have such sports centres. Each of these facilities should employ experts to provide advice to the people who come here for sport and to identify any talented children. Each sports club should have high-quality professional coaches to work with children and, more importantly,
to initiate local sports events for all age categories. As things stand, sports clubs bemoan the fact that coaches are in short supply. What about the schools that are meant to be producing new coaches? Where are their graduates? The best solution would be for small local clubs to join forces with schools. They could even be a direct part of a school. It would be great if, at a primary school, say in the third period of PE, someone were to notice how good your boy or girl was and started to develop that talent. And if all children were given the opportunity to do a sport that they had a faculty for and that, especially, they enjoyed. More sports? Olympic ones, obviously. Even if they never get to the Olympics. But they might. These coaches will be the pillars of the entire system, which would be supported by the state, municipalities and sponsors.
School as the bedrock of sport As recently as 1995, our children were exercising for up to three hours a day. Today, the average is just 45 minutes. They used to say that PE was their favourite subject. Today, it stands alongside maths and physics as one of the three least favourite subjects. A third of children are excused from PE lessons by their parents. On the other hand, half of them spend four hours a day on electronic devices. Secondary-schools students actually spend six hours a day on them, as discovered by the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs. Six hours a day! Nothing against computers. After all, we want to have lots of IT specialists. But even these should be healthy and energetic. And, believe me,
sport is one way of achieving this, as I have found out personally. I have done sport my whole life, exercising every morning from five until half six, five days a week. Yes, I'm an early riser, and that made me an early exerciser. I felt no pain and I was in a good mood from daybreak. So something needs to change in our school curricula. I picture children having five periods of PE every week. One lesson a day, just as they have in France and Switzerland. But a different sort of PE! Experience-based sports rather than performance-based exercises. They have started playing floorball in lots of places, but children also enjoy climbing up walls, skateboarding, table tennis, scooters and bikes. In primary school, and ideally even earlier – when they are at nursery school, children should automatically learn to swim, skate and ride a bike. And because the world around us, as we can see, is becoming increasingly aggressive, schools will also find time to teach self-defence and how to behave in crisis situations. I believe that this is something the children will enjoy. When lessons are over, school complexes will be transformed into a place for the whole family. We can also help this. For example, by organising competitions and events in cooperation with local sports clubs and coaches. When cheering their children on starts to lose its attraction, the parents themselves will engage in sport. And it is the children who will be cheering. And zealously, I'm sure. Seeing their parents in a table tennis competition is something they will not forget in a long time. Most importantly, children will not be graded by performance. Instead, their effort and the approach they take to exercise will be assessed. The point is to demonstrate to children how wonderful healthy movement can be. How great it is to compete. Compared
to games in a virtual world… The situation at colleges and universities is even worse. Half of young people make their way into tertiary education, but 80% of them are studying at institutions where compulsory PE has been scrapped or restricted. Yes, you read that correctly. An end to exercise at college. Sports centres are essentially non-existent at higher-education institutions these days. While we have records of one at the sports ministry, this facility is really intended to further the training of top-flight athletes. There is a Czech Association of University Sport, which numbers more than 25,000 members, yet we have no university leagues up and running. There are only isolated events such as the Czech Academic Games. University competitions do not enjoy the prestige and credit we have witnessed in other countries. There is virtually no media coverage or promotion. They are not always attended by the very best athletes – students who often find it difficult to combine their studies with the highest echelons of sport. Usually our top-quality athletes end up having to make a choice. School, or sport. Isn't that absurd? So we have to move up a gear. Set up competitions and university leagues in which students who lack the talent to be professional athletes can also take part. Needless to say, this requires sports centres and coaches at all colleges and universities, along with systematic training. And – note this – we want educational establishments to consider the sports results of students who apply for admission or a scholarship. Just as they do in the United States and Canada. If we approach this systematically through schools, my guess is that, in the space
of a decade, a healthier, more competitive, athletic and proud generation will emerge that has a sense of fair play. And what will happen if we don't do anything? Well, on the one hand it will be a very sorry sight, and on the other we will be ill. This is something I have already touched on in the chapter on health. Experts rather theatrically say that we are sitting on a powder-keg – and they're not wrong. A lack of movement kills about half a million Europeans every year, and this is becoming a greater threat than smoking. Regular exercise is the primary way of presenting many diseases: heart and circulatory diseases, cancer, mental illness, and – naturally – metabolic diseases such as diabetes. Already, more than half of people in the Czech Republic are overweight or obese. I read a study showing that scientists had discovered that a third of people in the Czech Republic do not take any exercise at all and that this inaction resulted in approximately 17% of the population dying from diseases that could be prevented by regular movement.
What does top-flight sport need? If it gets what it needs, will we again witness Olympic triumphs? Well, I can't imagine otherwise. Then we will see a repeat of Nagano. There will be new Zátopeks, Jágrs, Čáslavskás, Železnýs, Krpáleks, Syneks, Kvitovás and Koukalovás. Athletes who have heavily influenced the minds of many young boys and girls. And have increased the self-esteem and pride of the whole nation. Sadly, there are fewer and fewer such successes and role models.
We all know that. So we also need a system that is a bit better. Specifically: • Educated professional coaches of talented young people. They will collaborate with the schools and, via a network of Sports Academies, they will systematically train elite athletes who are simply too good for the standard school-level of sport. • Priority sports. Basically, we need to identify those disciplines where we have talent and experience, and concentrate on those areas more than others. With a particular focus on Olympic and collective sports. Just as the Hungarians have done. They singled out specific disciplines and are now hauling home dozens of medals in watersports, canoeing, swimming and water polo. • Top-class professional knowledge. What I have in mind here is the scientific development of fields specialising in optimal performance: sports medicine, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, regeneration, psychology, coaching, and research into sports performance and diet. • And world-class sports facilities. We do not actually have a full list of all sports facilities and what condition they are in. I'm not just talking about the stadiums and halls used by our national teams. We don't even have an overview of recreational facilities. What we need is something like a "map of sports facilities". I'm sure it will be enough for many of them simply to be repaired and upgraded. Right at the top of the pile, there should be the Olympic Sports Centres, such as those in Nymburk and Račice, where our national representatives and future Olympic medallists will be able to participate in world-class training.
As we design and refurbish our sports complexes, we must also take into account one further group of the population. The handicapped. We must make sure that our sports facilities comply with the rules of the International Paralympic Committee. And while we're at it, we also need to introduce a completely identical system in the organisation of sport for the handicapped. Including work with talented young people, adult athletes and top-flight Paralympic contestants.
Fair play for the handicapped I have put a lot of thought into the lives of the handicapped recently. What they need is not only support and involvement, but also opportunity. And I am aware that sport is an absolutely crucial way of helping them. Sport enables them to find friends despite their misfortune. I found the story of Josef Camfrla, who is blind, very intriguing. He grew up in a miner's family in Bílovec, Moravia. When he was young, his father died and he lived with his mother in a small house. As a motorway was being built nearby, his mother decided to look for a new place to live that would provide a good life for her son, too. This is when they heard about the Centre for the Disabled in České Budějovice and decided to check it out. In the complex here, the sight-impaired, hearingimpaired, physically disabled and mentally disabled can engage in sport, educate themselves or focus on the arts. On the basis of that visit, the family decided that they would find a new home here, at the other end of the country. Josef was 17 and
took up sport. Ultimately, this meant that our country gained a weightlifter who brought home medals from the world championship for the disabled. And he also made his mark in rowing. The decision taken by Josef's mother had been spot-on because there was no facility of this kind in Bílovec. This is one of many stories about how handicapped people can use their time
valuably so that they are not left alone at home, as living in isolation doubles their disability. We should have as many of these facilities as possible. We cannot skimp here. That, for me, is fair play.
A DREAM OF A CLEAN LANDSCAPE
I recently saw a YouTube presentation by Elon Musk. You’ve probably heard of him. Tesla electric cars, SpaceX rockets. The man who first pitched a flight to Mars. Rockets that aren’t destroyed in space, but return to the place where they were launched. Musk also spoke about the fact that we have a great little power station beyond the solar system – the sun. And that all you have to do is buy his new battery and you can have a self-sufficient house, provided that you buy solar cells. His new battery can store
energy overnight and, what’s more, it’s fantastically designed. You stick it on your house and that’s all there is to it. You can disconnect from the grid. Now I suggest you take a seat because I’m about to overwhelm you with some rather depressing facts about our lives here. I think you should know what I have found out. We are barbaric in the way we lead our lives, the way, for example, we dispose of waste. We dump almost half of our household waste into the ground and, over the years, our landfills turn into hazardous chemical weapons. We are suffocating ourselves. Every other Czech family is shortening is heading for an early grave by living in places where the poison levels in dust routinely exceed all hygiene standards. Six thousand people in the Czech Republic die because of this every year. What about drinking water? It’s a hundred times more expensive that it was 20 years ago, but it is supplied to the inhabitants of many towns in pipes that are decades old. Millions of litres are lost due to their technical condition as no one has really invested in our old distribution systems for years. And we use the same water to flush our loos and, sometimes, to water our gardens. Well, this is our environment. Sure, it’s much better than it was before 1989, when acid rain virtually destroyed the forests in our mountains. But, if we want a cleaner and hence healthier Czech Republic, we must take a good look around the world and get our act together. The countryside is our home.
How are we going to breathe? Do you know what an “Ostrava rocket” is? You fill a plastic bottle with sawdust and pour some old oil and a little diesel over it – they say will heat up your home in no time. I read about that on the internet. Just grand! To be fair to the people of Ostrava, I also found out a lot of things about what people do elsewhere. I was shocked by a story from Česká Kamenice. The people there would fill their yellow sacks with empty plastic bottles and leave them in front of their gates. Then they found out that it was pointless to sort these bottles because, before the dustbin men came, others were collecting them and burning them to heat their homes. All it takes is two or three rubbish burners to asphyxiate an entire village. I can understand how that infuriates the majority of people. They would like us to come down hard. But who’s to say their own boilers aren’t smoking much less? And there are hundreds of thousands of them. Last year we passed a law saying that, as a last resort, inspectors are authorised to enter your home to check your boiler. That set off a right commotion, and the law made its way to the Constitutional Court. A violation of privacy, people were complaining. I’ll tell you this. In Germany, Sweden and Austria they also have legislation allowing them to inspect household heating systems and I haven’t noticed any constraints on their freedom over there. Then there’s Poland, where local authorities can ban the use of coal completely. That’s precisely what they did in Kraków. They have given everyone several years to get used to the idea and, from September 2019, there’s no way you’re going to shovel a single lump onto the fire.
We need harsh rules to get this done. Reasonable people support this; they aren’t stupid. However, many of them don’t have the money for a more efficient boiler or a new car, let alone the latest energy technology. So we’re going to have to be smart about this. I agree with the environmentalists who estimate it is going to take 20 years. Fine, I’m talking about 18 years in this book. New technology will only get better. This is how things stand with the atmosphere. The first big wave of air cleansing in the 1990s was a success because ČEZ and others had been given a choice in 1991: desulphurise your power plants and factories within seven years or shut up shop. Just a decade later, our air was much healthier. Then we found ourselves in a rut. These days our biggest problem is fly ash, which contains a horrible substance called benzo(a)pyrene. It is generated by the combustion of coal or petrol and triggers a lot of illness, including DNA damage to our babies and cancer. There are only two European countries where they have more of this stuff in the air than us – Poland and Bulgaria. In industrial agglomerations, it is churned out by stacks, in major cities by exhausts and in smaller municipalities and towns by coal-fired boilers. We have already made a start with the boilers. You’ve probably heard of the boiler revolution. We exchange old ones for new and people get a subsidy covering up to 100% of the cost. This scheme is hugely popular. We have 350,000 outdated boilers in the country. We have already replaced 30,000. By 2020, that figure will rise to 100,000. By law, all of the oldest boilers that use solid fuel will be banned from 2022. We are looking for money to help people get this done. Great, but there’s a hitch. So far, we have tended to replace all boilers only for better ones. That’s good. But it’s not fantastic. Now we will be directing our subsidies mainly into the latest boilers
that do not burn coal. They produce a hundred times less dust and a thousand times less carcinogens than the old ones. These advanced boilers will be able to generate both heat and electricity and will be a lot cheaper to run. A coal-fired boiler is still a coal-fired boiler. Mining is not cost-efficient and will come to an end sooner or later. It is impractical, dirty and ineffective. So let’s scrap heating systems that use coal and, while we’re at it, heating oils completely. By 2035, they will be a rarity and will have been banned entirely by most towns and municipalities, as we have seen in Kraków. The energies of the future are electricity and gas. Both in industry and in our homes. Soon we will be harnessing the sun completely and this will benefit everyone.
The solar barons are already in the game. It is now our job to support small power plants. By which I mean our houses and flats. We have become used to seeing solar panels on every roof, but solar energy can also be captured by roofing and special window film. Larger solar power stations could be successfully built on brownfield sites that have not yet been singled out for other use. Make no mistake, solar energy has been a hit. I even read that they are going to have solar highways in America. Cars would travel over asphalt treated with a special surface that keeps them charged. While we are not in California, Nevada or Texas, where the sun hardly ever stops shining, we could have other smart technology very soon. Precisely the technology that Elon musk was talking about, but better. As we will be able to store electricity, we will equip houses with high-capacity batteries and the power we generate at home can be stored not only overnight, but for many days. And when it runs out, we will help ourselves to other local sources. Compressed natural gas from a tank, or energy from biogas stations or from the green burning of waste. All this will promote wind and water sources and heat pumps to the maximum extent possible. Small local sources, then, are the most powerful idea we have for our future energy needs. Every building and every municipality will be a small CHP plant. They will be efficient and environmental. You probably also know that there are plans for tens of thousands more energy-saving projects in houses and blocks of flats. Support will be channelled into areas such as improved insulation and other methods. This is our New Green Savings scheme. In 2035, smart houses will be helping us as a matter of course. Young people in particular are really enthusiastic about this. These homes switch the lights on and off
according to programmable settings or in response to the amount of daylight. You can start heating up your sauna by mobile before you get home. These systems keep an eye on security and can call the police themselves. They know how to turn on the home entertainment system for grandmaâ€Ś Or you can turn it on for her yourself over the internet from your desk at work. It is very appealing. These systems can also control your heating and ventilation to perfection and position your blinds so that heat flows into the home at the right moment. They can turn on the
washing machine when electricity is at its most available because the sun is shining or because it has been very windy in the Baltic or the North Sea and the Germans don’t know what to do with their surpluses. Smart homes will simply manage energy intelligently. More efficiently than you or I could.
How will we be getting around? You probably already know the answer to that… I don’t have an electric car but, like you, I can’t get around without a set of wheels. There are times when I have also thought about getting an electric car. I’m sure you know that my Audi or Mercedes does not emit much in the way of fumes, and that other new cars don’t either, but there really is no comparison with an electric car. Mercedes is making great strides in this area. In Germany, they view electric cars as the obvious choice for the future. Last year the deputy economy minister Rainer Baake announced that only electric cars should be sold after 2030. I’m sure the situation will be much the same in the Czech Republic. Of course, I realise that they are currently an expensive purchase. In the first quarter of this year, fewer than a hundred electric cars were sold here. Their range could be better. You can’t “refuel” around the corner and in a matter of minutes. That may be the situation now. But these engines are being cranked up the world over. VW, Škoda, Nissan, Peugeot, Renault, BMW, Kia… They’re all vying to get ahead of each other. Even our local boys, Škoda, have unveiled a model. This is a world championship in innovation.
Soon, the cheapest electric cars will have a price tag of less than half a million crowns with a government subsidy. And per-kilometre consumption could be 50 hellers. Consumption, you see, is a significant factor. Let’s take a look at how the Germans see things (converted into Czech crowns).
This table, published by the German energy group E.ON, shows that electric and CNG cars are reasonable alternatives for the future. And when you’ve got solar sources and batteries at home, one day this rally is definitely going to be won by the electric car. Will there be state support for this? Absolutely. Just as there is in Germany, where everyone buying an electric car gets a subsidy of EUR 4,000 from the state and manufacturers. We also introduced electric car subsidies last year. At the moment they are available to municipalities, regions and businesses, but soon we will be spreading the net to cover all citizens. Urban mass transit and government and municipal authorities and institutions will also be travelling around exclusively on compressed natural gas or electricity. This will be compulsory. We have already started. In Třinec, they have purchased a fleet of 10 electric
buses to reduce air pollution. This is the biggest act of this kind that we have seen in the Czech Republic, and it is not exactly cheap at this moment in time. A conventional bus costs 5 million crowns; and electric bus 13 million. But just look at the operating costs! It costs about two crowns to drive one of Třinec’s electric buses one kilometre. A diesel bus is about three times more expensive. A Třinec electric bus will cover between 110 and 150 km on a single charge. Now we’re getting somewhere, aren’t we? The most modern types of batteries will give an electric passenger car a range of up to 1,000 km and can be recharged almost anywhere in a matter of minutes. Either at home or at a shop. The state is already getting ready to support the construction of recharging points and filling stations (for CNG cars) on all main roads. Add to that bypasses around all towns and the fact that the new high-speed railways will persuade people that cars are more of a hindrance, we will soon be breathing easy.
Waste is money Since 2009, it has been law in Germany that anything that can be reused must not be dumped in a landfill. As soon as they introduced this ban, new technologies to sort, process, compost or combust waste in modern ways emerged. Everyone understood: waste does not just destroy our countryside. Waste is money. Waste is a raw material. I discussed this with experts. We could introduce something similar in the Czech Republic from about 2024. In other words, the landfill lobbyists and the fact that we
have been caught napping mean that we have lost 15 years. At the very least. At the moment, half of our waste is landfilled. We are burying money under the ground. In the Netherlands, Belgium and Austria, they were depositing less than a tenth of all of their waste in landfills as far back as 2012. That’s just to give you some idea. On the other hand, every inhabitant of the Czech Republic “only” produces a little over two tonnes of waste per year, as opposed to the European average of approximately five tonnes. And people have learned to recycle quite well. According to the Eurostat rankings, in 2015 we recycled 70% of all packaging and were sixth in the EU. Indeed, as far as plastic sorting was concerned, we came second. So I can well imagine that we will be a “normal” European country well before 2035. We will be returning most of our waste to industry or the energy sector as a raw material. No more than a tenth of municipal waste will go to landfills. We will take most of our landfills apart because they are a goldmine. What we cannot recycle will be used – together with new waste – as a raw material for modern incineration plants. The new waste we generate will be kept to a minimum because we will know how to restrict it preventively and we will be much better at sorting. The efficient system of recycling centres, smart collection schemes, and containers for sorted waste has long proven its effectiveness in Europe. Manufacturers of all goods will be held responsible for what happens to their products when they reach the end of their lives. They will also be liable for the packaging.
Biowaste will be put to use in biogas stations and composting plants. All of it. 100%. Millions of tonnes of compost will then improve the quality of the soil, which will become more fertile and will be better at retaining water.
A country of a thousand ponds Water is a challenge. Absolutely. All around the world. It will probably be the greatest challenge we face this century. Hundreds of millions of people in Africa and Asia could soon be on the march in search of water. In Europe, drought is changing the whole of farming so that it can still support us. In the Czech Republic, we should be particularly careful. We are the roof of Europe, which is both good and bad. All water flows out of the Czech Republic via rivers, but nothing flows in. This means we are entirely dependent on rain and snow. So we are the initial decision-makers when it comes to water, and we must maintain it in our own backyard. Keep it as clean as possible. And manage it as though we were in a desert. Take a look at Israel. They have known the value of water since time immemorial. In the past few decades, they have developed great technology so that they don’t lose any of their water. In Tel Aviv, for example, wastewater is fully recycled and recirculated. Drip irrigation is taken for granted. This is a system of efficient water dispensing that irrigates only the roots of plants and the surrounding area. In this way, farming in Israel saves up to 90% of water, which is obviously an inspiration for our own fields and gardens.
It is our absolutely horrifying how much drinking water we waste. We flush toilets with it. We wash our clothes with it. We clean the floors with it. We wash our cars with it. And we water our plants with it. Hundreds of municipalities have had to put a stop to this because there wells ran dry and they were forced to supply people with water from tanks. Many is the time when the oldest inhabitants say they have seen nothing like it. There is no way we will let this happen in 2035. Drinking water will only be for drinking, showering and preparing food. For everything else, we will only be using rainwater. I’m not talking about just installing a couple of butts under the gutters. Every house will have its own large rainwater tank and a system for capturing this water and distributing it, for example, to your washing machine. This will be compulsory in new buildings. Water from our washbasins and baths can also be treated and reused, perhaps to flush our toilets. We can even arrange to do all of this in large cities. In Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz, right in the heart of the city, they’ve built a rainwater reservoir that they use to flush public toilets and put out fires. We’re still taking our first steps in the Czech Republic. Subsidies are available for up to 50% of the cost of rainwater tanks, distribution systems and pumps. We will also be promoting the reuse of grey water, i.e. filtered water from bathrooms. In a few years, we will be making a return on those costs because we will be saving on increasingly valuable drinking water. We tend to overlook the water industry. After 1989, many municipalities absurdly scrapped their water distribution inspections. The only ones to profit from this were the water supply behemoths, often controlled by foreign owners. Logically, they were more interested in pushing up water consumption as this increased their income.
We now need to find a way of returning water management assets back to local authorities and properly investing in them across the board. And we will interconnect water systems so that drought-hit regions can be helped by water sources that are much further away. Drought and flooding are two sides of the same coin. They will occur side by side and alternate, so we must be able to capture surplus water during periods of heavy rain and put it to good use. We have spent a century trying to remove water from our countryside rather than retain it. That is coming to an end. We will change the lie of the land. As you pass through the countryside, you’ll start to see livestock – sheep, goats and cows –much more often than today. If we increase the organic matter in soil by just one per cent, that will retain 35,000 litres more water in every hectare. We will revise what crops we grow and adjust the system in place for forest and field paths so that the landscape is better at retaining water. We will build new dams and, most importantly, we will restore thousands of ponds, pools and wetlands. We will have a cultivated countryside where people, plants and animals live together in harmony. You may even find it in places where you weren’t expecting it. Take the Karviná region, for example, a place dotted with slag heaps that have now subsided, giving rise to expansive bodies of water ideal for pursuits such as fishing. Such ideas have already been suggested. All projects like these will also return natural life to the countryside. This is the type of country we used to have. Way back. In the 16th century it was said that the Pardubice region had so many ponds stocked with fish that the Lords of Pernštejn could try their luck in a different one every day. As every pond was fished once every three years, there were a thousand of them in a single region! Our forefathers knew what they were doing, and perhaps we can learn lessons from them.
A DREAM OF JUSTICE
Do you, like me, remember the day you read about David Rath being caught with a box stuffed with cash? It’s been five years since we all saw it broadcast live and in the meantime… Nothing? Does it make your blood boil? You’re not alone. I call it the Czech Palermo. And I’d like to remind you what I mean by that. By the Czech Palermo, I mean the parties that, since the revolution, have been behind most of the corruption scandals and are responsible for the fact that billions of crowns have disappeared. And who is behind bars? Perhaps just a few officials and regional politicians. By the Czech Palermo, I mean the judges who hand down made-to-order judgments. This is the traditional mafia, the insolvency mafia, the case of Judge Berka. By the Czech Palermo, I mean the money stolen from subsidy funds. And even if they do send someone to prison, such as the “godfather” Alexandr Novák, they are back on the streets in a couple of years. Novák’s guarantor was a gang of bikers that he sponsored. In northern Bohemia alone, 10 billion vanished into thin air. They proved that Novák had accepted a bribe of 43 million. How much was he fined for that? Five million. I can‘t get my head round that. And what about the OKD scandal? In 2004, the government handed over the Ostrava mines to Zdeněk Bakala below the market price, and threw in 44,000 flats free of charge. The state got just over 4 billion for its 46% stake. Surprise, surprise, when Bakala had
the company valued a couple of years later, it turns out that it was worth 52 billion. An incredible “piece of business”. So the state lost out on tens of billions in a deal pitched to the government by the then finance minister Sobotka, and yet the only ones charged are officials. It’s been 13 years, and the trial is very sluggish. They’re constantly waiting for one expert opinion after another. And if a verdict is reached this year, then I’ll eat my hat. In Karviná, I met an 88-year-old who was a tenant in one of the “Bakala RPG flats”. His pension was 11,000 and he was paying more than 7,000 to live in a flat with two rooms, one of which was the kitchen. What else could we have expected? This is how the Czech Palermo affects everyone’s lives. Decent folk are outraged by such things, even if we are only reading about them. We often experience injustice at first hand. There was the blind man who was allowed to use the city’s public transport free of charge, and yet the court handed down seven enforcement orders against him for travelling without a ticket. And no one thought to question this – not the bailiffs, not the courts. There are people who are being told to pay tens of thousands in arrears for waste collected when they were still children and had no way of influencing whether their parents or children’s homes were paying the charge for them. There are entrepreneurs who have had to pack everything in because a partner failed to pay them and it takes an average of four years to resolve business disputes here. Or even longer, sometimes even 10 years, as I myself have experienced as my debtor laughed in my face. So you see, sooner or later everyone might need attainable justice. Even those who
are thinking right now that this will never affect them. I do have some good news, though. When I meet people, they confirm that we all want the same thing and we all have the same understanding. I have high hopes that, in the end, the good will prevail and the bad will be punished. If not, we cannot trust each other. This tends to demolish constructive cooperation between people. It is the end of all dreams. And ultimately the end of any free country. So, that’s how I see it.
Crooked judges I heard an estimate that about a hundred of our 3,000 judges are crooked. Who is to say when, obviously, no official statistics are out there? However, I am also confident that most judges do play fair. That’s not to say that 2,900 of them are flawless and will reach a fair verdict in your particular case. What cases will a judge hear? The way that cases are assigned can still be influenced. Will a judge be appointed to a certain position, promoted to a higher court or go on a placement somewhere? That’s up to the court’s president. How should judges continue their training? They don’t have to. How much work should they be doing? Who knows? What is loud and clear, however, is what this work does with someone over 40 years of their life. Don’t step out of line. Don’t take any decisions that would anger the boss or even his friends. To start with, then, it would be great to introduce some hard-and-fast rules, a career
guide. Judgesâ€™ careers will no longer be decided by how much favour they curry with powerful court officials. They will become more confident and will judge strictly according to their knowledge and conscience, not according to instructions from some Palermo on whom they career depends. This is what independence is. This will be the greatest transformation in the Czech Judiciary in 25 years. Indeed, in almost 80 years, as
my lawyer colleagues have informed me. What cases will a judge hear? This must be decided by random assignment. A plain old draw. A guarantee that the judge will not stitch you up for a reward or for a mate. And because we have three instances – the ordinary court, the court of appeal and then those at the highest level – I’m sure that no one could be so unlucky as to get a bad judge three times in a row. How do we reward honest judges who have spent their whole career judging according to their best conscience and without complaint? They should get the honourable discharge reserved for people such as police officers. How will we select our judges? Well, let me start by telling you how someone becomes a judge today. It’s almost unbelievable. These days, your best bet is to know a specific judge who will pull strings for you. The president of the regional court will then pick you as an assistant, you pass your judicial exams and then the appointment process begins. There is little the Ministry of Justice can do to police this. Despite the fact that a judge is meant to be an absolute professional and moral authority. After all, the fate of people is in his hands. What we need is a clear plan. One is already being put together, so I’ll describe some of it to you. Those interested in working in the judiciary are registered in a database maintained by the Ministry of Justice. They gain three years’ experience as an assistant. Exams. Selection for final training. This should last for two years and, ideally, candidates should serve at a higher court in order to learn about the work done by experienced judges. In the end, there is a big test: a complex simulated trial that is very difficult to judge fairly. If you show your worth in that test, you can become a judge. It’s a tough journey, but I think it needs to be.
After that, it’s up to the police. What we do with judges who take bribes? Precisely what we are all thinking. However, in order to make it easier for the police and the prosecutors, they must be given more of an opportunity to intervene in the judiciary. At the moment their hands are tied. One example: if they decide to investigate a judge at the regional court in Plzeň, they must seek permission to intercept his communications from… Where else? The court in Plzeň…
Weapons against corruption As corruption is a crime that benefits both parties, it is difficult to detect unless you have a good weapon. We do not, as evidenced by the fact that we rank between 30th and 50th in the world in the Corruption Perceptions Index. Well, at least we’ve made the top 50. That’s definitely progress. All advanced states, perhaps with the exception of Italy, are ahead of us. We hover around the level of Malta and Cyprus. In Europe, we are languishing at 19th. This is hardly surprising. As Transparency International notes, corruption has become sophisticated and is handled with kid gloves. In its report, Transparency International says that influential interest groupings no longer need to break the law. Rather they push for the law to be amended and thereby legalise their activities. However, we need to put a stop to corruption and, to do so, we need tough laws. Yet even certain parliamentary parties tend to oppose harsher legislation. Would you like a few examples about the activities of influential interest groupings? Take my proposal to push up the gambling tax. All of the
traditional political parties voted against us, depriving public budgets of CZK 450 million per year. And how about the whistleblowing law, on which we are unable to reach agreement even within the coalition. This law should help people who draw attention to infringements. In fact, that is a duty in a state adhering to the rule of law. However, where this concerns crime in a company or in public administration, the whistleblowers often find themselves out of a job. They are hounded, they are pressured and they are threatened. All sorts of people join forces against them. And they may even lose their property. Here’s one story. In 2011, the entrepreneur Vladimír Sitta notified the police that the Prague transport enterprise had some unusual contracts. He suspected that scandalous commission from every ticket printed was making its way to Caribbean tax havens. And what happened? It looks like a conspiracy. They dredged up charges that he was assetstripping his own company. Investigations were conducted by the police, including by the chief of economic crime in Prague, Pavel Klučka, and his colleague, Pavel Nevtípil. The state prosecutor Dagmar Máchová blocked Sitta’s shares in his own company, Neograph, so he was no longer able to control it. And what did his partners do? They exploited the situation to take control of the company and push Sitta out. He estimates that he lost a good 200 million and the court cases remain pending to this day. And as for the tickets? A verdict has yet to be reached. This is a shining example of why we should be helping whistleblowers. We need to enshrine, in law, a list of reasons why such people cannot be fired by anyone. How to protect their property. And to support them financially if they are fired anyway. Yet this law still has so many opponents in Parliament that we are unable to push it through. You can guess why.
Then there’s another law that, in spite of – or perhaps because of – its logic, has opponents. A law that gives state prosecutors extra powers so that no one can interfere with their specific cases. It will lay down rules about who can issue instructions and when they can be refused by the prosecutor. We have drawn it up, but it has been cut down in Parliament. A third example: our “influential interest groupings” have managed to reorganise the elite police departments in order to rein in the police. Their plan was evidently none other than to disband the anti-mafia department headed by Robert Šlachta. Yes, the very same man who was not afraid to raid the Government Office during Petr Nečas’s premiership and who investigated the illegal activities of the Social Democrats. Reorganisation, then, was a matter of political interest. Just as the financial police were scrapped by Ivan Langer when they began to be bothersome for politicians, last year they closed down Šlachta’s department. The push was spearheaded by interior minister Chovanec and the police leadership. Then they created a parliamentary investigative committee to examine what had happened but, again, the “influential interest groupings” had a say in the committee’s composition. The result? The reorganisation was in order. And while you’re at it, curb those public prosecutors. So it was that I went on to say, in Parliament, “I congratulate the Czech Palermo!” Some MPs went on to bathe themselves in even more “glory” by proposing that we strip the meat from the contracts register law. The contracts register is meant to show whether the state’s public contracts have been decided in advance, whether money is being spent on pointless procurement and whether contracts could be cheaper. Those MPs were suggesting that state-controlled companies should not have to publish their contracts… Can you imagine what a field day this would be for all sorts of interests and corruption?
You know, I’d change that law too. But the other way. It’s softer than we had intended. As it stands, contracts worth more than 50,000 have to be published. If you ask me, every single contract should be published. We are faced with a marathon task, but we dream of a country where life is good and where there is no room at all for corruption. In the courts or anywhere else.
Faster courts On average, it takes about three and a half years to hear a complex court case in the Czech Republic! Six years, if it’s a commercial dispute. Backstage at the courts, it looks
like a prewar film. Mountains of paperwork. Everything is on paper. And there’s only one copy of everything. This means that proceedings have to be suspended for half a year while another court decides on some minor detail. The whole file is over there, and there’s no duplicate. Or the judge has to wait for a month while a recording is transcribed. And all of us have to wait until the court sends us something by post. Awful. We must make the whole of the judiciary paperless. You need to take someone to court – feel free to sue them via an internet app. From your mobile, if you want. That app will also show you all the information from the proceedings because the file will be digital and open to all those involved. Immediately. This will cut down on the number of people waiting for a ruling simply because documents make their way from one court another at a snail’s space. If the court needs you to supplement any documents, you will receive a message immediately, perhaps to your mobile. In ordinary, understandable language, not legalese. All hearings will be transcribed automatically. We will not have to run off to our lawyer with every trifling problem. We’ll start by looking up a smart internet portal with the answers to most basic legal questions. And if anyone feels uncomfortable with technology, they will be helped at the authorities by legal information kiosks. The lawyers I know have calculated that digitisation alone would speed up the courts by 80%. Instead of three and a half years, everything would be done in eight months. That commercial dispute? One and a half years instead of six. That’s still a long time, isn’t it? So we need to get rid of half of those disputes. Perhaps try to find out-of-court settlements. And I would have another suggestion.
Fewer enforcement orders Almost half of Czech judicial proceedings involve small claims that, in reality, no one is ever going to pay. Or if they do, only in 20% of cases. In a smoothly running system, creditors would be careful and wouldn’t lend a penny to someone who has a low credit score. However, this is the Czech Republic and we have atrocious enforcement rules. I’m not saying we should defend debtors who borrow irresponsibly. But we shouldn’t be encouraging them. Debtors who are hauled before the courts pay not only the recovery costs, but also a steep mark-up. This works out at 10,000 crowns for every thousand of debt. Until last year the figure was as high as 18,000, but we’ve changed that now. In Germany, however, they pay just under three thousand. Why is this so in the Czech Republic? Small claims are paid by only one out of five debtors, i.e. by the one who is found to have any assets. Yet the surcharge is more than enough for the lenders to cover all of the costs of unsuccessful recovery from the other four debtors, from whom they will never see a penny. This makes lending willy-nilly a profitable business. And so they go on lending, suing, collecting. Even if they didn’t want to recover debts through the courts, by law they have no choice if they want to record these claims as irrecoverable and deduct them from their taxes. This is precisely the system that encourages people to be irresponsible and then traps them in a debt spiral. It is not their fault in all cases, as some become bogged down by misfortune. Nevertheless, more than 800,000 people have found themselves subject to
enforcement orders and we are setting ourselves up for a massive social mess. I’m sure you’ve seen the map of enforcement orders on the internet. Statistics gathered by the Chamber of Bailiffs indicate that we are dragging 4.5 million unresolved enforcement orders in our wake, two thirds of which apply to people caught up in a debt trap, from whom we will never recover anything. Approximately 140,000 people have been taken to court for more than 10 claims. There are legends doing the rounds of debt collectors suggesting some record-breakers have had more than 100 enforcement orders imposed on them. How on earth are we still lending to these people?
And the courts have to wade through all this. How about if we do things differently? If debtors have the cash, it goes without saying that they will pay off their debt together with recovery costs. But none of these inflated surcharges – not a penny more. If debtors don’t have the money, it is the creditors who will shoulder the costs of unsuccessful recovery. Suddenly, they will find it’s not worth their while recovering claims through the courts. Instead, they should think long and hard about the persons they will be lending or providing services to in situations where clients have no real collateral. This should halve the number of disputes, as we have seen in Austria, where the courts now have enough time to devote themselves to genuine disputes. And there’s an added bonus in that we will resolve the problem with spiralling debt before it grows into a social disaster.
Better laws “The laws we have today are four or five times longer than they were 25 years ago,” my lawyer acquaintance complained to me. He lectures at law schools. What is more, he says we change our laws at such a frantic pace that there is hardly time to read them before preparing lectures on them. Apparently, this will result in worse and worse lawyers writing more and more laws that are longer and worse than those that preceded them. This made me recall a great idea.
“Legal certainty is the only soil from which long-term goals and the absolute diligence of citizens can grow. Legal certainty means more than a well-functioning
judiciary – it means the permanency of a legal state. This certainty begins with the creation of laws, their processing, their number and their permanency and generality. The more laws there are, the less the legal order and certainty. The faster laws are made, the shorter they last and the greater the chaos.” That is how Jan Antonín Baťa began his chapter on law in 1937. He’d probably write the very same thing today. We got the ball rolling 25 years ago, and since then we have been changing our laws constantly. Take the Income Tax Act. We passed it 25 years ago and since then it’s been amended about 150 times. It’s a complete quagmire. Rather than amending it for the 151st time, we decided it would be better to write a completely new law. One that the politicians wouldn’t be able to complicate again. One where they would change perhaps only the tax rates, the amounts of deductions, and the like. This is what we’re working on now. There are hundreds of laws like this. We call them spaghetti. They are full of paragraphs, references to other laws, which in turn refer to other laws still, so much so that the lawyers who wrote the first versions can get confused. Some of the MPs passing these laws have no inkling what they’re about, I can tell you that much straightaway. I have this idea, for example, that we will have clear and simple laws for consumers. Laws they can take into a shop to show the assistant that they have particular rights. Consumer law as it stands is broken down into several legislative acts that refer to each other in all manner of ways. It would be great to compile a single consumer code that has been drawn up in a language we understand. This applies to all laws that affect our everyday ordinary lives: tax laws, health, welfare and education laws, and business laws. Obviously, there are also highly specialised laws, such as those on nuclear power stations. Those can be left with the experts.
We can also draw on inspiration abroad, where some of the laws are a hundred years old. We have to concede that, given how little experience we have, we would be hard put to devise anything better than what more developed legal systems have achieved. Wherever possible, we should adopt tried-and-tested foreign laws. Preferably German or Austrian ones, because we share common legal roots with those countries. We should have done this right after 1989, but everyone was so intent on finding a “Czech way”. Now unfortunately, we need to make haste and foreign models can help us. Why are we in such a hurry? We can’t spend six or ten years producing laws that will open up the way to innovation, technology, efficient administration, better health care, and higher-quality education, let alone national security – in other words, laws for the 21st century. While the visionary Baťa was right when he said “more haste, more chaos”, he would probably be spooked by the way we are “not hurrying”. I don’t think that’s what he had in mind. I’ll tell you what happened, for example, with our law on the management and control of public finances. Hardly an exciting title for a law, but a terribly important piece of legislation. Put simply, we want politicians and officials who decide on public spending to be responsible for their decisions. We want it to be possible to track who has spent money wisely and who has squandered it or even let their friends get their hands on it. Such a key law was asking for trouble. Everyone seemed to want to keep their distance. First, there was a document entitled “Bill on the Public Administration Management and Control System”. That was in August 2010. Then there was the “Bill on the Management and Control System in Public Administration” (2013).
Followed by the “Bill on the Integrated Framework of Internal Management and Control Systems” (2015). The end result was the “Bill on the Management and Control of Public Finances” (2015). In the end, it was approved by the Government in December 2016. Then it finally made its way into Parliament and there was tension in the air as everyone wait to see who would do what with the bill and what interests they would try to sneak into it. The bill is about to be rubber-stamped in the Chamber of Deputies at last and it may well have been passed by the time you read this book. The law on the regulation of gambling shows us that we can get things done more quickly. This was a turning point. We managed to pass the bill through in two years. However, it remains the exception and, to get it done, you need a lot of hard work, competence and goodwill. With fewer personal interests. Sure, I’m talking politics here. Politicians. The system of government. If we want a functioning country, politics needs to change.
How long it takes to pass a law You’ve got your explanatory memorandum (we’re talking dozens of months), intraministerial comment procedure (at least a month), interministerial comment procedure (two or three months), the Government’s Legislative Council (60 days as standard, but sometimes many months), the articulated version (double all the preceding times). The Chamber of Deputies, the Senate, the President: four to six months. If we are extremely lucky, that is. All told, the process lasts for three or four years, sometimes longer.
A DREAM OF HONEST POLITICS
A dubious political style evolved in the Czech Republic in the 1990s. The decision on who will govern the country is in the hands of one per cent of the population. Perhaps. Lets say about 100,000 members of political parties. But in reality not quite so many, because only some of them select candidates for the elections. All voters then do is take a decision on the offers that are put before them. The voting system we have ensures that the chosen ones get into power. And that has five “great” results: 1. 1. Experienced, honest people who have already done something with their lives don’t enter the political arena because they don’t have the stomach for all the party wheeler-dealing. The old hands are very effective at preventing outside newcomers from entering their ring. 2. For 20 years now, politics has been done by the same old people who have never held down a job anywhere else since school. Can they really know about the problems faced by ordinary families, traders and entrepreneurs? 3. More and more functions are being created because more and more party faithful need to be rewarded for their loyalty and support. And when those functions are exhausted, we will think up regions, or new authorities, new institutions and new positions. 4. And since we’re inventing new functions and authorities, we’ll have new obsequious officials, but they’ll be afraid to take decisions themselves in case they
make a mistake and the politicians sack them. 5. The public has come to believe that politicians set the people a woeful example and poison the entire nation’s integrity. People trust hardly anyone now and no longer make distinctions between individual politicians and political entities.
I’m no political scientist, but after nearly four years in government I have got to know politics more intimately than most. Definitely too intimately for comfort. And it goes without saying that I’ve been following politics for years now. We have had 13 governments since 1993. Three of them have been caretaker governments. And you know how many of them have made it all the way to the end of their term of office? Two. With the current government, we have also tried very hard and done everything we could. In the history of the Czech Republic, the average government has remained in office for approximately two years! That’s about the same level as Italy, a country that many Czechs associate with political chaos. We ask ourselves why things aren’t working in the Czech Republic, why the decision-making is always so chaotic, and why there is no systematic
planning. Well, this is where it all starts. First, everything is complicated by coalition disputes. Or before the government gets its feet under the table, it’s shown the door. Can you recall any past government as being a government of strength and action that actually did something for the people? Not some hodgepodge hybrid that could barely stand on its legs, let alone move? I hope that the government formed in 2014 will be remembered in a better light. Even so, our collaboration has hardly been ideal, as you well know. It looked promising, but the prime minister has severely tarnished this successful government and exploited it to wage political battles. In the wake of lies that had been repeated 100 times, he removed me from the government. He has left an unpleasant taste, and trampled the work of a lot of people who worked hard for three years. This government had the potential to go down in the history books as the most successful. Oh well, never mind. It simply wasn’t up to it. I’ve spent a couple of months asking people if they see things the same way I do. What bothers them about our politics? I got 30,000 replies, so I’ll pick out a few of the most common for you and repeat them word for word.
“Politicians do not have the capacity to cooperate. No one will acknowledge that something has been done well. It’s all just cursing, insults and flinging mud at others. That things have come to this. And they’re meant to be the elite of our nation!” “A country should work from the municipalities up, with most powers as close to the grassroots as possible.” “There are too many politicians. They stick their noses into everything and complicate the lives of those who are actually doing something for people.”
“Gross incompetence! Why don’t more smart and wise people, people we can see have achieved something good, go into politics?” “Politicians bicker and focus on what’s in it for them, but don’t give a fig about the public.” “Politicians are really greedy; there are more and more of them and they want more and more. They need to be taught some manners.” “They need to be replaced – make them show us what they’re capable of in normal life.” You get the gist. After 28 years of democracy, what bothers people most about politics is the politicians. Yet when I dream of 2035, I don’t picture a country free of politicians. On the contrary. A free and democratic country needs decent, cooperating politicians. It’s high time we started debating how to get more capable people into politics. A debate that involves all citizens, because we need to reach an agreement on this. How, then, do I imagine things in 18 years’ time, so that upright people will be making their way into politics?
Strong town halls The most important politicians will be the mayors. Of course, they will be directly elected. We have approximately 6,250 mayors, and they will genuinely govern their jurisdictions. Most powers will be invested in towns and municipalities.
Housing, business, labour, construction, transport services, social services, the arts, sport, tourism, health centres, schools… The best view of what people need is from the town hall. I know many mayors who really know what they’re doing and are capable of thrashing out agreements with each other. If they’re given the opportunity. In addition, citizens themselves will be able to decide on a certain portion of the budget. To have a direct vote on investments, to make it known whether they would prefer a new sports centre or new pavements.
The state will be streamlined In principle, it will only take care of five areas. 1. Security and justice. 2. Infrastructure encompassing the backbone transport and energy networks, water management, large hospitals and informatics. 3. International relations. 4. The currency, taxes and the financing of the whole system. 5. The strategy for society at large: what standards of education, health care and social care we want, what sort of environment we want, and what trends in business and civic activities we should be supporting.
What about the relationship between the state and municipalities? I think it might be worth initiating a discussion on whether we really need the regions and regional authorities. If we were to ask why they were actually formed, there are two answers. The first is entrenched in the law: “A region shall take care of the all-round development of its territory and of the needs of its citizens; in the performance of its tasks it shall also protect the public interest expressed in acts and other legislation.” Well, I think two institutions might be enough to deal with that. An efficient state which has the vision and ability to harness massive amounts of information. And responsible municipalities backed
by the services of that efficient state. I have one more answer as to why the regions came into being, although you won’t read about this in any law: they are needed, among other things, so that regional subsidies can be distributed. We’re talking about a huge amount of money in the past seven years. In the ROPs – the Regional Operational Programmes – alone, 120 billion from European funds has been shared out. The result? Nothing has caused the Czech Republic such shame, in its subsidy policy, as the carving up of the Brussels subsidies placed in the management of the regions. However, regional European subsidies are coming to an end. To be sure, there will be no more of those amazing stories about weird lotteries and “yellow money”, but if we get rid of the regions, we will save money (it currently costs about 10 billion a year to run the regions) and we will make our political circus that bit smaller (675 regional representatives and more than 8,000 officials). Many regional politicians could be great mayors, and we could use some of that money to build dozens of cultural, health or sports centres all over the country every year. If we look at Saxony, it’s about half the size of the Czech Republic, and yet it doesn’t need any intermediate level similar to our regions. We, too, will get by with a central government and municipalities. Regional powers could easily be passed to the state and municipalities with extended competence. Smart information systems will help us with efficient state administration and services, and town halls will have the opportunity to govern.
An efficient Parliament First off the bat, there should be fewer legislators. Just half of the current number
of MPs. 101. An odd number should put a stop to stalemates. When I outlined this in late February, one of the arguments against this idea was that we have so many MPs to ensure that they represent the broadest spectrum of voters. In response, I say that if we have 101 MPs, each would represent approximately 100,000 people, which is on a par with the UK, the Netherlands and France. I don’t see society in those places complaining of any democratic deficit. I don’t think the Chamber of Deputies would collapse under the weight of overwork either. If I remember rightly, a good half of MPs have never proposed or promoted anything of note. Nothing. Zero. Many of them have trouble speaking in public in the first place. They are only there as machinery to vote and delay. Secondly, people should vote directly for MPs in the same way that they do the president. And only in one round. One constituency, one victor. A first-past-the-post system. Just as they have in the UK. This facilitates the alternation of single-party governments, which are more effective and more stable than coalition governments. In particular, I assure you that when English people say “my MP”, they know exactly who that is. In the Czech Republic, we have the option of circling our favourites, but only a few voters do that. The others simply vote for specific parties. Sometimes they don’t even remember the particular MP they voted for. Thirdly, everyone could be an MP three times in a row, but then they would have to take a break of at least four years. This would prevent the same old people from making their way back into Parliament time again for 20 years. Instead, they would have the opportunity to freshen up their qualities on the labour market, which is sure to benefit many of them. In the ancient Roman Republic, they went so far as to rule that a citizen could hold
political office only once in their life. What about the Senate? We are told that this is a guarantee of democracy. I believe that voters have made their response to this claim very clear on several occasions. Unlike elections to the Chamber of Deputies, or the regional and municipal elections, there is no interest in the Senate elections. Last time around, only 15% of people cast votes for senators in the second round. I think that’s enough of a message. Voters don’t care for the Senate. Scrap the Senate. This would hardly be a groundbreaking experiment. Most European countries – including the whole of Scandinavia – have single-chamber parliaments. What does this mean in practice? Laws are passed more quickly and, most importantly, the MPs there shoulder more responsibility for their decisions. Consequently, people have more confidence in them because they can see results more frequently and faster. They know the faces of specific people who have contributed to those results. Furthermore, if it were true that the Senate guarantees and polices the correctness of laws, we should have witnessed a fall in the number of amendments, and in amendments to those amendments, that are an endless conveyor belt making adjustments, corrections and remedies, over the many years that it has existed. To be sure, the Senate does have certain powers. It has the means to prevent an interregnum or forced constitutional changes. This could be a job for the President, seeing as we now elect him or her directly. The most important changes – decisions on amendments to the Constitution or on international pacts – would be a matter for everyone to decide on in a referendum. And there’s something else I have to say about Parliament. Once I scored an own goal when I said that Parliament was a “blather pit”. And immediately I was lambasted for
wanting to close down Parliament. Nonsense. But I do have a dream that it could work efficiently. If you have ever watched a television broadcast of any of the parliamentary sessions, you know what I’m talking about. Delay tactics, obstructions, the repetition of lots of speeches that have already been delivered a long time before. A willingness to cooperate? Hardly. Just make sure I’m plastered all over the news when my tongue gets a little sharp. I have already explained my opinion to people at numerous meetings, but I’ll say it once more, loudly and clearly. It would never occur to me to abolish political parties. I just think that the system I dream of would make them healthier and more refined. This would mean injecting politics with new blood. That’s my main point. I don’t want to shut Parliament down; I want it to work well. We’re going to need a lot of goodwill for that. And we may even need to amend the rules of procedure. What will make its way into our laws? A few pages ago, I described how complicated it is for government bills to become enacted. Years of specialist preparation. All that work and then all it takes for a change is for an MP or group of MPs to table an amendment that often lacks sound substantiation and has not been expertly assessed. This results in opaque and disordered laws. That’s something that needs to be fixed. And again I say: I don’t mean we should cancel these amendments – that’s what we have Parliament for. Rather, we should introduce rules so that these amendments are prepared just as thoroughly as the government bills themselves. And then there’s the actual course of proceedings, which I find irritating. The rules of procedure followed by our Chamber of Deputies allow for virtually unlimited obstruction. In 2010, the Civic Democrats blocked the Chamber for three months. In those circumstances, it’s impossible to pass a single law. All you have to do is keep impeding with dozens of
procedural proposals, hours of waffling, and lots of breaks for club meetings… A handful of MPs can paralyse the entire Chamber of Deputies. We do have the option of a state of legislative emergency, during which the time MPs have the floor can be reduced to as little as five minutes, but this state can only be declared if rights and freedoms are in serious peril or in situations where there is a threat to security or a risk of major economic losses. For the sake of example: the Bundestag has good rules. They specify how long each theme will be discussed, and the parties have a precisely defined number of hours for debate. Great and efficient! That could work in the Czech Republic, too. However, all such changes require the approval of a constitutional majority of Parliament. Even better, we should all decide on them in a referendum. Whatever the case, these are changes that we need to start thinking about immediately.
How many ministries might there be? We currently have 14 ministries! The Swiss make do with seven. At one time, the Civic Democrats were touting nine ministries, but no guesses as to why that proposal died. Of course, the pressure was turned up. A few too many politicians and a few too many parties were battling for a little influence and a big office. So we are left with a situation where you go to the authorities, and three or four ministries push you from pillar to post because they don’t want to lose what they have. So they have something to do. And who has a say in the construction industry in the Czech Republic? Transport, industry, the environment, agriculture, local development… Everyone wants their own bit of power, so citizens and businesses are left to run from place to place like headless chickens. Every ministry makes its own purchases in its own way – paper, printers, information systems and cars. The state would save billions, if only we had centralised procurement. I can imagine a situation where we have only 11 ministries. At this particular moment in time. Perhaps fewer in the future. There would be no more talk of how many people from each coalition party must be given a function. No more gambling. In the first-past-the-post system, where the government is a single party, this would be transparent and efficient. The ministers work together, the results are palpable and fast, and responsibilities are clear. What ministries should we have, then? Those fields that belong to each other should be lumped together. As should the people. It’s all rather scattered at the moment. So here are the 11 ministries I think we
should have today. • The Ministry of Economy, also responsible for transport, all infrastructure, business and – among other things – the mail. • The Ministry of Public Investments, which would be in charge of regional development, public administration and subsidies. • The Ministry of Agriculture and the Environment. • The Ministry of Health and Social Affairs. • The Ministry of Education. • The Ministry of Finance. • The Ministry of Defence. • The Ministry of the Interior. • The Ministry of Justice. • The Ministry of Foreign Affairs. • The Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Sport, which is in desperate need of clear management and the transparent distribution of money at last, should be in the hands of a government agency.
What about officials? Do you know why the slang for parties is partaje in Czech? It was taken from German during the First Republic. However, Partei does not just mean “party”, but also “tenant”. And, in fact, that is how things worked from 1918. A party is handed a ministry, it sacks everyone and
moves its own people in – the minister’s secretariat, the gatehouse, the drivers… everywhere. Nothing more than tenants. Professionalism? Well, what do you think…? Competition? Only as far as the party allows. Continuity? None. Four years and after that the flood. This is why we introduced the Service Act – so that officials would not be replaced every four years depending on who the minister happened to be, and so that they would take decisions independently in accordance with the law. Technically, this is known as the depoliticisation of state administration. However, it was not entirely successful. We wanted to protect good officials from political pressures, but ended up also embedding thousands of routine workers in the offices here. It’s hard to replace them. They don’t let any new professionals in. And this was also one of the Social Democrats’ political interests – to flood the authorities with their faithful before the Service Act took effect. Some depoliticisation that was. But that is by no means all that the Service Act can be blamed for. When the search is on for a senior official, it turns out that, by law, we can only pick from a few people in the country. Where are the young professionals who would help the state? They don’t really have a chance. Bosses are not free to choose their own subordinates. The selection procedure is dreadfully convoluted. One of our ministers was unable to recruit a deputy minister for public procurement for nearly half a year because the conditions were so stringent that no one even applied. Authorities cannot afford top-class experts in areas such as information technology. Private companies will offer them salaries as high as a hundred thousand a month, which the state – by law – is not permitted to do. This means, of course, that experts will not work for the state.
In a nutshell, the Service Act is a necessary and important piece of legislation, but it needs to be revised so that it is used for depoliticisation and not to impede the quality work of the authorities.
Visible and invisible politics So what’s your take on it? I know very well what the politicians of the traditional parties say about it. What terrifies them most of all is that fairer rules for the political game could mean that high-quality, smart and responsible people will make their way among them. People accountable to the voters, not to party bosses. People who are competent in fields that, unlike professional politicians, they understand. People who have already proven themselves and are now offering their abilities to everyone. To be a politician will be to provide an acclaimed service. In opinion polls, this will no longer be the most dubious profession, but a prestigious calling. Yes, politicians should be appreciated. I have a dream that new politicians will not be invisible. That’s what they used to say 20 years ago – how great it must be in many Western countries, that they don’t even need to worry about politics, that it is invisible. Yet in some countries this state of non-worrying went too far, and they had all sorts of problems. Debts, regulation wherever you look, buck-passing in Brussels and at home, porous borders, and then – logically – protest movements. This is a warning.
I have a dream of politicians who will see, who will be active, who will not be afraid to move among the people at times other than a month in the run-up to the elections. Many more voters than at present will take part in the elections. They will hold their mayors, MPs and ministers to account. And they will trust their politicians.
HOW WEâ€™LL SET THE BALL ROLLING
A DREAM OF WHAT OUR CHILDREN WILL KNOW
How would you have liked to study a subject called “Colonisation of Mars” at school? One secondary school in Prague is going to introduce it as a supplementary course. I wish them luck. You see, “Colonisation of Mars” represents virtually everything that awaits our schools if we are to avoid becoming a poor assembly plant. Just think about it. If you’re going to consider the colonisation of Mars, you need maths, cybernetics, physics, chemistry, natural science, and medicine, but also law, languages, sociology, ecology, demography, psychology… All of this at once. In context. Children can study theory all they like, but it’s no good if they don’t know how to put it to use in order to find out, say, how to grow vegetables on Mars. Of course, you need a little imagination, and you need to think, sort and combine information. This is a subject that encompasses our technological future. It is not about what has been and will never be again. This is a subject that changes en bloc as plans to conquer Mars are revised and the technology develops. Literally every day. It is not something that can be taught according to 10-year-old syllabuses. You need to adapt the content every month. If it is to work, experts with practical experience and experts from science centres
need to go into schools. This is too big to be left to teachers alone. Most importantly, students are guaranteed to enjoy a school like this. Less learning by rote. No tedium. Now they will be working together on projects, so they also have to learn how to communicate and defend their results. This is how education works today.
Who will be getting ahead in 2035? When I think about our children, I recall what Wayne Gretzky, the king of ice-hockey players, once said: “A good hockey player is where the puck is. And the best player is where the puck is going to be.” A great idea for ice-hockey and for life in general. And absolutely crucial for education. So let’s discuss what our children should know if they are going to be skating to where the park is headed in 2035. Simple manual and routine work will virtually disappear. So who will be in demand? There’s a lot of talk about the 3C principle these days. It’s a bit of a fad, but it’s quite accurate so I’ll explain it very simply. It means people who are cognitive, creative and communicative. Cognitive people – put simply, those who are able to process and apply knowledge – will be able to engage flexibly in cooperation between new machines, computers, smart items and people. This cooperation will have to be organised differently perhaps every day, in line with requirements. These people will have to learn new things on a daily basis, otherwise they’ll fall out of the loop. Creative people will succeed if they devise the smartest and most interesting possible products or services, as well as ways to produce them. And then there are communicative people, who will be able to sell these products and services to customers. Communication will be something like the first natural law. This is because people will cooperate more than and differently from today. Dozens of colleagues, customers, companies and independent professionals will be in daily contact. And the composition of these groupings will change from one day to the next. A bit of a madhouse. A completely different sort of hustle and bustle.
Everyone will be proficient in languages and computer programs and will take decisions on their own, without having to wait to see what the boss says all the time. They will have to change profession several times over their lives. Perhaps lots of times. And they will keep learning until they retire. And if they donâ€™t? The system will have no use for them. And now letâ€™s discuss whether Czech schools are educating our children in preparation
for this. Or – so as not to be unfair to lots of good teachers – whether the conditions are in place for this. Do you have children? Then you’re in a position to assess this. In 2035, being a European will no longer automatically be a ticket to a high standard of living. The world is not slumbering. We can see this best when we take a look at the most recent results of PISA tests, which offer a universally recognised comparison of what 15-yearolds know. Who do you think is top of the pile? Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, China, Canada, Hong Kong and South Korea lead the way. Of the European countries, only young people from Finland, Estonia and Switzerland are keeping up. What about the Czech Republic? In 2006, we were doing pretty well. By last year, we had slumped to the average level. Within Europe, we are at the tail end of the top 10. In all of the areas tested – science, maths and literacy – our children knew less than they did 10 years ago. This includes students from the elite eight-year grammar schools. Every fifth teenager is well below average. But we don’t necessarily need to PISA tests to see that we are doing something wrong. Stories about waning knowledge are spreading like wildfire. One newspaper recently wrote that there are 2,400 g of harmful substances in a kilogram of food and most readers didn’t bat an eyelid. People are unable to calculate what 8% of 500 is. And when reporters asked young people on the street what happened in 1968, we find out that the Russians liberated us and the Americans assassinated Hitler. Oh well. The point is for today’s children to learn many things at once: They should have a broad range of knowledge and be able to communicate, find trusted and truthful information for their everyday lives and use healthy common sense. That’s quite a lot cope with.
Who’s going to teach? Since 2006, when we were still above average, there have been 12 education ministers. And we keep hearing the same old talk about reforming the system. That’s baloney. I don’t trust the system; I trust specific individuals. Either we have good teachers, or this is a battle we lose. I was at a conference once where I listened to Pavel Kysilka. He used to be the boss at Česká spořitelna, he was named bank of the year twice and he is a very smart chap who understands what is happening in the world. And at that conference, he said something that blew people away: “We must get the best people into schools. The future of the Czech Republic really depends on it. And we won’t get the best people into schools if we don’t have the best salaries there. I mean it absolutely seriously when I say that teachers must be given a pay rise of at least 50%.” Astonishing. Fifty per cent! As Mr Kysilka says: “Right now the future of the nation depends on one profession in particular. And that’s teaching.” Yet where is the financial motivation for young people to go into teaching? There’s a Czech saying, “poor as a schoolmaster”. In developed countries, when teachers compare their pay with people in other fields who have had the same education, they find that they are on about 85%. In the Czech Republic, the figure is just over 50%. If a top-class engineer were to teach, they would currently only get a third or a quarter of the salary paid to them were they to work for a company. For capable people, this really isn’t an attractive profession. So I agree with Pavel Kysilka’s view. Absolutely. Teachers must be in the same position as lawyers and doctors. Financially and socially. That is the sort of authority they should have. The apex of their career will no longer be to become an official at the education
ministry. And it will not occur to any of them that they will have to do find a summer job to earn some extra money. Those who train future teachers at university faculties must be given the biggest pay rise. Followed by anyone who develops new methods and writes the textbooks so that teachers have something to go by in the classroom. If teachers are to understand the world for which they are preparing their students, they must also be given the time and opportunity to go on placements. To companies and to other countries. This must be obligatory. And their salary will depend on it. Teachers will then receive help from people at companies and scientific and public institutions. These people should give lectures and provide teaching. Schools must simply open their doors to employers. Education and work go hand-in-hand. Children should learn from them how things are done, how the world works, and what innovations are being developed but have not yet made it into the syllabus. We mustn’t hinder this with pointless rules. As things stand, these experts are not allowed to make presentations to children – despite all of their qualifications, they don’t meet the conditions. You see, they didn’t study teacher training! What does it matter that they know more about their field than everyone at the school put together? There are other upsides, too. Children will come into contact with authorities. With people who have achieved something. It is difficult for them to meet such figures in other situations. These people might be entrepreneurs, doctors, or lab engineers. Everyone who wants to teach, knows how to teach and can fill children with enthusiasm. Show them a field that might interest them. This is even something that people can do as they approach retirement. Perhaps they are looking for motivation and somewhere they can put their experience to use, so why not help children?
And, when all is said and done, this is also in the vital interest of companies. They need to rely on new generations of smart employees. If they allow their people to teach, lecture and manage students’ work, they will be eligible for tax concessions. This will then give firms a platform where they can voice very clearly what they think school-leavers should know. So far, we have tended to leave them out of the equation.
Where can we draw inspiration? I heard a good idea. If you want to have people who are more educated, that is something you must achieve in the classroom. You can’t do it anywhere else. So let’s check out how
the very best go about it. Finland is Europe’s star when it comes to education and science. This has also been borne out by those PISA results. They are now in the process of closing down subjects. You heard that right. When students reach the age of 16, schools can completely scrap physics, maths, history, and so on. Instead they will have subjects like “Second World War”, “Work in a Café” or “Weather”. History, maths, geography, natural sciences, a bit of physics, economics and languages will then be incorporated into those subjects, will last for perhaps even just a month, and then be replaced by other ones. And the students themselves will be able to propose the subjects they want. We are so set in our ways that this would currently be impossible in the Czech Republic. However, a few years ago the Finns found out that, sure, they’re doing pretty well in those charts, but the children still aren’t being prepared for life and work. So they followed a different tack. They ruthlessly determined what everyone should know by the time they leave school. We Czechs really don’t have much idea about this at the moment. We can’t even agree which students should be taking maths as a compulsory subject in their leaving exams. In Finland, they straightened this out and then left it up to the schools and town halls to deal with it. Schools and teachers were given immense autonomy, free of incessant inspections, rules and tables. They alone choose what teaching methods to use and, consequently, children find school more fun. The teaching profession is extremely popular in Finland. Only a tenth of applicants are admitted to teacher training, so they really can take their pick of the cream. In the Czech Republic, students often choose teacher training as a last resort. In Finland, students training to be teachers spend time working in schools. I don’t mean just the few weeks that
we have here, but throughout the year. They spend up to a third of their studies gaining hands-on teaching experience. In the Czech Republic, it’s about a fifth. There are no nationwide tests, school tables or inspections in Finland. Secondary schools don’t even have to give grades. The only standard examination is right at the end – the matriculation exam. This teaches students responsibility and independence, which increases their confidence. Schools are meant to nurture future leaders, too. We have largely forgotten this in the Czech Republic. We should also be taking this approach to the teaching of our children. At the moment, Czech schools tend to focus on preparing them for a role as rank-and-file employees at multinational corporations and their Czech subcontractors. And where are Finnish children today? If we do some conversions with the PISA charts, we find that they are a whole year ahead of Czech 15-year-olds. More than half of Finns work in highly skilled professions. In the Czech Republic, the figure is less than a third.
What will our children know? What will our children be good at when they finish the school they selected? They must be well-versed in everything. And I mean absolutely everything. Because their whole lives they will be changing occupations and dealing with other specialists. There are at least three areas in which they must be better than good. Top-notch. 1. They will have to be very good at computers. This also includes programming, maths, technical fields and natural sciences. The fourth industrial revolution, which
is already zipping along, encompasses artificial intelligence, robotics, smart networks, precision sensors and nanotechnology. In short, this is the age of technology. To the older generation, this might seem like we are in the realm of science fiction, but it’s already under way. It’s high time we got going. As a small but resourceful nation, we could be well ahead in this field. Instead, we are faced with a problem. The Confederation of Industry recently found out that half of companies are lacking employees who studied technical subjects at university and high school. Yet employers are trying to do something about this. Every second company would like to help schools with maths, physics, chemistry and electrical engineering. They are also offering to donate or make sophisticated teaching aids. But then there are just as many companies saying: Schools aren’t interested in what is required in the real world. This is wrong. 2. Languages, languages, and more languages. In the Czech Republic, only a third of the population can communicate fluently in English. In Denmark and Sweden, however, the figure is around 90%. We need everyone to be proficient in languages. English is set to remain the principal language for a long time to come, so obviously it should be compulsory and just as important as Czech. Some subjects will be taught in both languages. Everyone at primary school should achieve a level of A2, which means understanding and conversing in basic situations and reading simple texts. After their school-leaving examination, everyone should be able to cope with level B2, i.e. they should be able to converse with native speakers without difficulty and read books written in up-to-date language. This is the sort of level that enables students to be taught in English at colleges and universities. Here, a foreign placement or a collaboration with an institution in another country will be a requirement for the completion of their studies. And dissertations and theses, whether for a bachelor’s or
master’s degree or for a PhD, should be drawn up in English. Or in another world language. It would be great if all degree-holders had a command of at least two such languages. 3. Information literacy. Children get most of their information from the internet. And you know what a mess that can be. There are even editors who have the self-confidence to declare in public that truth is not the be-all and end-all. Which means that our children, from primary school all the way through to university, must learn how to verify what they have read. How to recognise a good medium from a manipulative one. They must be taught that a single source of information is simply not enough. And that the information they have obtained may not hold true in a month’s time. And what about the “blue-collar professions”? Sure, there will still be a few professions where we need to use our hands. Manual work is as respectable an occupation as any other. If you know what you’re doing. Craftsmen will see their pay go up and up, that’s for sure. But a bricklayer, who just needs a mixer and a trowel, will not. The work of a craftsman will become more complex. Points 1 to 3 apply to everyone. The National Institute for Education has noticed that craftsmen with combined skills are now in short supply. Jacks of all trades. We can see it in construction – electrical engineering – automation technology – IT, that’s what’s needed today. How else could they build smart homes that are capable of procuring electricity themselves? The same goes for plumbers, heating engineers, roofers, painters… Sadly, parents often advise their children to study academic fields. Yet a top-class craftsman is always better than a weak secondary-school-leaver who ends up working the tills at a supermarket (assuming that there will still be cash registers in 2035, which I doubt). However, a first-rate craftsman or engineer is not “moulded” by a school. Only companies can do that. So we should return to the system of dual education. It works very well in
Germany, where professionals from the relevant fields spend time teaching in schools and vocational colleges. They and all of the technical equipment used in the schools is paid for by their company. These are tax deductible costs. This is how to nurture employees. Even while they are still at school, students become employees, work for companies and get access to great technology and advanced materials. Teachers of general subjects are paid by the municipality. This was actually a Czechoslovak system until the 1990s. The Germans (as well as the Austrians, Danes and Dutch) borrowed it from us, adapted it, and found that it helped them tremendously during the last crisis. Their small and medium-sized enterprises, the German middle-class, the famous Mittelstand, benefit from dual education. When, between 2008 and 2013, the behemoths were laying people off, these enterprises created 1.6 million jobs. We abandoned dual education over time, and now we’re going to copy it back from the Germans. That’s a paradox and a half, isn’t it? We are already trying. The Green Stripe Crafts Academy in Prague has contractually started to nurture professionals for dozens of companies in this way. Bosch, other companies and vocational colleges have also teamed up to give it a go. TOS Varnsdorf, Škoda Auto and Slovácké strojírny have even set up their own schools. It doesn’t come cheap either. A while ago Bosch calculated that one graduate of a dual programme would cost it as much as four million. There really is a major difference between an “ordinary labourer” and a professional.
What is a school’s main task? That’s a subject for a thousand books. And now I’ll take a chance and write something
very unconventional. I believe that a school’s main task is to find out where someone’s strengths lie. What they are talented at. And, on this basis, to help children and their parents. We are all different and we shouldn’t treat children as though they were peas in a pod. Tailored education, they call it. However, when we talk of tailored education in the Czech Republic, usually the focus is only on the strongest or, conversely, the weakest students. We discuss disadvantaged children. It goes without saying that we have a duty to ensure that they are given the opportunity to learn everything, albeit sometimes at a slower pace. And we discuss highly gifted children. But what I’m talking about is education tailored fully to each and every child. At the core of every school there will be programmes to discover and encourage natural talent. Teachers will then work with every child individually. Along with the parents, obviously, because a school can never assume parental responsibility. There are two “minor” conditions here: the classes will be smaller so that the teachers have more time for each child, and parents will listen to teachers as experts. An education fund will be formed, and this can then be used to support what the children enjoy doing. So that they can all take part in clubs in any field, travel to competitions and, in the future, go on scientific and university placements. And if their results are good, the schools will recognise this when grading them. Teachers who discover and advise talented children will learn more. The education fund will also work for adults. We will have a unique education portal accompanying individuals all the way from nursery school to university of the third age. This portal will contain all information on education and how far everyone has progressed. Who knows what. It will include
information on subjects, grades and teachers. Naturally, it will incorporate offers of clubs, courses and various schools, including those that people can attend online. There will also be definitions explaining what we need to know for a particular profession, and job offers. This portal can also monitor how it is being used by a child. For example, it will identify that a third grader is looking at computer courses and is boasting about his or her laptop skills in a discussion forum. The system will then make a note that the child enjoys IT and inform the parents and the school of this. It will provide links to the best articles and will recommend relevant clubs. As the child grows up, advice on careers and education will also come into play. Followed by employers, labour offices, universities, talent programmes and scholarships. People will have to keep discovering where their strengths are all the way through to retirement. And perhaps learn over the internet. Obviously, they will be pushed into this by companies, but we can help them by providing education vouchers from the education fund. Everyone must be entitled to these vouchers – which will work in much the same way as meal vouchers in restaurants – for their whole lives. I reckon there will be an incredible boom in education projects for adults. Everyone will choose the “restaurant”, i.e. educational institution, where they want to use their vouchers. They will cover part of the cost themselves, part may also be paid by the employer (for whom it will be a tax-deductible expense), and the rest will be covered by the voucher. And the state will keep an eye on the quality of the “restaurants” where the vouchers are accepted. There will be backbone schools in every region. They will be open to all as centres where lifelong learning is organised. Higher-education institutions should develop remote courses. For example, MOOCs
(Massive Open Online Courses), which in the past decade have become hugely popular among millions of people around the world who want to learn. Large world universities, including the most prestigious ones, such as Oxford and Harvard, enable people to study at their facilities remotely, regardless of any state borders. Online. Although, at the moment, their certificates cannot be compared with diplomas from brick-and-mortar colleges, online study is a great opportunity for young and mature people alike. Czech universities are sure to launch something similar at some stage. They will open their own high-quality programmes and will recognise the credits that people have obtained in similar schemes at world universities. Global online courses such as Khan Academy and Coursera are already incredibly popular. If you ask me, it started with TED, where the best lectures of broadcast online. And I think that when the top Czech universities become involved, itâ€™s going to be great.
And off we trot to uni We have many acclaimed scientists at universities. Now we just need lots of good graduates. More than half of those who take the secondary school-leaving examination go on to university. Thatâ€™s good news. After all, not even a fifth of Czech employees have a degree at the moment. This compares to a third in Germany and 40% in the Netherlands. Itâ€™s a fair representation of how our professions and economy are structured. The point at issue is what sort of graduates we are producing. And this is where things are a bit strange. In the Czech Republic there are four types of people who hold diplomas.
One Czech professor complained to me that we have: • Technical types who can’t speak a foreign language, have little idea about the arts, do not know how to defend their work, and find communication troublesome. • Non-technical types who fumble when they hear the words “informatics”, “technology”, or “systemic approach”. The thing is, you can retrain a designer to become a marketing manager, but not the other way round. • Both types are said to lack entrepreneurship, independence and a creative spirit. In truth, even specialised higher education needs to be broader. University is not just about training for a profession before you go on your way. • Another Czech professor, this time a chancellor, describes it this way: • We have “academics” – most of our universities guide people to engage in science and other studies, but do not prepare them so much for the professional world. • And then we have people fit for vocational work, but we don’t concentrate on these so much. No one is asking schools to produce vocational types. You can probably guess where I’m going with this. In Germany, they have internationally renowned high-and universities delivering scientific results to NobelPrize standard. And then they also have vocational colleges or faculties, which they call Fachhochschule. Most institutions fall within this category. We may need exclusive – even curious – professions, such as religious experts who happen to know Malaysian. Why not? We can offer the whole gamut of knowledge. But this is a field for a few graduates at a handful of international-standard universities. Otherwise, colleges should be working to order. In Austria, higher-education institutions have contracts with the state, normal contracts setting out what graduates they are to
produce. If they breach those contracts, their funding is revised. Say the word financing in the Czech Republic, and a lot of universities will mention the introduction of tuition. I have heard of annual fees of 10,000 suggested. Personally, I don’t believe this is a productive way forward. There are two reasons for this. It’s not a good idea to saddle young people with debt just as they are starting out on their careers. More importantly, free higher education is society’s investment in the future of the country. I would identify a different source of income: contracts between institutions and companies, regardless of whether money is paid for specific graduates or for research. Whichever way I look at it, this should be more beneficial. If we do introduce charges for studies, then perhaps they should be restricted to “eternal students”. Even universities need to be open to the requirements of industry. And also to foreign students and teachers. A little competition works to the good of everyone.
A DREAM OF CULTURE FOR EVERYONE
Last year, I met a business colleague. Well, I say “colleague”… He’s a huge name in the business world, one of the biggest. Bernard Arnault, the wealthiest man in France. You may have heard of the brands Hennessy, Louis Vuitton and Moët Chandon. Upmarket goods, cognac, champagne, fashion. That’s him. As far back as 2001, he mentioned that he had a major cultural project for Paris. Perhaps you’re asking yourselves why exactly Paris needs another major cultural project. , the place you can visit five times without seeing even half of its cultural legacy. Well, it makes sense. And when I think about Czech culture, I quite fancy doing something similar myself. His project opened three years ago. It is now the second most visited place in Paris, right after the Eiffel Tower. It is the Fondation Louis Vuitton. The “ship”, as they call it, has been built in the Bois de Boulogne. It was designed by the Frank Gehry, the architect who, with Vlado Milunić, built Prague’s Dancing House. On the one hand, the ship is an indescribable modern structure. Check it out online and you will be astonished by what today’s architecture can look like. On the other hand, it’s a centre of art, but only the very best art. It mainly showcases the unique art collection of the Fondation Louis Vuitton, but in all there are more than 10 galleries, exhibitions of classic and modern art and contemporary experiments, and a large concert and dance hall where the cream of France mixes with global stars several times a week. In order to build it, they even passed a special law stipulating that the structure was
in the public interest. The French have been doing this almost every decade for the past hundred years. They weren’t content with just the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. So they built the Centre Georges Pompidou, the glass pyramid in the courtyard of the Louvre and the hypermodern La Défense district. They always go for the most modern project the world is capable of, something the French can show off and something that defines the level they have reached. There are always a few people at the beginning who say that it’s nuts. But culture often stems from “nuts”. Now they have a “ship” and the whole world swarms in to take a closer look. As do French families and French children, of course – this is also important. And when I found out that the Czech company Sipral (now I remember it) helped to work on the facades,
I knew that this was definitely the first part of my dream of Czech culture for everyone. A centre like this can change much more than a city’s skyline. But that’s a whole story in itself.
What culture is capable of You know how it is. When we are carving up the money, culture and art tend to be at the back of the queue. That’s how it is with families, town halls and, ultimately,
the government. There always seems to be something more important on the desk. Sadly, the view prevails in the Czech Republic that culture is an extra, a peculiar elitist activity for initiated artists and intellectuals. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I’m telling you that that is utter nonsense. Culture fosters our national identity. That, kindly note, is what distinguishes us in the world. Defines us, makes us unique. Enables other nations to understand who and what we are. Culture is everywhere, we can see it at every step, it influences our behaviour and the way we talk, it cultivates the environment in which we live. Culture also gives us a sense of pride. Of course, we’re all proud when we win an Olympic medal. When we win a world championship. When a Czech climbs the highest natural wall in the United States. But that doesn’t happen every day. And we need that sense of pride every day. Naďa Goryczková, the leading Czech conservationist, told me that she was in London and that the statues of various artists would alternate every three months in Trafalgar Square. The people then voted which statue was to remain there permanently. How do you think the people who walk around those statues feel? I’ll tell you. It brightens up their day. There are countries and cities that build their whole image on this. Vienna, where I’m sure we’ve all been. It has flawless cultural marketing that we can only marvel at. Austria is the undisputed leader in its perception of culture as a basic platform of society. Its success relies on a sophisticated system for the support of artistic output in virtually all disciplines. This is the general concept of the cultural policy pursued by the state. From the protection of historical monuments
and collections to the financial support of contemporary artists and galleries. The importance of culture is also evident from the fact that Austria has no culture ministry – culture is directly subordinate to the chancellery. Culture holds a special sway over us. Its influence can exceed a country’s size and economy. Culture is a powerful force for smaller nations in particular. And we have always managed to harness that. Czech music has earned a name for itself since the Baroque, and every educated person in the world has heard of the Czech Philharmonic and composers such as Martinů, Janáček and Dvořák. The Czech wave of films in the 1960s even taught Hollywood a lesson. And there were Oscars. Laterna Magika left artists and audiences alike open-mouthed. There would be a gap in the history of architecture were it not for Czech cubism. The statues of Ivan Theimer adorn Paris. Paintings by František Kupka and the graphic artist Jiří Kolář are much sought after by collectors. Hašek, Čapek, Hrabal and Kundera are pillars of global literature. And then there’s Prague. Peerless architecture – not only Prague Castle and the baroque palaces, but also the functionalist buildings, which can actually be found across the whole country, including Villa Tugendhat in Brno. They stand alongside world-famous industrial brands as a living reminder of how successful the First Republic was. And they are featured in world textbooks. Now let’s think back about what we have given the world and ourselves in the past few years. Well, we built our most recent concert hall in Prague more than a century ago. Exhibition centres, such as the Trade Fair Palace and Mánes, are – again – from the First Republic. I wouldn’t say, then, that my foreign friends look forward to coming to exhibitions, the opera or modern architecture in Prague. They do enjoy the modern
concerts, though. And old Prague. And this is why Prague is one of the 10 most visited cities in Europe. Last year, more foreign tourists came here than they did to Madrid or Athens. And yet our country and its traditions deserve a lot more. We have both the tradition and the creative energy. We have exciting theatres, artists who sell their work at home and abroad, music ensembles and soloists who have plenty to build on – and do so. No state system will ever manufacture genius artists, that’s clear. But the place they hail from could be afforded better support. Let’s get a bit more daring, what do you say? In 2035, our culture deserves to see Czech films regularly scoop up prizes at the most famous festivals, attract audiences abroad, and expand our Oscar collection by one or two statuettes. We deserve a top-category film festival in the Czech Republic. Czech opera deserves to compete with Vienna and Munich at least a little. We deserve at least one art biennale attracting global talent. A prestigious art fair. And exhibitions by Czech artists in Vienna, Basel and London. Czech literature deserves to gain the same reputation in Europe as Nordic literature enjoys today. I’m not naive. I don’t believe that Prague will be competing with Berlin or Vienna as a music, art or literary centre in 18 years’ time. In those cities, they have been systematically building their culture for decades, and we can’t make up for those lost years. But we can catch up a little with them.
Culture for the whole world Great culture has always been spurred on by the elite. Politicians and wealthy sponsors. The public collection for the National Theatre was an exception, but even here the emperor poured in a lot of money. So we need to start by picking out flagships that can compete on the world stage and support those first. They will be able to draw on money that people have decided to donate directly to culture from their taxes. To purchase pictures for their collections, to invest in skilled musicians and to make a name for themselves abroad. And they will be able to take decisions autonomously so that they can develop. They should probably be concentrated on music, art, dance and similar disciplines, where the language barrier of Czech will not be such an obstruction to world fame. Who will these flagships be? The Czech Philharmonic, the Prague Symphony Orchestra, the National Gallery? The National Theatre in Prague, or perhaps the one in Brno, the new cultural centre in Ostrava? Who gets to pick? Well, it’s going to take some guts. The decision will have to be taken by politicians. Parliament and the government. They need to be helped by hundreds of erudite experts living in the Czech Republic. But it is the politicians who need to find the courage and responsibility. They do have a model they can draw on – again from the outset of the First Republic. It was at that time, for example, that a huge battle was waged over the “national style” in architecture. The modernists defeated the traditionalists and to this day we have something we can present to the world – functionalism. That was a political decision – what major structures we were going to build with contributions from the state. This great architecture then influences other new buildings.
It is the same in other artistic disciplines. The greatest art collections and exhibitions, performances in the most significant theatres or concerts by world-famous ensembles are conducive to all culture in a country. Even in the smallest towns. It runs in artists’ genes; they always want to compare themselves with the very best. They are inspired by examples. So, let’s start with a global humdinger. An exceptional cultural centre. Not the sort built by Bernard Arnault in Paris. Even better. We can’t just keep copying and imitating foreign examples, as we have generally done in recent years. In the Czech Republic, too, there could be architecture that influences structures throughout the world. And inside – at last – a new, technically flawless concert hall and other auditoriums. Such a centre must have a programme, otherwise no one would go there. That’s precisely why we need those flagships. Space would be created there for one of the unique collections that we have put together. Even the Czech Republic has its “golden treasure”. The National Gallery in Prague has one of the most important art collections in Central and Eastern Europe, with a particular focus on mediaeval art and art from the 19th and 20th centuries. The thing is, a lot of people just don’t know about it at the moment. The centre would also host many other exhibitions. One permanent show would trace Czech history from the fables about Old Father Czech to the success stories of our technology firms – everything we’re good at. Let’s show it to foreigners and our own schoolchildren (the latter, naturally, will not be charged for admission). Other exhibitions would display the most interesting global art collections, the sort currently lured to Vienna. All around the centre, it would be possible to use electronic
technology and present multimedia experiments. Our artists would also be given the opportunity to stand alongside the maestros of the world. And one of our largest cities would finally get a new landmark to represent the quality we have achieved. Everyone tells me to be careful because itâ€™s not going to be cheap. Well, it canâ€™t be cheap if it is meant to be a project with an enduring impact. But what I have in
mind is the “Bilbao effect”. The centre I’m talking about would influence the country’s infrastructure and visitor rates. Just as we saw in Bilbao. Until 1997, this was a provincial Spanish town plagued by crisis. The shipyards and steelworks had closed down, and youth unemployment stood at more than 50%. So they decided that instead of trailing behind, they would work their way through the pack until they made it to the front. They built the Guggenheim Museum. Not only do they have a piece of original architecture, but also – and more importantly – the famous Guggenheim Foundation takes care of the exhibition programme. The result? What is now described in encyclopaedias as the “Bilbao effect”. This forsaken city was immediately transformed into a global tourist centre. It wasn’t cheap, costing upwards of $140 million. But it proved to be an extraordinary investment. In the first three years alone, it attracted 4 million tourists and generated EUR 100 million in taxes, including related services and infrastructure. Thousands of jobs were created. A complete change of fortune.
Culture for every town You’re probably saying to yourselves, “Babiš promised a dream of culture for everyone, but so far all I can see are words about one cultural centre. About the elite.” I believe that, even so, I am indeed writing about culture for everyone. I’ve already discussed how culture works: great art will influence everything, right down to the school drama club in the village. In an information society, inspiration spreads instantly. That’s the first thing.
Secondly, why can’t Brno, Ostrava, Plzeň, České Budějovice and other larger cities compete? Even if they don’t build a supercentre by Frank Gehry, they should still be thinking in much the same way as a state. Austria is about the same size as the Czech Republic, yet it has several cultural centres of global importance – not only Vienna, but also Graz, Salzburg and Linz. Again, we’re talking about the courage of regional politicians and major sponsors and what exactly should be supported. What their flagships will be. Who is to be on the national and – at least – the central European stage. For their own inhabitants, that goes without saying, but also for guests from the whole country. And perhaps the world. Some places have already shown that they are keen to move forward. In České Budějovice, they have spent a few years racking their brains over how to build the Stingray, the concert network designed by the famous Czech architect Jan Kaplický. Brno has the Janáček Festival, is planning to build a Janáček cultural centre, and boasts several internationally acclaimed theatres. Ostrava has the great Dolní Vítkovice site. In Žatec, they are preparing a magnificent exhibition on Czech brewing, while Zlín has a unique modern monument in the form of the Baťa estates. All this could be transformed into something exceptional. But I have a third point to make. What I like most of all is that even quite small towns can have fantastic cultural centres. A little different. Smaller, but for that all the more inclusive. Cultural seedbeds. I have recently been handed a project for creative clusters. Sound terrible, don’t they? But I would build them everywhere. We would have dozens of them, preferably hundreds. These are precisely the centres where people from different fields can be creative in one place. Young people in the Czech Republic are trailblazers here. They are spirited and they are willing to try
out all sorts of things, from street art to experimental theatre, and – obviously – they form a lot of bands and troupes. The centres would provide them with a backdrop and facilities, and their work would suddenly have an audience. It goes without saying that there would also be a concert or theatre hall, along with a club, gallery, a café with a small stage, a specialised library or a compact modern museum packed with digital technology. They don’t need to be new hypermodern structures. Older buildings or complexes that cities have no suitable use for could do the job just as well. Or perhaps a site where the cities want to give a boost to the local area and districts. The only condition is that it must be vibrant. If the place is lively, this will also attract the services that thrive on cultural life, and the city will benefit from the taxes. Many towns and cities have wonderful monuments. We try to renovate them, but then the good intentions fade. Beautiful buildings, yet dead inside. If we could find an original programme for them, or move in those cultural seedbeds, they will be given a new lease of life and will become renowned cultural sites. This will also be a godsend to the private owners of monuments. However, what is most important is that we are able to launch a transparent system for the support of young artists in these cultural seedbeds. I even include financial backing in that. We need scholarships for these highly talented people, in much the same way as we have devised a system for sport. You remember my idea of sports “supermarkets” in every town? Well, these seedbeds will be similar in certain respects. They will work with schools and get children interested in art. For example, practical music lessons will make their way back into schools so that, instead of learning when Bedřich Smetana died, children will come to grips with the rudiments of playing
a musical instrument. And I’m sure that gifted children will emerge who will one day play concerts or perform, perhaps, in that new centre in Prague. And then at Arnault’s place in Paris. Cultural incubators will work with town halls to devise projects like the one at Trafalgar Square in London, where people vote for statues. They will join forces with the creative industry, which produces games, video art and film effects. That will generate money for them and prospects for talented artists. Together with towns and cities, they will draw on funds to cultivate public spaces. It is not enough simply to plant shrubbery and trees around roads and new developments. They need an aesthetic final touch. In this way, the funds would support artists. Or they could quite easily focus on folklore, which has recently started to become popular again, especially in smaller municipalities. This is impossible to deny. All you have to do is look at the colourful carnival processions that were held virtually everywhere this year. People put a lot of their hearts and creativity into them. We have quite a few folklore companies, and our carnivals, the Dance of Recruits and the Ride of the Kings are part of our UNESCO-listed intangible cultural heritage. In particular, I can see that people want to understand how their ancestors thought and identify how traditions united them. For smaller municipalities, folklore is an excellent opportunity to draw people together.
Culture for all children Children are our future. We all know that, everyone says it, it’s a bit of a cliché, but when parents take their kids to an exhibition or to a castle, they have to pay through the nose.
Such words, then, are just hot air. Just imagine if all monuments and galleries were free of charge for families. On occasional special days? Every day! Children love them, and even if they donâ€™t they still need to see them. This will open up unlimited opportunities for families and schools to show children â€“ and see for themselves â€“ breathtaking and important things and leave an impression on them. Without having to worry how much a family ticket costs and
whether it’s more important to go to a gallery or save up for some winter boots, skis, and stuff like that. In the UK, all state art collections are accessible free of charge (short-term exhibitions, though, remain subject to a charge). Children’s museums are also a good idea. A few of them have already been created, and in 18 years’ time they will be commonplace. Children are not small adults, and if we are to lure them away from their electronic devices, we can’t keep telling them off for raising their voices in a gallery. Písek Malthouse has come up with a brilliant solution. The kids run wild, but learn so many new things as they are playing. They are not marched among exhibits and projections, but get to play in tubes, models of anthills, and caves, where peculiar toys await them. And yet this is an exhibition of art and a fullyfledged museum. While their children are playing, the parents can enjoy an exhibition on the brewing industry. Older children are given access to more demanding art or music – both cultural heritage and innovations – in a way that is just as attractive. As they mature, they will be in a better position to decide what they like. I could write in much the same way about modern children’s theatres and all forms of culture that should be factoring in a young audience. Free of charge, obviously, as this is a public service on which our future depends. And that’s no cliché.
Strategic culture As usual, deciding who is going to pay for everything is a tough nut to crack. Well, things are going to have to work a bit differently from what we have become used to. There
can be multiple sources of funding. Put simply, contributions can be made by the state, the town and private donors. Take, for example, the Art Institute of Chicago. It was recently renovated according to a project by the world-famous architect Renzo Piano, which was made possible by multi-stream financing involving the public sector, the City of Chicago, individual donors and companies. That is how things get done today. This project contains one of the world’s most important and most extensive collections of art by Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, along with other art of global significance. Including contemporary art. They even have a scientific centre with laboratories specialising in the conservation of artworks and one of the largest specialist libraries in the country. What’s more, the institute enjoys very close relations with a school of art. It is one of only a handful of all embracing art-focused institutions in the world. It is visited by one and a half million people every year. The result is logical: as so many interests converge there, there are also many sources of funding. This is why all my dreams of culture are built around multi-sector centres. It is a sad fact that, in the Czech Republic, public cultural institutions cannot seek financing outside of public sources and they don’t have the money for all of these fantastic new developments. Here’s hoping that this will soon be consigned to history. Instead, they will be given more autonomy and will attract sponsors who should be motivated by “tax assignments”, a scheme enabling people to divert some of their tax to cultural institutions rather than the tax office. Much like the example set by Spain, where they can assign up to 15% of their taxes, and some German states, where the figure is even higher. Such resources could be used, for example, by the National Gallery or the Moravian Gallery in Brno to enrich their collections with the works of contemporary
Czech artists who are starting to make a name for themselves on the international scene. At the moment, they lack the financial resources to build up a collection of modern Czech art. And then there’s one more source of money. The biggest of all. Remember that “Bilbao effect”? Culture can turn a profit. Sometimes unbelievably so. When it’s worth it. French economists recently calculated that every euro invested in the Louvre generates five euros. The success of the Louvre probably remains beyond our reach for the time being, but show me other sectors making such a return! Sure, the point at issue is tourism. Did you know that tourism has funnelled 35 billion into public budgets from visitors to Prague alone? In part, that’s thanks to culture. We may not have the Austrian Alps or the French Riviera, but we do have a vast cultural heritage, ranging from the Baroque to beer, and sights and monuments across the entire country. On both the European and the world stage, the Czech Republic’s strength lies in the unique cultural legacy of its historical towns, such as Český Krumlov, Kutná Hora, Telč, Litomyšl, Olomouc, and Kroměříž. We have 12 historical monuments on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. This is potential that we can not only preserve, but also develop. We already have good examples of what can be done. Take Litomyšl. They boast a renaissance châteaux, a world monument, yet they also had the courage, just a little way off, to build fantastic modern structures according to the designs of top Czech architects. As a result of this move, Litomyšl has also become a textbook of contemporary architecture. In the Czech Republic, more than elsewhere, tourism and culture go hand in hand. We must support tourism with investments in culture, new collections, new ensembles
and new works. And we must generate money for culture by investing in tourism, i.e. easier transport, accommodation and service networks. Ultimately, if there is no culture, there is no vibrant tourism. And if there is no tourism, thereâ€™s not enough money for culture. That would be a strategic error. Culture is always strategic. It really is. It gels society. It influences our behavioural paradigms. Our relationship towards other people, things, events, monuments and public space. But in 2035, it will be more important than ever before. The work we do will have changed completely. An underlying condition for any successful career will be creativity. And it is culture that stirs this creativity in people. Everything else falls short.
A DREAM OF A COUNTRY WHERE EVERYTHING IS WITHIN REACH
You’re hurtling down the autobahn from Cologne to Frankfurt, when a train flashes by and vanishes far ahead in the distance. Even though you’re going 180 km/h. You’re headed for the same destination. A terminal at Frankfurt, the largest airport in Central Europe. A distance of about 200 km. Factoring in the slow-moving urban traffic, it takes you nearly 2 hours. ICE, the German express, will get you there in 50 minutes. Before this high-speed track was put into operation, it was quicker for Germans to drive, too, as taking the train would mean a two-and-a-half-hour journey. No longer. So I had a think about how things are in the Czech Republic. It’s the same distance as Prague to Brno. Our “express trains” do this journey in two and a half hours. By car, it’s two hours, provided that there are no hold-ups on the motorway. A German-type highspeed track would shorten the train journey by at least 100 minutes! And the Germans aren’t exactly breaking any records compared to the French and their famous TGV, which averages a speed of over 300 km/h and links Paris to the whole country. The Italian Frecciarossa between Rome and Milan is gearing up for speeds of 400 km/h. While the Germans are a little slower, they take a different approach. Besides the line from Cologne to Frankfurt, which is the jewel in the crown of the German
railways, they have spent nearly 30 years building their high-speed tracks into a network interconnecting large cities all over the country. The average distance between stations and many hubs is 70 km. That’s unique in Europe. In the Czech Republic, we have the Pendolino, which could theoretically zip along at 250 km/h, but the railway corridors allow it to travel at a speed of just 160 km/h. We dream of linking up with Europe, but travelling to Munich by train requires nerves of steel. Part of the line is single track, as is most of the network in the Czech Republic, and it isn’t even electrified, so we’re looking at nearly six hours. By car, it’s three and a half. This is why, in the meantime, the traffic on our motorways and roads is becoming ever denser and clogging up. Even in our rather small country, travel is a nightmare.
High-speed trains transform states The Japanese have their famous bullet trains – you’ve heard of Shinkansen. These days, they are also used by China, Spain and Italy. Now a new development has emerged – the Maglev tracks in China and South Korea. The trains levitate just above a track made from superconducting magnets and can reach speeds of up to 500 km/h. These are all big countries. But what about high-speed trains in the little old Czech Republic? In the absence of such fast trains, it is not only time that we are losing. My colleagues drew my attention to an interview with the chief engineer of the British high-speed lines, Andrew McNaughton. He gets straight to the point and says that high-speed trains transform whole states. Czech experts who are serious about the future hold a similar view. So I made a few notes about where we should be in 2035. And how fast we should be travelling. In the UK, they are grappling with the same problem that we have. Gifted people want to work in London, the heart of the country, which is where the highest salaries are and they have the whole world at their fingertips. Other large cities, on the other hand, are not as prosperous because they are further away. However, high-speed trains are capable of making whole countries smaller, even if they’re as big as Britain. You don’t measure distance in kilometres, but in minutes. In the Czech Republic, the population is only growing in Prague, Central Bohemia and several other agglomerations. Elsewhere, it is stagnating because people are moving away. When you introduce high-speed trains, you suddenly have an entirely different country. You may work in Prague, but you can live in Plzeň or Ústí nad Labem. How long
will the commute be? Under 30 minutes! Even better: companies and their headquarters will spread out over the whole country. Otherwise everyone will end up in Prague and the regions will become depopulated. It is not only Brno and Ostrava that have the potential to become Central European commercial, cultural and social hubs, but also Plzeň, Ústí nad Labem, Jihlava, Liberec, Hradec Králové and Pardubice, České Budějovice, and Karlovy Vary. These are great places to establish international contacts. The Brits have planned high-speed trains from London to Birmingham, and companies are already relocating there. They’re not just setting up a branches there, but head offices. Wherever you build stations for high-speed trains, large transport hubs and terminals will quickly be established, and all sorts of transport modes will be interlinked. And they have the ideal sites for new production capacities. Services will grow. Ultimately, whole new districts will be formed – little towns in themselves. Thousands of new jobs will be created. The construction of transport hubs should be boosted by the emergence of public logistics centres. The state, regions and private capital can all contribute to investments to create these regional logistics hubs. This will also benefit local SMEs, as we have already seen in Graz and Dresden. The transportation of goods will be speeded up and simplified. At night, when there are hardly any passenger trains, the tracks will be taken over by high-speed freight trains. Cleverly organised and rapid transportation will multiply the opportunities available to Czech firms. The average freight speed on modern West European tracks is about 50 km/h, but in the Czech Republic this drops to 20 to 30 km/h (although, to be fair, lines such as the one between Prague and Děčín are closer to the European average).
All this will provide relief to the motorways. The numbers of lorries using them has risen since the start of the century. Last year was a record-breaker, with 437 million tonnes of goods making their way around the country on the trailers of freight vehicles! Freight trains carried just 97 million tonnes. While this ratio is hardly an embarrassment in Europe, in 2035 we should be transporting at least a quarter, but preferably a third, of goods on the railways over medium distances of 300 to 600 km. There will be fewer lorries on the motorways, which will be easier to negotiate, safer and less costly to repair. Emissions will be halved. We will not be slaves to our cars. In Western Europe, it is common to see businessmen get off trains and then rent a car locally to get around. In the future, these will obviously be emission-free electric vehicles. Or they will be borrowing a bike instead. Visiting grandma or friends, travelling to a business meeting at the other end of the country, family outings â€“ nothing will be much more complicated than our current experience of getting to the other side of town. If this is to be a full-scale plan, we cannot limit our thinking just a few stations. Highspeed trains are expected to use ordinary express tracks, too (some of these allow for speeds of more than 160 km/h), and they will travel to all regional cities and other major towns such as Znojmo, ZlĂn, Most and Chomutov. And alongside the high-speed lines, there will be parallel tracks for shorter distances so that local and long-distance services do not hold each other up. This solution can already be seen on the line from Linz to Vienna in Austria.
Where high-speed trains will be travelling to The map shows where all the principal strategic high-speed railway lines should be. Everyone is interested in specifically how much time they will save. Here it is. This dream of high-speed trains, though, is just a fragment of a whole new panEuropean vision. A little similar to that entertained by Emperor Charles IV when, in 1356, he ordered the â€œGolden Wayâ€? to be built from Passau to Bohemia. It was intended to be part of a planned long-distance trade route from Venice via Salzburg to Prague and beyond.
And right now we have the potential to become a European crossroads again. The whole of Europe is building a new dense network of high-speed railways, canals, low emission roads and catchment-area airports. It should interconnect almost 500 sea and river ports, 300 airports, including Prague and Ostrava, dozens of rivers and thousands of towns. The high-speed track alone will run for more than 15,000 km. It is called the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T). It is taking Europe into a completely new era. We must be involved in this. Three out of the nine main corridors are to pass through the Czech Republic. â€˘ The Baltic-Adriatic Corridor (Gdansk-Warsaw-Katowice-Ostrava-Brno-ViennaVenice)
• The East and East-Mediterranean Corridor (Hamburg-Berlin-Dresden-Prague-BrnoBratislava-Budapest-Sofia-Burgas-Athens) • The Rhine-Danube Corridor (this is to have several branches connecting Strasbourg, Frankfurt, Nuremberg and Munich with Prague, Ostrava and Košice, one branch of which will also link us with Linz and Vienna). This sort of road and railway interconnection with the whole of Europe is a unique opportunity for our companies and their exports. For new investments, construction. For various towns and cities – not only Prague. And, ultimately, for each and every one of us – from Plzeň to Vienna, we can take the train for some opera, Sachertorte or shopping in two or three hours. That’s a journey that currently takes more than twice as long.
Where our motorways will go You may have noticed that the whole of this ambitious project would be impossible without motorways. And that is one of our weaknesses. Baťa drew up a plan for motorways back in 1935 that was meant to interconnect the whole of the then Czechoslovakia, from Cheb in the west of the Bohemia to Khust in the east of the Zakarpattia Oblast. He also had the intriguing idea of linking Brno with a Plzeň with a motorway that would avoid the Prague transport hub completely. Eighty years down the line, we still haven’t finished this network. The idea of a motorway from Prague to Dresden germinated as early as 1938,
but it wasn’t until last December that we opened it (as the D8). Construction took three decades. We don’t have that sort of time anymore. Let’s take a look at how much remains for us to do. The D11 and D3 motorways were meant to join up the Polish and Austrian motorway networks via Hradec Králové, Prague and České Budějovice. The D1 motorway between Prague and Brno. This needs a general overhaul. We could get that done by 2020. The D35 motorway should interconnect Hradec Králové and Olomouc. This northern route between Bohemia and Moravia should provide much-needed relief for the overburdened D1. The D52 finally connect Brno and Vienna via Mikulov. The D6 will resolve perhaps our most burning problem – the connection between Prague, Karlovy Vary, Cheb and the north of Bavaria. The D49 will link is up to another part of Slovakia. It will run from Hulín to Púchov. The D55 from Břeclav to Otrokovice will be a great help for the East of Moravia. We should also complete the high-capacity Prague ring-road to make it easier to skirt round the capital while significantly relieving the strain on the city’s roads. Our motorway network should look like the map well before 2035. Understandably, we can’t imagine that motorways in 2035 will look like today’s D1. Modern motorways will resemble computer games. They will communicate with drivers and foresee the traffic situation. Recommend the right speed, calculate where to refuel or recharge the car according to the current fuel levels, and for
how much, draw attention to traffic jams or black ice up ahead, and pick out what are currently the places to turn off to your destination. If you are running late and you so wish, the motorway itself will alert your family or the hotel where you have booked a room that you will be late. If your car malfunctions, your roadside assistance service will automatically receive a message and, if necessary, can send out a response vehicle. Seamless services. And then, of course, there will be what the whole world has been waiting for since Google launched its famous project:
sections or whole motorways where cars will be driverless. In 2035, most of these vehicles could well run on electricity. These cars are definitely going to need smart motorways.
Where the “water highways” will be To complete the backbone transport infrastructure, waterways will be brought into the equation for recreational boating and for freight. There are three waterways of paramount importance. The Elbe, navigable from Pardubice to Hamburg. In Pardubice or Ústí nad Labem, there will also be major transport hubs, which should serve as a launchpad to a new future for these cities. The Vltava from Týn nad Vltavou to Mělník should follow on from the Elbe waterway. The Vltava and the Elbe together would then provide us with a total of 315 km of “water highways” in Bohemia. The third strategic waterway will be the 55-km-long modernised Baťa Canal between Otrokovice and the River Morava. In the north of Moravia, we will also make the Oder navigable. In this respect, I would note that I think the debate on the Danube-Oder-Elbe water corridor is by no means a closed case. Experts, the business community and politicians have been discussing their vision of a river work interconnecting three seas for more than a century. In fact, this idea is even older. It was – who else? – Charles IV
who considered linking up the Danube and the Vltava, and hence the Elbe. So it is something we, too, should be thinking about.
The Czech transport paradox It all sounds so upbeat. None of us will be in a hurry anymore. The hurrying will be done for us by smart, interconnecting transport systems. However, I’ve also read pessimistic estimates that the preparations alone for a high-speed railway link between Prague and Brno will drag on for an incredible 25 years. This is a major threat to the development of the Czech Republic! In the UK, it took them seven years – from the idea to the start of construction – to prepare the high-speed line from London to Edinburgh. And that famous German track from Cologne to Frankfurt also took seven years to build. We just need to be decisive. Resolute. It’s not enough to pootle along in second gear. We need to be in fifth. Most of the people I’ve spoken to understand very well that large-scale transport projects are in our vital interest. Yet our construction proceedings currently require 21 unbelievably complex steps, and seven ministries have a say in construction legislation. Awful. So what can we do about this? We should introduce just one comprehensive EIA procedure to determine the impact that the project will have on the environment, during which the public could make comments and suggestions. Then there would be a single-stage building permit procedure, in which it would no longer be possible for everyone and his dog to block the project with
objections and administrative actions. We need to roll out a “provisional possession” order, i.e. if people don’t want to sell their land for a defined price, it will be expropriated and building will go ahead in tandem with judicial proceedings to decide what a fair price would be for that land. The case of Ludmila Havránková, the farmer who blocked the completion of the motorway to Hradec Králové, will remain an entertaining tale from the distant past. Although it probably didn’t seem that funny to the good people of that city. Ultimately, let’s find a solution to one of our major Czech paradoxes. We have one of the densest transport networks in Europe. We even have the densest railway network of all in Europe, with only certain regions in Switzerland coming close. But most of the Swiss railways don’t meander between hillocks and townlets like a mountain stream. Our railway network was created in the 19th century and we’ve barely touched it since. It’s great if you fancy a scenic train ride, but our densest of networks also translates into one of the slowest experiences in Europe. Veselí nad Lužnicí in the south of Bohemia and Jihlava in Vysočina are about 70 km from each other as the crow flies. These are major regional hubs, but it takes an express train 110 minutes to get from one to the other. If you take a bus, you’re in for a three-hour journey with lots of stops. Similar barriers, complicating people’s lives, education, work and business, exist in and around Karlovy Vary, Pardubice, much of Moravia and Silesia, and in all outlying parts of the country. They may have decent links to Prague, but beyond that anything is an adventure. Travel is also held up by never-ending repairs and the poor condition of our roads and railways. It has long been estimated that about half of Czech roads and railways are not fit for purpose. And we have been twiddling our thumbs for so
many years that we can really only expect it to get worse. In 2011, 2012 and 2014, we did not start constructing a single kilometre of major transport routes. In the following two years, we started work, in total, at least on 130 km, with another 140 km pencilled in for this year. And yet a large poll by the professional website Profesia last year found that a third of us would have no problem commuting for 60 minutes a day. We need to be able to travel tens of kilometres more â€“ and in greater comfort to boot â€“ in the space of an hour. In order to resolve this Czech paradox of a dense network but slow transport, we need modernised and faster regional lines and better quality roads. This is a task we are now handling as a priority. Between 2011 and 2014, the State Transport Infrastructure Fund was managing a budget of between 50 and 60 billion a year. We have added to that in the past couple of years. In 2015, the figure was more than 90 billion, dipping to 80 billion last year, but set to rise again this year. When it comes to mass transit, we need the Swiss transport system. Unlike numerous other countries, there is little competition between bus and rail transport in Switzerland. All aspects have been designed to complement each other and for timetables to interconnect conveniently. You use a single ticket to travel the length and breadth of Switzerland. You have a Swiss Pass and you use it, in the time you have selected, to make use of any trains, buses and boats. Obviously, Switzerland is way ahead but, with advanced information systems and a clear vision, Iâ€™m sure we could achieve much the same in 18 years. Even, I think, much earlier.
A DREAM OF SMART CITIES
Can a city be intelligent? Can it have an IQ? Dozens of Czech city halls have said that yes, it can. But what do we mean by that? If you run a search online for “intelligent city” or “smart city”, you get thousands of hits. This example captured my attention: Rush hour, gridlock, long lines waiting for the traffic lights to go green, you know what I’m talking about. And then you hear the ambulance. Drivers try to clear a path, but the ambulance still has to slow to a crawl as it weaves between the cars. Now imagine the same situation in a smart city. The ambulance service receives an emergency call. The computer systems, having information about current traffic congestion, select the fastest route in a fraction of a second. They calculate when the ambulance will be in which street or at which junction. Traffic lights then predict its movement to divert and stop the traffic in time. Other drivers converging on the ambulance’s route are warned by their cars that they should go a different way. And who is controlling all of this? No one. The traffic lights, the ambulance and all the cars are resolving the situation themselves. If this is the technological future that awaits us, I will be very happy. Such traffic control systems are already being built in some of our cities, such as Písek and Zlín. And, of course, in many of the world’s metropoles. Then you click on another of the results in your browser and find out that this example with the ambulance is actually outdated. That, in fact, there will be no
congested streets or junctions in smart cities. Never. Drivers wonâ€™t even have to react at all. They will simply enter where they want to get to, and the driverless electric vehicles will automatically take them along routes ensuring that there are no traffic jams anywhere. This is what smart cities are about. Well, itâ€™s at least one of their aspects. This chapter might seem a little like science fiction, but, as they say, the future is already here.
Cities of the future According to a report published by the United Nations last year, two thirds of the world’s population will be living in cities by 2030. I checked out the Czech statistics and discovered that we have already reached this stage. More than 60% of the Czech population lives in a village or town with more than 5,000 inhabitants. It’s a logical choice. These days, people in Czech towns earn a fifth more than those in the countryside. On top of that that, there’s a wide range of jobs, accessible public transport, schools and nurseries to choose from, unlimited shops, doctors on every corner, culture, entertainment, sport… Educated and active people are concentrated in an urban environment. This is where the innovations are. Money, a career, progress. As well as anonymity, a fast pace of life, mental pressure, so much rubbish it doesn’t fit into the dustbins, a higher crime rate, a dirtier environment, bumper-to-bumper traffic… The concept of smart cities, on the face of it, appears to offer a cure. We will make life in cities even simpler for people. And the adverse effects? We’ll get rid of them. Analysts from Deloitte estimate that, by 2020 alone, the world will have invested $1.5 billion in smart cities. A hefty amount of money. There are already world rankings to show which cities of the “smartest”. Each chart comes up with a different winner – New York, Barcelona, Vienna, London… There are debates on how to measure urban IQ. Cities compete to come up with innovations and everyone is thinking about how to improve the quality of life. But – note this – in the very near future the aim will also be how to maintain
theÂ quality of life. In 15 yearsâ€™ time, for example, the human race will need 50% more energy and 40% more water. Most of this is consumed in cities. This is where 90% of the increase lies and is another reason why cities should be smart. They will manage water and energy efficiently. They will even be generating energy themselves.
So what are smart cities, actually? We need a definition, but the definitions we have vary. I have borrowed one from the United States. Eight characteristics of smart cities: Smart governance. This is the eGovernment I wrote about in the first chapter of this book. The digitalisation of all services and relationships. Ultimately, this means that you make payments by mobile, cinema tickets are no longer printed, you only have one electronic card, and there is no need for you to present yourself to the authorities in person. Smart energy production and consumption. The priorities are renewable sources and efficient consumption at the place where the energy is generated. The control system effectively regulates production and consumption in every building. Smart buildings. They live their own lives, they respond automatically to the time of day, the season of the year, the weather, the temperature, emissions and the behaviour of the people inside. They control the lighting and the heating, generate electricity or provide ventilation accordingly. You donâ€™t have to control anything yourselves. The buildings manage everything autonomously in accordance with predefined scenarios. Soon, we will not be charging our telephones in such buildings via sockets. Instead, the building will charge them for us by means of radio waves. We spend almost 90% of our time in buildings, so in advanced countries half the buildings will soon be smart. In the Czech Republic, the figure is not yet even 10%. Smart transport. This means transport that is clean, cheap and fluid. There are no congested streets and parking is a doddle. Maximum use is made of public transport, bikes and electric bikes. In addition, vehicles are shared. What is the point in everyone having their own car when they are left idle for most of the day? Cars will cease to be
a symbol of success and status. Experts estimate that, in the future, every shared city car will be used by eight drivers a day. This will reduce the number of vehicles and increase the amount of greenery. Smart environment. We need efficient water and waste management, restricted emissions, and more vegetation. Trees could even grow on roofs. When you come across the term “vertical parks”, that is what they mean. Smart infrastructure. Sensors constantly monitor energy networks, the water supply, air and noise. Control systems then ensure that the city is functioning reliably and as cheaply as possible. They foresee malfunctions. They are already monitoring water supply networks to ensure that there are no unnecessary leaks. Many cities also have waste containers that indicate when they need to be emptied. Smart technology. All offices, manufacturing outfits, authorities, buildings, vehicles and mobiles are interconnected wirelessly, and advanced systems help to coordinate our lives. The internet is everywhere and free of charge. Smart people. They can use immense quantities of data from mobile devices that keep them informed of the current situation, including the traffic and, say, their state of health. How will we be buildings are cities in 20 years’ time? Experts agree that it would be simplest to build completely new cities on greenfield sites. Well, that might well be possible somewhere in Asia or South America, but not in the Czech Republic. In the last 15 years alone, our cities have sprawled out over the landscape. Take a look at the outskirts of Prague, for example. We must rebuild the cities that we already have. Here are a few examples of how this is already taking place.
Cities in motion Zlín already has a transport system that detects when trolleybuses are behind schedule. It adjusts the traffic lights so that the late trolleybus does not have to stop and can make up for lost time. Other drivers don’t even register this intervention. Public transport here has speeded up by as much as 20%. Barcelona is one of the world’s smartest cities. It is introducing a new parking system. There is no need to keep circling a block of buildings until a free space becomes available. Smart systems will find vacant spots themselves. And the parking place can then be reserved in advance. Barcelona also has several thousand lampposts that respond to human movement and only light up to full capacity when people are walking along the pavement. They can also register mugging attempts and call the police themselves. Along the main avenues, sensors measure air quality and immediately transmit information. The traffic can be regulated accordingly. Ordinary lampposts are starting to enjoy a prestigious status in smart cities. They will be able to charge mobile phones and electric bikes, and will also provide a Wi-Fi signal. In the Czech Republic, we have a million such lampposts and other masts. This year, the town of Třinec will erect 26 public transport stops where people – among other things – can charge their phones. Litoměřice is introducing benches where you can also charge your mobile. The energy is generated by a solar panel. One day, we will also be able to use these benches to recharge our electric bikes.
Pardubice is rolling out major plans, including a smart parking system along the lines of the ones in Barcelona and Amsterdam, and lighting that will reduce luminous intensity to 70% when the street is empty. There will be bike-sharing and car-sharing stations. Pardubice will be introducing parking towers for bikes, while electric cars will have special-rate parking and recharging stations reserved for them. You will receive real-time traffic information in your mobile. There are plans for parking spaces to have roofing with solar panels that will generate electricity while doubling up as a shelter from the sun for cars in the summer.
Siemens manager Leoš Dvořák has discussed the fact that cities will also be able to draw on data from industrial enterprises. For example, systems will estimate how many people are preparing to come to the factory and can lay on extra or fewer buses as necessary. Heidelberg, in Germany, is going to build a brand new emission-free district on a 116-hectare site that will generate all the energy it needs itself. In the US and France, they are testing solar pavements and solar roads. When towns and whole countries are teeming with streets, motorways and pedestrian zones, why not harness them to make electricity? Everything will be cheaper and more efficient. We’re just waiting for the day when we can sit in a café and have our espresso delivered to our table by a small drone. These are very popular examples today. People discuss them enthusiastically on social networks. And we are thrilled that we will be able to communicate in Thai by computer and that medicine will one day prolong human life by dozens of years. This is new technology, plain and simple. But if you meet an expert, in the very next breath they will explain to you that all of these examples together still do not constitute a “smart city”, i.e. the consequences of technological transformation in all its glory.
Cities full of questions You may well have felt that you are starting to get a little lost in the face of so much new technology. I know I have. One example: last year the average European household
had 10 different controls at home. In three years’ time, they say there will be 20. Who is meant to remember what everything is for? Well, apparently this was developed because it is actually old technology. I read an idea in a paper that encapsulated our biological limitations precisely. In the 20th century, computers were just brains without senses. They did what we told them to do. They only had the information that we had provided them with. But in the 21st century, they will gather the information themselves. A trillion times more information than we could ever give them. And they will have this information instantly. Along with the capability to take decisions autonomously. Again, immediately. And this brings us to the principle of the “smart city” and the “smart country” in general. All computers, all physical items and all processes will start to communicate with each other. In doing so, they will take into consideration what everyone wants and what plans and obligations they have. Cities will gain their own nervous systems and people will become part of this new organism, in much the same way as streets or mobiles have. I’ll provide a simple explanation by way of explanation. You live on the edge of town, but you have to pop to the doctor’s in the centre for a preventive check-up and you’re also planning to go to the theatre at some point to see a production recommended by your friends. In the evening, you’re going to need a babysitter. These days, you have to phone people up, arrange appointments, and make plans. In a smart city, you just enter your agenda in your tablet: the doctor’s and the theatre. The smart city has long known who your doctor is and that you have small children, and it also has your schedule.
So it makes the arrangements for you itself. It selects a day when you don’t have important meetings at work. It makes an afternoon appointment with the doctor and buys tickets for the evening performance at the theatre on the same day so that you don’t have to go to the centre twice. It reserves an electric vehicle at a boarding point in your street, another for the journey from the doctor’s to the theatre, and a final one for the trip home. It ensures that you travel without any hold-ups and takes the car along a route where there is little traffic. It books parking spaces. It finds a babysitter. It asks you if you want to reserve a table in a café after the performance. All you have to do is drink the cup of coffee. Meanwhile, robots work in factories, an automatic mini-car brings your shopping to your door, the air is clean, the energy is cheap, and we have eliminated the risks on the street. There are no limits to comfort and convenience. All well and good. Yet there’s always a “but” to everything. Technology will be extremely powerful. It will transform the world so much that the invention of the steam engine and the Industrial Revolution will seem like sideshows. This is a challenge, the likes of which we have never seen before. We will need to answer many questions, and these are political questions. I believe they must be political questions! How do we guarantee privacy? Millions of sensors and devices everywhere will be connected to the internet. That’s obvious. Sensors to the left, sensors to the right. They will collect information about our every move and all of our plans. This is why certain smart cities also have plenty of opponents. They say that Orwell’s Big Brother was an amateur compared to what we’re seeing now. But society must be strong and reasonable enough to protect personal data and the security of the digital network. We will have
to be perfectly informed so that we can police whether politics, media and companies are manipulating us. We must also learn to control – rather than listen to – all new technologies. Other questions are even more important. They were recently discussed in Prague by the German futurologist Gerd Leonhard. Here are at least three that we should concentrate on first: Sooner or later, technology could destroy capitalism as we know it today. Consumption will become cheaper and cheaper, so the whole idea of consumption as the driver of the economy could collapse. We are faced with the prospect that energy could be virtually free in 20 years. We will be buying consumables at a fraction of today’s prices. How are you going to make money on something that is free of charge? Dozens of professions will become redundant. For example, those who work at conveyor belts and, experts tell us, perhaps even shop assistants and drivers. There will be plenty of work, but will everyone be able to retrain? It is said that, in four years, anyone can learn simple programming to a professional standard and write programs for smart cities. What about those who won’t enjoy it? What sort of salaries will be offered in other occupations, such as in social services? What effect will technologies have on social inequality? Technology is considered to be a huge generator of inequality. At the moment, it is mainly the higher echelons of society who have any true benefit from technology. So, first and foremost, we have to ask ourselves why we should even support the technological revolution. What is the ultimate goal? A better quality life. This means:
• People work fewer hours and less strenuously. • They need to commute less to work. • They will maintain or increase their standard of living. • They have plenty of opportunity to use their free time creatively. • They live in a safer environment. • They are a lot less destructive of nature. • Put simply, they couldn’t be happier and they live in the knowledge that they are leaving society and nature in the best possible shape for those who will follow on after us. The state and politicians have a lot to deal with. They need to come up with the right policy, because that is something technology is incapable of. At the moment, we don’t know the answers to all of the questions. However, I do know exactly what the right policy should be. The gains we make from technology must be redistributed so that they benefit everyone.
The effect of smart cities – a smart countryside And so we have proceeded from smart cities to a smart country. Intentionally. Smart cities is a trendy term that tends to ignore the fact that technological transformation is not limited to cities. It shouldn’t motivate the further migration of people from the countryside. Perhaps the opposite. It will also improve life outside of the cities.
Radically. Waste containers reporting that they are full can be everywhere. Smart lighting, smart houses, air control and fluid traffic, too. Cities and their entertainment, work and services will be a few minutes away. eGovernment should be just as natural in the countryside as it is in the metropolis. It is already possible, for example, for aÂ structural engineer to devise a project in his cottage in rural Ĺ umava and then dispatch it immediately to the other side of the world. And thatâ€™s just the beginning. One day, our work will involve four hours of checks, via a tablet, of operations at a production facility 200 km away. No hours of travelling, no isolation, more time for the family, the support of local business. And yet the whole world at your fingertips.
A DREAM OF A VIBRANT COUNTRYSIDE
I was surprised by a rather strange map I saw of the Czech Republic. Lots of white and light grey areas and just seven darker patches. This was a map showing where the population was decreasing and increasing. I remember it when I hear that weâ€™ve been doing very well in the past few years.
It probably depends where you live. Those seven dark patches indicate the agglomerations where people are moving to. All other regions are becoming depopulated. To be precise, the only places where the population is growing are around Prague, Brno, Hradec Králové and Pardubice, České Budějovice, Liberec and Plzeň. In contrast, the areas around Ostrava, Zlín, Ústí nad Labem and Olomouc are becoming abandoned. It’s hardly surprising. This is a problem plaguing plenty of countries in Europe, but I hadn’t expected it to be so bad. I know, you’ll say home sweet home. These are the sentiments of local patriots. The map, however, shows us the reality. The decisions that people are ultimately taking. From most of the country, they are fleeing to a handful of centres. So I investigated whether there was any outlook for the future. I found what I was looking for at the Czech Statistical Office. And it’s a complete disaster for every region. There is only one region where the population is set to be bigger in 2050. Where everyone will be migrating to and where they will be squashed up together, with cars clogging every street. Yes, that’s right. Prague and the surrounding area. Central Bohemia. You can see exactly the same pattern, on a smaller scale, if you look at the maps of the individual regions. Here, people are disappearing from small villages with populations of below 500, and are making their way to the larger towns and cities. The unprecedented opportunities offered by these towns absolutely steamroll anything the Czech countryside can offer. The reasons why people flee to the cities are the same everywhere. A scarcity of local jobs, low pay, awful transport services, and poorer access to education, health services and culture. It takes a lot of courage to move from a village to a large city, but for the time being the prospects there are simply greater. Much, much greater.
Even so, I do hope that the statistical outlook does not hold true. I hope that 80% of the population will not be living in cities halfway through the century. And I hope that we don’t end up like some South European countries, where entire abandoned villages, resembling outdoor museums, are yours for a couple of thousand euros. For the time being, a third of the people in the Czech Republic still live in villages with a population of no more than 3,000. That is one of our great strengths. They know why they want to live there. It’s wonderful to live beyond the boundaries of the city. The people from the city know that too. We are a superpower when it comes to weekend cottages. We have the most recreational properties per capita in Europe. We are a nation of mushroom pickers. Our network of hiking paths is one of the most elaborate in the world. The charm of our hamlets, local trains, chapels, castles and châteaus, ponds and village pubs, all this is unique. What’s more, the countryside helps our economy to be less dependent. It offers opportunities to local producers and shapes the landscape. But it’s not entirely easy to live there permanently. When we launched electronic sales registration for retailers in the spring, we discovered, for example, how badly off rural shops were. Some were barely eking out a living. In 2016 alone, some 300 shops had to close down, but this was not because of electronic sales registration. It was because, in the long run, they weren’t making enough money to keep going. It’s a vicious circle. People go to work and shop in the towns. Because public transport is very bad, they tend to use their cars. They load them up and drive home. Those left behind cannot sustain the local shop, so in the end they have nowhere to buy what they need. In this way, a village loses its natural centre and the community falls apart. Everyone increasingly makes forays into the towns.
Those mayors who were on the ball started to subsidise the local shops. For example, in Stříbrné Hory near Havlíčkův Brod, the town hall made 36,000 from its own coffers available. Elsewhere, they provide municipal premises free of charge so that shops save on rent. They subsidise the shops’ energy bills. There was even a project seeking an annual subsidy of CZK 244,000 for a shop in a village with a hundred inhabitants. Yet all of this, if anything, is a social service. We need something else. We need to start guiding smaller towns and villages towards completely new prosperity. I’ve already mentioned a few formulas in this book. The internet will be everywhere and it will become increasingly possible to work remotely. Why sweat it out in a town when work will be a lot more enjoyable under a tree in the countryside, and everything can easily be shared with the whole world? In the countryside, you can be creative without interference. And high-speed railways and a comprehensive motorway network will help to connect you with cities and the world. The modernisation of society means that things are looking up for rural life as never before. However, that third of the people who live in our countryside deserve a more detailed plan.
What hurts most We need to start by finally redressing the state of rural transport. It really is chaotic. Every sixth inhabitant of the Czech Republic goes to work or a school away from the place where they live. And transport is organised in such a way that, sadly, it has bred the saying “you can’t get by in a village without a car”. Why does it have to be like this? And why do people
hang around for ages in waiting rooms to catch their bus? Why are hundreds of villages cut off from the world at weekends because they are not served by a single bus? We spend billions of crowns a year on transport services! And yet, if Kaufland opens a logistics centre just outside Prague, it has to attract employees by offering in-house transport to get them there. In the countryside, people are facing a curious situation. Well, maddening. I came across a really absurd example. The last bus from a local town to a village departs from the station at 6.05 p.m. It’s usually empty. At 6.15 p.m., the local train carries many people from work because this is the last service of the day they can catch. When they reach their destination, relatives are waiting for them at that station in cars because there’s no other way for them to get home. This is an incredible waste. So we need to organise things better. Transport from villages to towns must be fast, preferably without stops and, most importantly, the services must be provided on a rolling basis. Throughout the day? Exactly. This means a clever interval-based system typical for public transport in cities. In Switzerland, this is the way buses also run in the countryside. It is normal to have more than 10 connections a day. They continue into the late evening. This allows people to spend the evening in town enjoying some culture or going out to dinner with friends. It goes without saying that the buses also operate at weekends. In Switzerland, there is no competition between buses and trains. Timetables are official and compiled by the state. Buses wait for the train, and start and end at railway stations. There are no parallel services, i.e. you won’t find a bus and train going in the same direction at the same time. Why would they? An unnecessary waste. This sort of thing has always been a logistical problem in the Czech Republic. But now
it’s the 21st century, it’s high time we found a solution. You know what I’m thinking of? Data analysis. This is where we need to start. We need to collect massive amounts of information on the actual transport needs of people who live in the countryside. I don’t just mean some passenger survey. We will know exactly how many people travel to school, to work, to the shops, to the doctor’s, and to cultural and sports facilities. , Where they’re
coming from and where they’re going. When. When the doctor’s surgery is open. How companies organise their working hours. When the cinema closes, and so on. These will not just be estimates made by distant regions or even Prague. Then the transport services, routes, intervals and connecting services will be adapted accordingly. If it’s not worth using large buses, microbuses will come into play. Municipalities will also be able to reach agreements with each other and, backed by the state, create their own transport microsystems. Schools are another concern. Young families will only stay in municipalities if primary schools, nurseries and crèches are available. These can’t be – and never have been – in every small village. My money is on an idea called “bundled municipalities”. “Bundled” schools, nurseries and crèches have been shown to work abroad. Several municipalities come together and agree where the school will be, and everyone makes a fair contribution to the costs. Including the costs of transporting the children. Obviously, I’m thinking of the school buses we know, for example, from the US. Safe, reliable, with trained staff. In the Czech Republic, we generally only recognise the sign for school buses when we are taking our driving test. Hardly anyone has ever seen this sign on the road. School buses can then also be used by municipalities to take children to sports or cultural events. Including at the weekend. A lot of children in small villages are cut off from their friends on Saturdays and Sundays. In the end, they become shackled to their computers, resulting in unshakeable addiction. It’s much the same with health services. Support for medical centres and GPs in the countryside is an absolute priority, but persuading a doctor to take up a post there these days is an art in itself. The state can contribute with long-term loans or bank guarantees
for the construction of a surgery, and health insurance companies should provide better conditions for doctors in locations that are off the beaten track. Most of all, however it is again up to the municipalities to agree on what they can offer doctors. Then they can organise transport services and, again, share the costs fairly.
A busy countryside? Itâ€™s not out of the question! Yet all this is just the beginning. An initial condition to breathe life into villages and towns. Here are a few more ideas. Every village used to have its own natural centre. The rectory, church, school and pub. These days, at least a few of those shops would do for a start. To improve their business, shops should also operate throughout the day as a post office, as is the case in neighbouring countries and in the UK. This will make them the centre of the municipality. Business subsidies will focus on villages with populations of under 5,000 as a matter of priority. Mainly for the sake of employment, thatâ€™s obvious. But also with a view to keeping these villages alive. In the absence of micro-businesses, family businesses, services, trades, farms, fruit and vegetable producers, and tourism, villages are condemned to a slow death. Municipalities should receive shares of the income tax paid by individuals living there. This would spur on the town halls to help the formation of new companies.
The state will select particularly neglected areas where tax concessions and other advantages for businesses could be introduced. This is common, for example, in Italy, where they are also battling with population loss in some regions. Municipalities will earn a lot more from tourism. This is an incredible source of money. Of every hundred crowns spent by tourists in the Czech Republic, CZK 41 goes to the state in the form of various levies and contributions. Every year, that comes to about CZK 100 billion, as calculated by the consulting company KPMG. That’s really something, isn’t it? That’s an astounding return on investments. Hundreds of thousands of jobs. However, the way we organise tourism does not particularly motivate municipalities to pour money into agri-tourism, cycle paths, natural parks, the renovation of monuments or accommodation and restaurants. The thing is, only a fraction of the money generated by tourism is returned to the municipal coffers by the state. This is also something we need to remedy. Investments in tourism will flow from four sources: the state, businesses, non-profit organisations and municipalities. Everyone will see returns. If municipalities and local businesses make contributions, so will the state. The Czech landscape offers fantastic potential and, what’s more, tourism enhances our country’s image across the world. In 2035, tourism will be a strategic branch of our economy. Hopefully everyone will find common ground and will incorporate our wonderful nature from protected landscape areas and national parks into this industry. At the moment, everyone is ready to fight to the death: either nature, or tourists. However, we have a solution. We will open the countryside in national parks to considerate tourism.
A creative sector You’re probably thinking there’s a gap in my vision of the countryside. But I haven’t forgotten. After all, this is the sector on which I built up my business. It’s a matter of the heart. Yes, agriculture. It has vanished completely from many villages. And, to be clear about this, it doesn’t bode well. For the landscape, for jobs, and – more than anything – for the security of the whole nation. Growing crops and raising livestock are what sustain us.
So Czech agriculture must be self-sufficient again. This is a task for a whole generation. We must be able to self-supply at least 90% of the food we need. We may have to face severe climate change, epidemics, new animal and crop diseases, military conflict. I hope it won’t be here. Rather, I mean around the world. And if it does happen, there will be nothing to import. Furthermore, the food we produce ourselves is always fresher, and thousands of lorries are not then needed on our roads to transport produce from abroad. As we well know, any goods we do buy from other countries would not be eaten by anyone in Western countries, and then we are nicknamed the rubbish heap of Europe. Unfortunately, at the moment we are only about 70% self-sufficient. We have made things difficult for ourselves in the ridiculous way we distribute farming subsidies. For example, we have earmarked 12.5% of agricultural land for organic farming subsidies, yet only a half a per cent of our output comprises organic foods. That’s a ratio of 25:1. In Germany, the ratio is 6:5. And then there are the subsidies for raising cattle. In the Czech Republic, you are eligible for them if you raise more than 30 cows per hectare. In Austria, you have to have at least 80 cows. You see, there are subsidies and there are subsidies. There are agricultural businesses that do not grow much and do not really raise any livestock, but still they rake in automatic payments for their farmland, which means less money is available for others – the honest farmers who do farm properly. So we’re going to have to revise completely the way we distribute subsidies. In order for Czech agriculture to prosper, those farms that produce little and do not employ people will receive minimum support. Conversely, those who raise livestock and grow crops will enjoy more support. At least half of all subsidies will be channelled directly
into the cultivation of hard-to-grow crops, such as fruit, vegetables, hops, and potatoes, and into the raising of livestock â€“ cows, pigs and poultry. Since 2004, when we joined the EU, livestock farming has actually halved. When all is said and done, this is devastating for nature. In the absence of replenishing biological components, the exhausted soil is unable to retain water in the landscape. If we farm more livestock, more clover, alfalfa and other fodder crops will also be grown, which is an environmental bonus because they have a large root system that makes the soil more fertile. The soil then retains water, is better at drawing nitrogen from the air and we can radically reduce industrial fertilisation and groundwater contamination. In contrast, we will see a contraction in the areas given over to cereals, which are fertilised more and which we export in their millions of tonnes every year without added value. Like some developing country. What sort of consequences would all this have for jobs? Brilliant! Czech agriculture currently employs about 100,000 people, but increasing self-sufficiency to 90% would create at least 25,000 jobs. Plus a further 20,000 among suppliers and processors. I am confident that young people will revise the way they view agricultural a little. Poor student? Go and work with the cows! Thatâ€™s no longer true. If you ask farmers how many purely manual labourers they have, i.e. people who will never put down a fork in their life, they often say that they donâ€™t have any. After all, these days we have combine harvesters without operators, controlled by satellite. Modern machinery and technology, computer control, widespread scientific care for plants and animals, and responsibility for the landscape have made agriculture a creative sector. On top of that, it offers great prospects in our uncertain world because people will always buy food.
Do you know what’s best about rural life? Precisely what we see in German and British films and serials. Something is always going on. People always get together if they are interested in bees, mushrooms, fruit growing, local history, vintage cars, cycling, dancing or chess, when dog and cat exhibitions are held, or when mini music festivals are organised, whatever you can think of. There’s no need to keep going into town. People are active because, in the countryside, no one is going to spoon-feed you. There is no anonymity or indifference. People live together. And as people move away to the cities, this is something that is disappearing from our villages. Yet one of the reasons why people migrate to towns in the first place is because community life has fizzled out somewhat. Take volunteering, for example. A necessary matter, and absolutely commonplace in Germany, the Netherlands and the UK. In those countries, volunteers spend a few hours a week helping out in hospitals or looking after elderly people who are at home. Sometimes, they account for as much as a third of employees. They have their own management and the manager of the voluntary service centre sits on the top management of the healthcare facility. Volunteers don’t work for free, of course, but nor are they doing it mainly to earn a little extra money. It’s simply taken for granted, as natural as going to school or work. Helping one’s neighbours is normal. The people in those countries also have a big say in what the town halls do. For example, the town halls may make some of their budget available for a public vote
on what it is to be invested in. Full-scale political campaigns are then waged. Civic associations aren’t afraid of wrangling with the town hall and they barely give the mayor had time to rest. If I compare that to the Czech Republic, I have to say that it’s a bit dead here. Credit where credit’s due, though. We do have traditions and a large base. The Czech Republic is a land of village football clubs. It is estimated that a quarter of a million people are involved in this phenomenon. And then there are the volunteer firefighters. Another phenomenon, encompassing 350,000 people. There are 90,000 hunters taking care of the landscape. Where things are run well, you might see half of the village at football grounds, and the footballers think up entertainment for the children, too. It is my dream that mayors will support precisely these sorts of traditions. Subsidies serve a purpose here. This will be an inspiration for everyone who has particular interests. We will then see gardeners, mothers’ groups and children’s clubs come forward. People will start to take more notice of what their town halls are doing. This will breed a generation of new young politicians. And we may even start to see the rural population grow again because… It’s great to live away from major cities.
A DREAM OF PRINCIPLED BUSINESS
František Piškanin is a great guy. He’s the boss of Hopi, a wonderful logistics company. I really admire him. We have discussed business and here are three of his ideas that I felt compelled to note:
“Work, do business, employ people, pay them. I’ve been in business for 25 years and no one has ever received their pay even a minute late. If I employ people and I want to get somewhere, I need to communicate with people. Without people, I won’t get anywhere.” “We need capable people. We need people who are willing to work hard, remain focused, and understand what they do. What can I can do myself? All I can do is come to my company, a family business where I have two sons, and be an example to my people. What I say is law. I have to put a shift in. And if I mess something up, then I rectify it. We’re only people. But I’m not going to pass the buck.” “It is essential to pay taxes. This is normal. What is not normal is that, 30 years after the revolution, we are discussing whether or not it is normal to do business and pay taxes. Taxes are a mainstay of the state and its economy. This is a constant.” In my book, that’s how businessmen should speak. František Piškanin has gone very far. His company is an international behemoth providing supplies, transportation and storage in virtually the whole of Central and South-eastern Europe. He’s also making inroads into the West. And he even makes stuff like yoghurt. He is a businessman of the year,
he has received state honours, and he has built his whole group from scratch since 1992. Our prosperity will be built on such people and such companies. That is my dream. These will be Czech companies. Czech power. At the moment, what we are generally seeing in the Czech Republic is the exceptional strength of foreign capital. There are 900,000 people – a third of all employees – working at businesses controlled by foreign owners. They produce almost half of our added value. But every year they also divert more than CZK 200 billion in dividends out of the country. Last year, the figure was as high as 289 billion. And there’s another hitch. The biggest share of foreign capital in the Czech Republic is controlled by Dutch owners. Twelve per cent. But very often these are Czechs who have simply established their companies in the Netherlands. In part, this is because the Dutch have managed to cut the administrative burden by 25%. Another reason, though, is that the Netherlands are a tax haven. Not to mention those who are hiding in other tax havens. Over 13,000 Czech companies have owners there. That’s a lot, isn’t it? Because of this, the state is being deprived of tens of billions of pounds a year. It is ludicrous that owners from tax havens often want money from the Czech Republic. Their companies are able to draw on support, grants and subsidies without any major barriers. Consequently, they are taking resources away from Czech businesses that pay their taxes and plough their profits back into our country. I’m not opposed to foreign capital. On the contrary. We don’t live on a deserted island. Foreign owners helped to get our economy on its feet after 1989. They make investments. They bring in their know-how. Sometimes. They are more productive.
But we also need to say that in particular, it is Czech rather than foreign companies that should be receiving our support, grants and subsidies. We don’t want to be a banana republic, so companies from all over the world should find something completely different here than tax holidays and subsidisation. They should find educated, skilled and cultural people, reasonable taxes and welfare contributions, a transparent environment and simple rules. This is what should be offered by an advanced country if it wants to attract investors. Yet, in the main, it should support domestic businesses, especially SMEs and lone traders. You see, even famous Czech firms began life in small workshops. Laurin & Klement started out with three workers in a rented workshop on the outskirts of Mladá Boleslav. Juta was originally a society of small textile manufacturers. Koh-i-Noor actually started out around 1800, when Joseph Hardtmuth invented a way of making the artificial graphite that continues to be used today. His sons then took over the business. And Baťa? The future corporation was founded by the three Baťa siblings in 1894. Six years down the line, the company only had 120 employees. A normal medium-sized enterprise.
Strength in families Most of these firms had one other thing in common. They were Czech family businesses. Koh-i-noor and Juta remain so today. We have hundreds of them. Brano, Kofola, Madeta, TOS Varnsdorf, Ravak, Unicorn… And these are just the most well-known ones. There are tens
of thousands of small family trades. Dynasties are being formed again. This is one of the best pieces of news I have for you. The story of Zuzana Ceralová Petrofová, for example, attracted my attention. I’m sure everyone’s heard of the exquisite Petrof pianos. This company was established in 1864 and is now managed by the family’s sixth generation. Apart from Mrs Petrofová, her parents, sister, daughter and son-in-law also work there. The business survived the occupation, nationalisation, economic crises, offensives launched by global competitors, and cheap Asian production. They always found a way to make it through. They have 630,000 customers and export 90% of their musical instruments. Their pianos are played by stars such as Paul McCartney and can be found in the residences of Bill Gates and other prominent world figures. It is said that these pianos have a marvellous romantic sound, and I must confess that I also feel it. The Petrofs have been paying their tax at home for 150 years. They also carry out their research and development here. Everywhere they go, they are proud to say that they hail from Hradec Králové. When they do business around the world, they take gifts with them such as the Little Mole, Bohemian crystal and the liqueur Bechorovka. Petrof is a global brand of the highest category and most definitely part of the Czech family silver. And what did we do? When the government released money to embassies to buy musical instruments, many of them made their purchases from foreign competitors. And the video intended to showcase the Czech Republic was filmed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs according to a script that starts with a shot of an American Steinway piano. Crazy. We really aren’t doing this great Czech company any favours. Did you know, for example, that the Pánek masons are the oldest Czech family business?
I had no idea until recently. Dozens of generations of this family have specialised in monumental masonry since the 17th century. It’s incredible to hear the story about how the great-grandfathers, grandfathers and current generation of this family of craftsmen repaired monuments such as St Vitus’s Cathedral. We should be learning about such businesses in schools.
Domestic family businesses stand at the core of our economy and guarantee its continuity. Why? • They’re the ones that hold firm in a crisis. Multinational groups flee to cheaper Asia, but family businesses don’t. They have the wherewithal to keep the business afloat because they need to sustain both the company and the family. The brand and the tradition. They stay at home. • They are the lifeblood of the regions and complement the offerings of large corporations. We can make all manner of imports from China, but not tinsmiths, painters or carpenters. • And definitely not what we want to invent. Unique products from the Czech Republic. • They tend to be fairer towards their employees who, in return, are more loyal. • They are able to adapt to change and demand more quickly than large international companies. • Half of family businesses employee their children shortly after they reach adulthood. They provide them with experience during their studies. Two thirds of owners want to pass on the business to their children one day. • Most importantly, family businesses represent the most valuable asset a company has. The value of a job well done. Solidarity and cooperation between generations. Respect between employees and owners. Responsibility that is not abandoned when things aren’t going as well as they could. In this respect, they enjoy the greater trust of business partners. Sadly, the generation that entered the business arena in the 1990s is now ageing. The chairman of the Association of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises and Lone Traders,
Karel Havlíček, calls this one of the most pressing matters of today. “Those who started out at the time knew that they were taking a massive gamble and that it wouldn’t be easy. Some people today, though, have the opportunity to earn good money, perhaps even abroad or at large established corporations, where they don’t have to do assume such big risks as their parents did.”
So if we want not only a prospering economy, but also a certain national pride, we’re going to have to treat family businesses as the family silver. For the time being, we have been glad to talk about them because it sounds good and everyone nods, but we’re not really helping them that much. In fact, we don’t even have a legal definition so that we would be in a position to support them. That’s where I would start. We will establish the concept of family businesses, a move that has proved its worth in several European countries. And we’ll go even further. We’ll have a law that not only defines a family business, but also a family trade and a family farm. According to the Association of Small and Mediumsized Enterprises and Lone Traders, family business operations could take the following form: A family business would be a company in which the members of a single family hold an absolute majority. A family trade would be a trade-based business in which at least two family members are involved with their work or assets. A family farm would be an agricultural producer in which at least two family members are involved with their work or assets. For these firms, whether large or small, we will come up with an advantageous regime of business, investment incentives, grant schemes and central and local government support. They will take priority because they guarantee our subsistence. Yet will this be enough to persuade children to take over smoothly running enterprises from their parents, to innovate, to employ further people and to pay taxes? Hardly. These days, we owe honest entrepreneurs much healthier business rules. By which I mean all of them, not just family businesses.
How to grow business If I were to describe all of the worries faced by entrepreneurs and lone traders, Iâ€™d have to write a completely separate book. They themselves often say that the main problem is not the financial burden, but the complicated relationship with the state. And that it
would be best if the state let them get on with their business. That the state should set decent rules of the game and leave people to get on with it. So you know what? We will overhaul the environment in which they work. We have plenty of ideas to work with. Entrepreneurs and traders are sure to like them. But I urge everyone to have a read. You may well discover that doing business these days is no laughing matter. And that we should appreciate employers more.
Electronic communications In 2035, there will be a completely new relationship between the state and businesses. Obviously, it will completely computerised. Down to the last detail. Today we hear outlandish stories about how you submit an application to certain authorities electronically, via a data box, and then you have to buy a paper fee stamp and send it by post. Unbelievable. Our system for paying taxes and social security contributions is extremely complicated. Certain studies have indicated that we need an average of at least 200 hours a year to draw up tax documents. Thatâ€™s a lot. Smaller businesses have to spend tens of thousands on tax and accounting consultants. We will draw a line under that. We are already changing the tax law to make taxes transparent and simple. Tax collection will not place a strain on businesses. The state will obtain the information it needs, calculate the tax itself, and then the business simply checks the figure provided. And lone traders will send all of their taxes by way of a single transfer.
Everything is to be simpler All information forwarded by businesses to the state must be in a single place and must be shared. No one will have to send information to ten different authorities. The information that businesses send several times a year at the moment will be dispatched just once and, once it has been sent, no other authority will then be allowed to demand it again. Everyone will have access to an electronic library. After entering their code, precompleted documents are displayed there. An electronic alarm clock will be available. On our computers or telephones, we will see an alert that we have to send a particular document, and the time remaining until the deadline. We will overhaul time limits. These days, it takes at least three weeks to set up a company, and in this respect we round off the top 100 countries in the world. Electronically, this will be done in 24 hours. No exceptions. And the state will have to decide on any applications by a business within 30 days. Silence will mean approval.
Regulations must be transparent and free Ideally, all legislative acts, implementing decrees and regulations would be reduced by half. There are too many of them. And in some cases businesses actually have to pay the state simply to peruse them. I am thinking, for example, of the technical standards issued by the state. The year before last was the Year of Industry and Technical Education. Last year was the Year of Trades. And yet â€“ probably to provide a helping
hand, Iâ€™m sure â€“ the industry ministry doubled those charges. For small design offices, developers and engineers, that meant an outlay of tens of thousands of crowns more. So all regulations and standards must also be available in a single place. They must be kept up-to-date. And obviously, they must be free. All amendments must also enter into force on only one day in the year. The first day of January. This is because, as things stand, firms are unable to keep track of changes and, for safetyâ€™s sake, pay expensive consultants. The state service will include free consulting on how to apply the regulations. There will be changes to the confusing Trading Act, which must have been amended a hundred times or so, and to everything associated with the operation of a small establishment. This is not going to be a cosmetic change. Czech legislation creates a liberal environment where regulation is required, yet complicates access to business where the trade poses no problems at all. For numerous professions in which people perform crafts, there is no need to prove their qualifications, but if you want to open a cake shop you need more than 20 permits.
A one-stop shop for all support All grants, subsidies and support will be arranged by a single business support authority, encompassing the fields of export, innovation and employees. No one will have to run round five ministries, ten funds and several regions. This will also help the state to assess whether subsidies would be appropriate.
Advantages for reliable payers We will create a register of reliable payers. I guarantee that all of you who do business will want to be in it. Do you report everything properly and make payments to the state on time? Great. So, about those advantages. There will be no inspections. None at all. You will have the discretion to set the system for the payment of your contributions and you will calculate taxes and refunds yourselves. If you make a small mistake, no one is going to penalise you. For banks and business partners, you would be great customers as they will not have to ask you for confirmation that you are debt-free.
A single inspection If you have an ordinary retail establishment, you could be in for anyone of 30 state inspections in the current climate. Thatâ€™s unbearable. Once a targeted state inspection has taken place at a company, no other authority will be coming along later. Prior to the inspection, the state itself will have to secure the cooperation of all authorities. And the conclusion of that one inspection must be universally applicable.
An easy three-year ride If you are a new entrepreneur or lone trader and have never engaged in business before, you will benefit from a looser system in your first three years. Simplified reporting and a minimum of inspections, provided that you duly report everything electronically.
Taking companies into schools We need to stop talking about how schools should cooperate with the real world and finally start doing something about it. First and foremost, we will start to motivate companies. If employees teach in schools, manage studentsâ€™ work or engage in practical lessons, their company will be able to deduct an amount from its taxes equal to the wage for the period that an employee has devoted to pupils and students. All costs associated
with the training of employees will also be automatically and completely tax deductible. What you say about that? Just like the electronic sales registration system, I think it is transparent, simple and fair. By the way, that is precisely why we have the electronic sales registration. Transparency, simplicity, fairness. That is electronic sales registration, the very same system for which I am lambasted in Parliament and on social networks. That’s politics. Some of the people I travel among also curse me. That’s a misunderstanding. But thousands of others praise the system because they can see that it has a point: it will introduce order and will support decency in business. You’re probably expecting, quite logically, that I’ll be writing about electronic sales registration in this book. There’s been a whole political song and dance over it for a year, so it would be rather strange for me simply to pass over it. But you know what? I’m going to leave that to others. I feel quite an affinity with the owner of Jablotron, Dalibor Dědek. Mr Dědek also built his company from scratch. It started out as four people in the attic of a house in Jablonec nad Nisou. They thought up electronic systems that, now, are capable of controlling smart houses. For example. These days, they export to 73 countries around the world and their foundation has donated some CZK 200 million to good causes. In one interview, Dalibor Dědek had this to say about electronic sales registration: “I don’t have a problem with electronic sales registration. Sadly, the fundamental principles of democracy are rarely aligned with human morality, so I realise that there is a need for it. I don’t think the state is passing on its obligations to taxpayers by doing this. We are all the state. We can’t have a police officer looking over everyone’s shoulder. The fact that
some shops have closed down because of the introduction of electronic sales registration indicates, in a way, that they may not have been trading completely according to the book. And I have noted opinions, voiced by people around me, that this is great, because we have got rid of rivals who were not competing fairly.â€? I didnâ€™t have the better myself. Again, a few words by an entrepreneur we can rely on.
HOW WE'LL WIN
A DREAM OF SUCCESS
I’m not going to promise here that we will have caught up with Germany by 2035. We won’t. Germany is a giant. Huge capital, the most innovations in Europe, hundreds of thousands of international patents, a strong middle class, political clout. That makes Germany a rocket. But the Swiss make better watches. The Danes and the Italians have better design. And Czech companies have developed better anti-virus programmes. Avast has 400 million customers. Do you know any other Czech company with so many? We aspire to be the global leader in cybersecurity. And we have a few advantages for the future: • A strategic position in the middle of Europe. Trans-European transport arteries will run through the Czech Republic. • We can be self-sufficient in our energy needs. • Our industry is intertwined with German industry. And German investors are pioneers in the introduction of new technologies and in the digitalisation of production. This effectively places some of our enterprises among the technological elite. • We can rely on industry. Did you know that we are the most industrial country in Europe? The latest statistics bear this out. Almost half of the Czech economy comprises industry.
The type of industry we will have will be important. What do you think? (A) Will it be driven by foreign investors, foreign patents and subcontracting for foreign brands? (B) Or will it be driven by our own global companies, Czech patents and inventions, Czech activities and energy? If I cast my eye back over all of the chapters I’ve written so far, I reckon I’ve created about a million jobs and spent hundreds of billions in the process. But if you’ve read carefully, it must be clear why this is. I want us to have option (B). I’ve already praised plenty of Czech enterprises for gaining a foothold in the world. So I’ll add another one as it exemplifies the opportunities open to a small country. I was completely astonished when I visited the GZ Media factory in Loděnice, near Prague. I had no idea that the world’s biggest manufacturer of vinyl records was there. These records have been all the rage in the past few years. It’s a fashion. When I was there, it brought back memories of all the old friends I listened to on my classic record player as a student. Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin… In the 1990s, when the makers of traditional records were going out of business, the entrepreneur Zdeněk Pelc was something of a visionary. He knew that the factory could produce records and he understood that they would come back into fashion. He said that Loděnice would be the last record-maker in the world to
call it a day. And today everything has been turned upside down and itâ€™s a leader. The plant in LodÄ›nice has an ultramodern printer, and they also make DVDs and imaginative covers. They export to 42 countries worldwide and are keen to set up branches abroad. They also work for the Rolling Stones and U2. I felt dizzy when I saw this technology. And it is precisely the Czech way. Visionaries, people who know they are in it for the long haul, and technology.
There are many pitfalls and unanswered questions on this path. Measured per capita, we are the second biggest car producer in the world, but we are also overly dependent on the automotive industry. What are we going to do if this industry hits the skids? What are we going to do when robots start doing the work of humans? We have a strong heavy industry and chemical industry, but we can assume that both of these sectors will experience a downturn. What will we replace them with? We are lacking thousands of technically educated professionals. Where are we going to find these people? Our industry is incredibly energy intensive. How are we going to get enough energy? The fruits of our research, judging by international patents and licences, are below average. How quickly can we remedy this? I’m not pretending I know detailed answers. But I do know of five conditions that we need if we are going to prevail.
Condition one: Industry 4.0 The world has changed. The fourth industrial revolution is upon us. Industry 4.0. That’s what they call it. Apparently it sounds sexy. Well, I’m sure I’ll get used to it. But the fact of the matter is that computers, communication technologies and automation have triggered an insane pace of advancement. What used to take 20 years now takes 20 months, and everything is interconnected. We are rapidly losing the ability to say whether we happen to be holding a mobile, a camera, a remote control or a tablet, and
we’re not sure what our car knows or who is watching us.
When people think of the fourth industrial revolution, they generally picture factories full of robots that someone is controlling from a control room. That’s rather wide of the mark. I met Professor Vladimír Mařík. He is a world expert in cybernetics and artificial intelligence and, among other things, he has five American patents. He tried to explain to me how things are. It wasn’t exactly a walk in the park. If we were to explain it at least a little technically, we would have to come up with a sentence like this: “Complex systems are increasingly being conceived as decentralised systems comprising separately operating components mutually connected by knowledge.” Experts understand it, but the man on the street finds it boggling. So I’ll try to explain how I see it. Dead things come to life. The internet, the internet of things, the internet of services have given them the gift of communication. So it is that, besides people, we are starting to see fridges, lathes, robots, cars, robots, unfinished products and parts thereof talk with each other autonomously. Even raw materials. We could even include our schedules, purchase orders and timetables in this discussion. And workers could be transformed into algorithm creators. Every object in the physical world will have a double in the virtual world – a software module in a computer network. This will contain all information about the real object. Its shape, its dimensions, how it is meant to work, what it is made of, how old it is, and how long it has been in operation. It also includes the rules of conduct: how it can be made and what it is needed for. Where it belongs, who commissioned it, how it can get there, when would be best for the customer. And these doubles communicate with each
other of their own accord, give each other instructions and then pass on commands to the machinery. Professor Mařík gave a rather funny example: The double of an unfinished product knows that the product should have a 6 mm diameter hole drilled in it and painted blue. It also knows that the hole can be made by one of five drills in the workshop. So it sends a request to the doubles of all five drills and asks them which of them are free and which will drill the hole at the lowest cost. It selects a drill and contacts the doubles of all carts in the workshop to agree which one will transport the unfinished product to the selected drill fastest and most cheaply. And now picture that on a larger scale, in every factory and throughout the country. And what effect it will have. Well, plenty big. Customers themselves can define what sort of product they want. Each product can be a little different from the others. The development, design, testing and prototype are all created in the computer. Warehouses disappear because the raw materials or semifinished products arrive at the workshop at a precisely planned time, and the products make their way to customers from the workshop immediately. The machinery itself determines when it needs maintenance or repair and makes arrangements with other machinery for this to be carried out. And the person responsible for checking this could be sitting 200 km away in a garden, using a tablet. They say that productivity will increase by a third. At the very least. Professor Mařík told me about a Siemens switch making plant in Amberg. As it gradually made the transition to Industry 4.0 principles, it increased productivity sevenfold and the number of employees went up by 2%. However, instead of laborious work at a belt, these days they are more likely to be running checks on production, so you can imagine how relaxed
and happier they are. Goods could be cheaper because an hour of labour by a robot is as much as eight times cheaper than an hour of human work, according to Volkswagenâ€™s calculations. This will push up demand for further products or services. Producing quality goods at home could suddenly be cheaper than making them in China. The washing machine in your home will run checks on itself and book a service engineer or, more likely, will repair itself and get on with the washing. And we will gain time. This is like the science fiction we used to read about in books, but now weâ€™re going
to experience it for ourselves. We already have cars that park themselves. In reality, this is a revolution for the whole of society. But not an industrial revolution. A total revolution. Industry is prepared for this best of all. And we have an industrial country. What more could you want? Completely new technologies will be ushered in. I have selected two for you that have caught my attention. The first is augmented reality. Youâ€™ve probably bought something from IKEA. You take what is effectively a jigsaw puzzle and you put it together. Some people enjoy it. Other people arenâ€™t so dextrous. So you put on special goggles. These
identify what you have bought and they start to guide you. Through them, you see not only the box with your future kitchen unit, but also arrows showing you what belongs where, in which little bag you’ll find the right screw, and warnings if you’re doing it wrong. Augmented reality, of course, is a neat thing to have in many professions, including the construction industry. The second technology, which is absolutely crucial for Industry 4.0, is 3D printing. 3D printers can work with metals, plastics and ceramics, and “glue” layer upon layer until we get a chair, a bike or shoes precisely according to a computer model. It is also possible to create tailored goods designed by customers themselves. Even buildings and bridges can be built in this way. 3D printing is getting ready to make food, as well as biological implants for medical purposes. The burning question is: what will be left for people to do?
Condition two: creative work We will not be working much less than now. We will be working differently. Less routine work at a conveyor belt or in the accounts department, and more invention and communication. That’s great, isn’t it? After all, humans are creative creatures. • Industry 4.0 will need millions of unique applications and software programs. All larger companies will be a sort of micro Silicon Valley. • Ever new components will have to be developed for limited series of unique products. New production methods and transport modes.
• The complex technical world will have to be explained to customers so that they can order tailored goods. Arrangements will have to be made for servicing that is precise to the minute, and customers will need advice on how to use complex devices. • The country will have to be fully networked with high-speed internet. Each company and institution will require a strong team to take care of cybersecurity. Huge amounts of new data will have to be obtained and analysed. • A lot of work needs to be researched. We will need a whole barrage of smart sensors and biosensors. Optics, metrics and nanotechnology will experience something like a big bang. Industry wants completely new materials. The search is already on to find replacements for steel and non-ferrous metals. Carmakers are investigating how they can reduce vehicle weight. The Czech Republic’s Škoda Auto is a leader in this field. New energy sources and high-capacity batteries to store energy as though it had been canned are required. • The design-focused creative industry will play an exclusive role in trading. • There will be a huge boom in the construction industry. Smart industrial complexes, smart buildings, smart transport structures – that’s a lot of work to be done by highly skilled people. • This is a historic challenge for a small country with advanced industry, a manufacturing tradition and resourceful people. • If we want to come out on top, the following are essential: • We will seize the opportunities offered by Industry 4.0. In certain areas, we will be global trailblazers and we will be indispensable suppliers of goods and know-how.
• We will be the energy heart of Central Europe. • We will be the transport and tourist heart of Central Europe. • Our patents, industrial designs, new materials, software and cybernetic technologies will be at the cutting edge globally. • The country will operate smoothly and Czech people and foreign investors alike will be glad to work here. To achieve this, we don’t need oil reserves, iron or millions of labourers from assembly plants. To achieve this, we need skilled people who know how to make themselves understood and are given time to engage in creative work. No one should worry that Industry 4.0 will deprive them of a job. While it is true that tens – and perhaps hundreds – of thousands of people will leave strenuous or monotonous professions, we will still need them to look after children, families and seniors, in leisure services and, most importantly, in education and lifelong learning. Not everyone wants to be an engineer, but every engineer will need a lot of services and a well-run country. Just how is our work going to change? • There will no longer be hard-and-fast start times and end times or any one particular workplace. In many occupations, the classic distribution of time into working time and personal time will no longer exist because it will be normal to work remotely. • More people will freelance and work for several companies at the same time. They will dictate when and how much they work themselves. This is also something they will have to learn.
• Design and creative teams will be small and will change every week. • Everyone will devote some of their working time to education and learning. • People over the age of 50 will find it easier to get a job accommodating their physical and intellectual fitness. • Traditional craftsmanship will start to be worth its weight in gold. • And everyone will have more time.
Condition three: global science Every year, 90 billion is channelled into research and development in the Czech Republic. What are the results? A few hundred international patents annually. Which doesn’t seem so bad, until you consider that the European average is in the thousands, and even tens of thousands. And I’m talking about countries that are smaller than or the same size as us, such as Denmark and Austria. In 2014, for example, we sold just 67 licences for international patents. And most of these were sold by companies. Universities and public research institutions were left dragging their heels. This is because we tend to distribute money according to how much research our scientists publish. Although this is a tried-and-tested method around the world today, they often publish in journals that are rarely cited and, most importantly, there is often no production on the horizon. Basic research, theoretical science, these are brilliant
human fields, the intellectual apex of human creativity, but – for the most part – we are hardly closing in on goal. We don’t have results that can be quickly put to use in practice. This is known as applied research and experimental development. The reason for this may lie in the fact that, in the 1990s, collaborations between companies and research institutes collapsed. Some of the researchers’ work was based on corporate needs. These links were severed, so today researchers are lacking money from businesses, while businesses are lacking research results. The main connections between the Czech economy and world trends today are created by the development centres of global technology leaders such as Siemens, Bosch, Honeywell and Rockwell Automation. New Czech companies are catching up. When their innovations take root, they become world leaders. One such example is Průša Research in 3D printing. But universities and research institutes are meant to be the drivers of industry. What they study should also be influenced by companies. In a nutshell, scientists should also work to order. And their work must focus, among other things, on how much money their discoveries will make. I recently came across the idea of national applied research centres. I like it. This is how they have organised matters in Denmark, for example, where nine research technology organisations have been formed that collaborate with businesses and are granted accreditation for short three-year periods. What happens next depends on their results. And the Danes are at least 10 times better than us when it comes to the number of international patents they have. In the past three years, we have set up almost 50 new research centres for
40 billion crowns. This money came from European funds. It’s great to look forward to new technology from Brno’s CEITEC, the biomedicine discoveries of the BIOCEV centre and the PLI super laser. However, these centres specialise in basic research. It is also unknown whether we will be able to keep all of them going financially when the European subsidies dry up. Perhaps we should merge them into one giant research institution and manage it according to our ambitions. This could be an unbelievable success story. Contracts between science and business will help companies to get their hands on innovations while inspiring scientists to engage in new areas of research. Old business hands will see that discoveries are put to good use. Universities will nurture top-class graduates, who will put their own ideas into practice. And the more ambitious the start-ups they establish, the more global companies will be managed from the Czech Republic. Just to be clear: I’m no pessimist. We already have plenty of able scientific teams who are making their mark. And these fields – that’s the future! They include control systems, smart robotics, sensors, drives and equipment for electric vehicles, new materials, including nanomaterials, microelectronics, lasers, measuring devices, cybersecurity…
Condition four: a strong energy sector Whenever people enquire about the secrets of the universe, nature, the success of one country or another, right at the end of their quest they usually find a single answer.
Energy and raw materials. Wars are waged because of resources. Centuries-old empires have fallen because of them. But whoever controls those resources can also guarantee peace. Our energy sector is about to see its greatest transformation since Emperor Franz Joseph, when the electric current made its way to our country, cars hit the roads, central power stations were built and coal became the number-one source of energy. We will be self-sufficient in our energy. Absolutely. And it will be clean energy. Our energy dependence on coal, oil and, at some stage, natural gas will also come to an end. This is unstoppable. Up to half of our energy will come from dynamic nuclear power stations. Perhaps one, may be two. This is the primary pillar of our self-sufficiency. The other half will be generated locally, and it is this that is at the heart of our energy revolution. If you transmit energy hundreds of kilometres, up to a third of it is lost. Centralised sources are vulnerable as they can be attacked, and any outage is a major problem. But any municipality, any business and any building can be a small power station, as I have already discussed in the chapter on a clean country. Some will generate all the energy they need because consumption will decrease rapidly thanks to smart networks and because we will be storing our electricity. These are two groundbreaking technologies. In a smart energy network, we can already connect solar roof panels, giant basement accumulators, small hydropower stations, wind energy generators, smart boilers that produce electricity, heat and cold, local biogas plants, recharging stations for electric vehicles, and so on. Each building will not only consume energy, but also generate it. All sources and appliances will be connected to the information network, which will regulate production and consumption automatically. Even small houses can then supply
electricity to local businesses, and vice versa. In this way, we can produce and consume over 50% of our energy. Autonomous energy islands will be formed. The third pillar of energy and raw-material self-sufficiency is the circular economy. Our civilisation grew on a system called the linear economy: take raw materials – produce – set aside. Which means that, today, up to 80% of products end up in landfills within six months of production. And 90% of raw materials become waste before the product even leaves the factory. However, raw materials are finite, so in 2035 the economy will be working on different lines: reuse – reprocess – recycle. And any waste that does happen to be left will be used to generate energy. Businesses such as Deza already obtained half of their energy from sources such as the hot gases generated during production. This is called these are known as secondary industrial sources. I have come across a calculation showing how energy from Prague’s biowaste could be used to supply the whole city and part of Central Bohemia. Today we convert only a tenth of suitable waste into energy.
Condition five: a new generation You’ve probably heard of Generation Y and Generation Z. You may even belong to them. These are the generations that have grown up with the internet and the mobile internet. And I’m sure you’ve also heard a lot of stuff about them which is not that great. That they only get a job out of necessity, in order to pay their bills. That their priority is free time and having fantastic experiences. That instead of meeting people in real life, they occupy
social networks. That they donâ€™t want to accumulate property and they are not interested in savings. And that this is why they will come a cropper in the face of economic shocks or they will run out of strength. Our success in 2035, however, will depend on Generations Y and Z. They will be in their prime. Can we trust them? We were also rebels once, but when we had families, we started to fall in line with our forefathers and think more responsibly. Will they, too, be capable of this? Well, I donâ€™t think they will ever resemble the people from my generation. But if you take a closer look at articles and studies on these generations, you will see that our prospects may not be that bad after all. The people we call Generations X and Y may be interested, first and foremost, in their own personal lives, but they also take an interest in partnerships and family ties. They have a strong social awareness. The environment is important to them. They want flexible work and they are capable of lightning responses and adapting to situations. They are keen to share their knowledge, they are intrigued by anything new and they are open to innovation. So we could appraise them differently. They are ideally prepared for new industry and the new economy. Otherwise they wouldnâ€™t be capable of work at all. The change that has now started seems to be purpose-built for them. It offers people more time and more opportunity to live freely and be creative. Human creativity is their product and their fuel. A raw material. Completely recyclable.
A DREAM OF SECURITY
This chapter might be heavy reading for some people. Some might fly into a rage, get upset or disagree with me. But I will tell you everything in the way that I have become accustomed to and how I always do. I won’t pull any punches, perhaps, but I’ll be straight with you. I believe that the European Union should be like an old Slavic or Celtic village. Inside it, people trade, visit each other, and help each other. And, you know, sometimes they argue. A normal life. These days we call it free movement of, services, capital and persons. But that comes to a stop beyond the last structure. A palisade, a moat, an earthen mound. A border. Our village can’t accommodate everyone who is looking for a better life. It’s not big enough for that. Hospitality will only be offered to those who can be of benefit to others. The village is protected by guards who are well armed and trained. And if there are too many foreigners at the borders and they are brandishing their axes, the courageous inhabitants will also come along to help. That means everyone. And what about the European borders we have now? If anything, it’s a zone of free movement. It is not protected by clear rules or by enough of our own guards, and I would even doubt the courage of its inhabitants. Of course, Europe today is an appealing prospect for many people. The largest market in the world, the most generous welfare system, and a conciliatory population that shows solidarity and is losing the will and courage to defend itself – something viewed by many as our weakness.
And so it happened. We underestimated the risks. Suddenly, the numbers of mysterious foreigners wandering the Schengen area, where we have no internal borders, are so many that even the police and intelligence services are losing sight of them. They can just swan around. Remember Berlin, where Anis Amri drove a stolen lorry into people at the Christmas markets last year. A terrible massacre. No one stopped him before, during or even after the attack. It was only three days later that they caught up with him in Italy.
And yet this Anis Amri, an Islamic radical, a terrorist hailing from Morocco, had already spent four years in prison for attempting to burn a school down. Despite this, he was not under surveillance. So what about those who’ve never been in prison and of whom we have no records? What about those thousands of people who are swarming in just to get social benefits, with the vision of an income without work? For economic migrants, the most attractive destinations are Germany and countries where their relatives and acquaintances have been settled for long periods. We must do everything we can to make sure they don’t come to us. Are we safe?
What dangers we face Let’s discuss, point by point, what today’s risks are: 1. Unbridled migration. Regional conflicts in the east of Ukraine and in Syria have alarmed everyone and are having a major impact on Europe. Thousands of people are streaming into Europe as they flee the warfare in Syria and Libya. The only solution is to reach peace in those countries, reconstruct them with a sort of Marshall Plan and return refugees to their homes. We will not resolve the problem by opening our borders to them. On the contrary. We would make things much worse for ourselves. We would endanger our own safety and our way of life. 2. A multicultural model does not work. I think just about everyone now can see that the multicultural model is failing. Western politicians have long lied to their people,
claiming that immigrants are integrated in their countries. No, they really arenâ€™t. They have not adapted to our values or our lifestyle. 3. Decisions must not be taken by Brussels. Czechs and Czech businesses should choose who will live and work in the Czech Republic. And if anyone wants to come here, they must adapt to our customs and way of life. This is why we reject quotas and blackmailing by Brussels. We want the same migration policy as they have in Canada, the United States and Australia, where they themselves choose who they let in. Yes, I do believe that skilled people from the same civilisational group as us can be of benefit to us provided that they donâ€™t take away work from our own people. Take Ukraine for example, they have plenty of clever IT specialists there. 4. Islamic terrorism. While it seems that the so-called Islamic State will eventually suffer military defeat, we can assume that radicals will disperse into smaller groups, that they will build up new bases and that they will concentrate on acts of terrorism. Experts like to say that it is not a question of whether they will also strike in the Czech Republic, but rather the question is when, where and how. I fundamentally disagree with this. If our intelligence services are working properly, there is no risk to us. 5. A change in natural conditions. It is estimated that in the next 50 years a scarcity of water and farmland will force millions of people in Asia and Africa from their homes. We can expect the migration flow to grow in size to the extent that what we have experienced in Europe in the past few years has been little more than a dress rehearsal for the future. Natural disasters could also hit us here in Europe. Long periods of drought, torrential rain, the disappearance of groundwater, epidemics, new pestsâ€Ś We need to be prepared for this. 6. Destabilisation of the state? The intelligence services, including our own, have
drawn attention to the aggressiveness of hostile espionage groups. They are waging invisible information missions against us â€“ they are unnerving and provoking minorities, influencing public opinion and yet, on the other hand, backing those who support a heavyhanded regime. They aim to sow panic and destroy our feeling of togetherness. These are hybrid-war methods, i.e. attempts to have a non-military effect on our lives. Their interest in the Czech Republic is logical. Our geographical position in the heart of Europe may be advantageous, but it is here that the interests of superpowers have always clashed aggressively. 7. Vulnerable critical infrastructure. Transport, water sources, water supply systems and the energy sector have always been vulnerable. However, in the past few years we have interconnected them and now control them electronically. The whole economy and our lives will depend on how resistant they are. Any cyber-attacks against them could be fatal. We must be prepared for this. 8. What do we have NATO for? I asked this back in 2015. Everyone laughed at me. There is this misguided impression that when things go really wrong, someone will always help us out. It is important for us to be in NATO, but history has taught us that we can rely only on ourselves. NATO should convert from a defence pact to an offensive pact. The European members should enter into an agreement within the alliance to protect European interests. In my opinion, NATO should be active in the migration crisis. It should attack people smugglers in the Mediterranean and sink empty boats. This could prevent tens of thousands of people from drowning in the sea. We should play an active role in putting these proposals into practice. 9. Unclear developments in large countries. Turkey is a chapter in itself. It is aÂ NATO
member with a million soldiers and reservists and was originally meant to halt the expansion of the Soviet Union. Turkey is now on track to become an authoritative regime. Europe and Turkey are trying to reach an agreement on how to regulate migrants, but the Turks want free movement of their citizens in Europe. That would be a carte blanche for a huge market in forged documents. We might as well just hand our house keys to the Muslims. 10. Demographic crisis. Europe is essentially dying out because of its low birthrate, but the idea that new migrants will work instead of Germans is misguided. We simply must start having more children. Children are our hope, our future, the purpose of our lives, and one of our first slogans was to make a place where our children would like to live. I have a feeling that these days a lot of us are engrossed with Facebook when we could be starting families.
The basis of our security A report was published in the spring that the Czech Republic would be getting its first aircraft carrier. It was going to be built by the Chinese for 60 billion and its home port would be Pula in Croatia. We were building on the tradition from the time of AustriaHungary and this would increase our clout in NATO. The only two questions were whether it was to be called Masaryk or Charles IV, and who the first Czech admiral would be. A lot of people fell for it because they didnâ€™t notice that it was published on 1 April. Well, they also swallowed the bait because our ideas of security in the Czech
Republic are very trivial. In Czech Heaven, a play by the Jára Cimrman Theatre, there is an explanation of what is most important in a war. Superiority in numbers. Fine, we had a laugh, but here we’re not talking about winning some open war that is highly unlikely to break out, but ensuring our security. If you want to talk about superiority, we need to take a different tack. It occurs to me that, in fact, a lot of this book is taken up by how to gain superiority. Superiority means: • At least 90% food self-sufficiency. • 100% energy self-sufficiency. • Absolute control over supplies of water and energy, over our communication infrastructure and over our material reserves. • Strong regions with a developed local economy, which are able to weather critical situations when large central corporations and systems face difficulties. • Abundant commercial relations with the world. If you have business partners, you don’t normally go to war with them. • Moral, intellectual, scientific and developmental potential. For me, that is superiority. Only after that do we need to consider armed force.
Our borders If you ask people what they like most about the European Union, most of them say they like the fact that there are no borders. You can travel from Lisbon to Tallinn just
with your ID card. However, that is not the Union; that is the Schengen area. It has one defect. Anyone who has made it into any Schengen state can travel from Lisbon to Tallinn without any border checks. This means that any country responsible for guarding external borders must really do its job well. And the other countries should make contributions. But the Greeks and Italians might as well hang up a sign on the beach saying “Gateway by Sea Open”. Then there are states in the Union that are not part of the Schengen area – Cyprus, Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania. The Vatican, San Marino and Monaco do not have border checks. This is a little chaotic. So we need to redefine the Schengen area as that old Slavic Village. Anyone who is in the EU must also be in Schengen. Borders must remain borders. And I would say that today this is a major task for the North Atlantic Alliance and for the European Union. I have made the occasional reference to the fact that NATO should not be a defence pact but an “offensive” pact. Everyone immediately came down on me like a tonne of bricks, as though I had said I wanted to conquer India and colonise Africa. So let me explain what my point is. I believe that NATO should be active. Of the 28 EU states, 22 of them are in NATO. That is a major force that has not yet been used to protect Europe. Therefore, the EU’s borders should be a priority for NATO. In addition, the alliance should actively help to stabilise Syria and Libya and, if we are to assist victims of war, we should mainly do it where they are at home. We should deal with the causes of any threat to us, not the consequences. Again, under NATO’s protection. For this to work, however, everyone must really invest at least 2% of their GDP in defence. We have severely underestimated this in the past. Today, we are increasing defence spending by more than
10% every year, but it still isn’t enough, and we must simplify the process to purchase weaponry so that we can meet this commitment, which could be achieved by 2025. In the new security situation, each country should be aware of what is happening on internal borders in the Schengen area. And protect everyone and every structure at home. We need what they call an “umbrella”. Based on the Israeli model. Let’s take a look at how even a small country can ensure its security.
The Israeli model Israel is perhaps the most threatened state in the world. It doesn’t have even a third of our area and it doesn’t have such a large population as us, but its security is rooted
in self-reliance. The Israelis have been doggedly building their state for 70 years, despite being surrounded by half a billion enemies. They face organised attacks and terror every day. And the success rate is said to be 1:5. In other words, for every attack carried out, there are five that are thwarted. Military service is compulsory. Even for women. Every day, 180,000 active soldiers (eight times more soldiers than we have) are on duty, and more than 450,000 reservists are on standby. In all, they can deploy more than a million people. They have their own anti-aircraft defence, weapons they have made themselves, and it is assumed that they have a nuclear arsenal. They have much-feared secret services and much-admired technology stemming from their own research. There are armed guards in schools, hospitals and onboard aircraft. Volunteers keep an eye out for suspect luggage. And children at school are taught the martial art of Krav Maga. I don’t think I would be able to live in such circumstances, but they are perfectly trained and, most importantly, they are willing and able to defend themselves at any time against anyone. And they also have an “umbrella”. A big anti-missile one, called the Iron Dome. And a small “umbrella” to defend against innumerable minor threats. The sort we should have, too, to monitor our internal borders and keep an eye on the security situation within the state. These are camera systems, laser technologies, sensor cables, drones (obviously), and other similar devices. As a backdrop to this, they have robust information technologies. Similar systems monitor transport, hospitals, sources of water and energy, airports, stations, and ports. Hard and soft targets. Day and night, whatever the weather. Comprehensive security.
Israel’s heart of protection against terror is the Counter-Terrorism Bureau headquarters, which is answers directly to the prime minister and has absolute authority. It coordinates everything from special units to the police, who cooperate with the Army, as well as mobile network operators and the emergency rescue service. When necessary, it sets up a war room – a mobile command centre – at ground zero. All soldiers, police officers and firefighters have gained plenty of experience over the years and, in shock situations, are able to cope with stress, cooperate with professionals and keep the nation calm. They have crisis scenarios for every situation. The secret services Mossad, Aman and Shabak (better known as Shin Bet) work together. Our experts have told me that the Israeli security system cannot be adopted wholesale. Not here; not anywhere. We would need those 70 years and hundreds of tragic experiences. We don’t have the first; we don’t want the second. But there is something we can learn. Principally, their coordination. Every component of their defence may have holes, but together they form a resilient barrier. And how will we cope?
The five pillars of our security. What next? The Army. The largest armed force we have today in the Czech Republic is our 92,000 hunters. I mention that just for the sake of interest. Our army is and will be crucial, but it lacks people. It has approximately 23,000 professional soldiers. In addition, we have about 1,500 active reservists. General Jiří Šedivý, who once commanded the Czech
army, recommends different numbers. Our â€œpeacetimeâ€? army should have 10,000 more professional soldiers, active reservists and volunteers so that it is ready for action at home and abroad. Achieving those figures is task number one. What should our soldiers know? They earned immense professional respect in Iraq and Afghanistan. We know how to fight, thatâ€™s undisputed. We have our war veterans and our fallen warriors, who merit honour and our respect. But now we need our soldiers to be equipped for the 21st century. To learn to fight in urban settings, and to defend their own land. This means stronger air forces, i.e. a supersonic air fleet and ultramodern battle helicopters to support the operations of our ground forces. We also need new
battle vehicles for our infantry, modern long-distance artillery and the best sapper equipment. All systems must be compatible with the units of other NATO armies, but the old equipment is often incapable of this. So it would be a good idea to decommission our obsolete Russian and Soviet weaponry and build our defence industry. During the interwar First Republic, the Czech defence industry was a strategic branch of the economy. Česká Zbrojovka and Škoda were our showcases. Our arms industry remains significant, and everything is now falling into place for it to return to its place among the elite. One crown invested in our arms industry generates almost three crowns, and one job here results in the creation of another four in other sectors. And since we have a defence industry, we should also build up Czech military research and seek out opportunities to export to our allies, including exports of cyber “weapons”, an area where we can be particularly strong. Yes, we are also going to have to train our units to deal with cyber war. A war of innovations. Innovative attackers versus innovative defenders. So this is another research task to deal with. The police. We have more than 40,000 police officers. There could be 45,000. All we need do is take another look at the list of ten risks and we can see that the police and every police officer, from the general to the guy on the beat, will also have to “swap engines while the vehicle is in motion”, so to speak. We may well be the sixth safest country in the world, but the police should be highly visible so that we know that they are always nearby and can react quickly. Everyone should know the designated police officer responsible for security in a given place. People should have access to a crime map to assess whether their street is safe. In order
to facilitate contact with the police, we should create a communication portal that also enables us to have video calls with them. The main principle is that the police responsible for law and order on the ground must work very closely with the town halls. On the other hand, investigations into corruption, financial crime or organised crime should clearly be managed from a single central bureau. What Iâ€™m discussing here is our preparedness for new risks. It starts with having a command of electronic technologies and computer systems, but every single police officer should also be trained for acts by extremists, terrorists or the insane, for the collapse of infrastructure and for natural disasters. Trained in detail according to crisis scenarios. Most importantly, the police, the army and the whole of the integrated rescue system should work together and reinforce each other. Everyday internal security is principally in the hands of the police, of course, but if we need to deal with comprehensive security, the armyâ€™s powers will be increased. Firefighters. This key unit of our rescue system must also be thoroughly prepared for new types of crisis situations, including large-scale blackouts or terrorist attacks. We have about 13,000 professional firefighters and we must keep to that figure. At the very least. But this will require investment in new equipment and training coordinated with the army and the police. And the assistance of volunteer firefighters? Sure, this is very important. But they are mainly found in the countryside, so we should be looking to encourage the formation of such groups in cities and agglomerations, too. The secret services. There are three, and each one is managed a little differently. The counterintelligence service (BIS) is coordinated directly by the government.
The head of the intelligence service (the Office for Foreign Relations and Information) is appointed by the interior minister. And the Military Intelligence Service is managed by the defence ministry. So you can be absolutely sure that they rarely agree on how to do anything, despite the fact that terrorism prevention is dependent on them. With this in mind, I think they should all be made directly accountable to the government and the prime minister.
The sixth pillar If we were to hold a referendum today on whether we should restore military service in the Czech Republic, how would it turn out? Well, four years ago they held a referendum in Austria on whether to scrap it and – what do you know? – they decided to keep it. So their six-month military service remains. Switzerland has compulsory military training and it is said that they are capable of deploying an army of half a million within 24 hours. Compulsory military service can also be found in Greece, Denmark and Finland. The Swedes have just decided to introduce it. You have probably noticed that these sorts of ideas sometimes come to the fore in the Czech Republic as well. Military service, they say, turns boys into men. Well, occasionally. Perhaps. We always need men, but a modern army relies on professionals. Personally, I don’t think we should bring back military service. And as far as I know, our general staff shares my opinion. The other extreme is to do nothing at all. We want to have at least 6,000 trained men
and women as active reservists. At the moment, we only have a quarter of that number. They should also have a say in the command and even a representative within the general staff. A voluntary share in the protection of security makes a country strong. In the UK, for example, they have Special Constables. In the US, there is the National Guard. Trained reservists so that the police can rapidly be reinforced in a crisis. In the countryside, there are neighbourhood watches – volunteers who, perhaps in the evening, check whether the inhabitants are in any danger, whether the dam has been breached, whether there is a fire or whether anyone might need any help. These watch units work together with the town hall and the police. In the Czech Republic, a few hundred people have spontaneously organised “militias”. It’s rather wild and, worse still, it’s sometimes a way for extremists to get together. So try to understand the reasonable people who want to contribute to order and safety, and deprive the extremists of their “fun”. A lot of people also group together in all sorts of “defence clubs”. The army should make sure that they are able to help soldiers and the police. Finally, in schools children should be taught how to cope with a crisis. This is not about playing at soldiers. It’s about a responsible citizen’s contribution to true sovereignty. This is a word we tend to take for granted and don’t really think about. In the coming decades, however, the price of independence will rise. It really won’t be easy.
A DREAM OF INDEPENDENCE
Do you know who said that? Jan Antonín Baťa. I’ve mentioned him a couple of times in this book. In 1937 he wrote his vision of a Czechoslovakia for 40 million people. Why exactly that vision? His plan was that our country would easily support 40 million people. And that it would be a European superpower. Whoever would have entertained such ideas about their country… Well, you see, Baťa had a think about this. Who knows what could have been done here had the war not got in the way. But there’s more about him that we should know. His story would make a great film. He was the fifth son of cobbler from the town of Otrokovice. He was apprenticed at the family business from the age of 14. From the age of 20, he managed branches in America and England. When, in 1932, he took over what had become a truly major international brand from his brother Tomáš, he made it five times as big in the space of seven years and transformed it into a global empire encompassing Japan, India, Europe, Africa, and the United States.
Zlín became a cultural centre. Jan Antonín completed the Baťa Canal, a transport structure unique for its time which we continue to include in our plans today. He introduced a 40-hour working week. He went on an aviation business trip around the world (unheard of at the time) and set up dozens of branches. That’s not all. Following the occupation in 1939, he managed to get some of his Jewish employees out of the protectorate. He soon realised, however, that it would be impossible to work with the Nazis and he emigrated. In 1945, Czechoslovakia nationalised his businesses in the country. He went to court to maintain control of his foreign assets and then settled in Brazil, where he built up new companies. And not only companies. He established four towns there where, previously, there had been rain forest and mountains. For this achievement, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, but he withdrew in favour of another Brazilian because he was grateful to his new country. He prepared a plan to settle the Patagonia. He died on the day on which a colossal bridge was opened across the River Paraná, which he had pushed for and which his engineers had designed. This bridge is still named after him. He wrote 40 studies, travelogues, novels and books of poetry. A crazy life. An incredible life. And you know why? Who could have all of these ideas? Well, only an independent and enterprising man who believed in himself, had a dream, and pursued it. A man who, together with his brother, said what our forefathers had considered normal: “We’ll do it ourselves.” Next year is going to be full of celebrations. A century since 1918, when Czechoslovakia was formed. But we have not enjoyed much real independence in those hundred years. As well you know. And now? We are always waiting for something, just as the whole of the European Union is now always waiting for something. For the next
elections here, there, or elsewhere. For public opinion polls. To see what China or Russia or America will do next. The Czech economics professor Milan Zelený has a neat term for this: the point of liberation. This is the moment when we stop slouching and waiting to see what the others will do, and start doing things ourselves. That is the beginning of Independence. Independence is a personal thing. But independent people then grow into independent families, independent businesses and a whole independent country. Proud, confident and successful, a country that is in control of itself. Whenever talk turns to independence, everybody obviously thinks about how to gain and maintain it. We must not forget the history of the last century. We also wanted to be independent, but then came Hitler’s Germany and, after that, the Soviet Union. Now, however, independence depends mainly on ourselves. What China, Russia or Turkey will be like in 2035, we cannot know. But what the Czech Republic will be like, that we should know. And what sort of Europe we want, we should know that too.
Europe as a superpower Cast your mind back to the way our world looked 18 years ago. Do you remember? Probably not that much. Temelín Nuclear Power Station – making us energy independent – was not yet up and running. We hadn’t introduced administrative regions. We were not in the European Union, and we had only just joined NATO. The euro was just being launched in the Union, and everyone was tense. Wikipedia didn’t exist yet. It would be another five years before Facebook made its grand entrance. Seven years until Twitter
was set up. Google was one year old. Today, these companies dominate business and we canâ€™t imagine a world without them. Who would have thought it? No one, even in their wildest dreams, could have imagined 11 September 2001 in New York, which transformed security across the planet. America was the sole superpower. Now decisions are being taken on how the world will look as we move forward. During the Cold War, it was a bipolar world â€“ Russia versus the US. Then, it was
unipolar – America and no one else. But China, India, Brazil and countries in Southeast Asia came to the fore, giving rise to the multipolar world. This means that multiple superpowers will have a say. One of those poles must be Europe. Perhaps you are saying to yourself that it already is. And I’m telling you that it isn’t. Here and there Germany, France… but Europe? No. A strong Europe was co-formed by the UK, but this country took a different stance and has gone out of fashion in the EU. The British were radical, and now they’re looking for a way to leave the Union. We are not making such plans, but we do have a view similar to Britain’s, an opinion also shared by a number of countries around us. We mustn’t be afraid to say out loud that the EU’s motto needs to be put into action: Unity in Diversity. And I would say that we have to make our voice heard a lot more than our geographical size would suggest. Much more. We, as the Czech Republic, are no debtors only inundated by subsidies. EU membership helped to restart the Czech economy, attract investors, increase our standard of living and bring us into the club of the very best. That’s true. On the other hand, hundreds of billions in profits and dividends are now streaming away, into the hands of foreign investors. Take cars, for example. We supply the whole of Europe. Two thirds of the goods that we import are from the Union. Western companies have a fantastic market in the Czech Republic. Just a few years ago, the countries that had introduced the euro were giving us a lesson on how hard we would have to work, and that we must meet the criteria and join the euro area, too. So we knuckled down, we have met the criteria, and in the end it turns out
that those who were lecturing us don’t meet the criteria themselves. Isn’t that a paradox? Now the situation is reversed. The euro area is in a crisis and those who were giving us lessons are suddenly unhappily asking why we don’t join them. Well, we don’t want to at the moment because it wouldn’t work to our favour. Europe is not the same for everyone, as each country needs something different. The north wants responsible economic management free of debt. The south says it needs investment, otherwise it will be unable to service its debt. The Greeks are asking how they are to remain in the euro area without debt relief. The Italians don’t know how to revive their banks. The Spanish and Portuguese want assistance with their long-term unemployment problem. The east wants a better standard of living. And the average pension in Bulgaria is 20 times lower than in Luxembourg. Such is Europe. It turns out that the Union was – and still is – only a “good-weather” project. The crises that have plagued it found it completely unprepared. Europe is unable to handle them effectively, or even prevent them. • The euro crisis is self-evident because the common-currency project was not fully prepared and the single currency has worked to the detriment of some countries. • Then there is the debt crisis. And these debts are on such a scale that the southern countries in particular will never be able to get rid of them without help. • Today, no one is at the helm of Europe. We are living from election to election, from poll to poll, from one night summit to another, and everyone is afraid to name out loud the reality of what we can see. Having a different opinion is out of fashion in Brussels.
• The crowning glory was the chaos surrounding the refugee crisis and the security issues that this has engendered. As I write this, the news on the television is covering a terrorist attack in Stockholm… And so, Europeans’ confidence in the Union was just 36% at the end of last year. No wonder the people of the UK were at the end of their tether. I myself, would still believe in Europe. Remaining together is still a big thing. But we mustn’t put off the changes.
So what sort of a Union should we have? Not a European Union as a single superstate, with Brussels deciding, say, about Czech health services and taxes. About how much we send the Greeks for their pensions and how many refugees the Greeks send us. Nor a union where a hard core is created, where a few countries make a pact and exploit their strength to dictate to others. All this would only weaken Europe and shatter confidence. Decisions must be taken to the benefit of all countries. Do you know what makes Europe amazing and strong? If you travel across the continent, there are moments when it all looks the same, but in the end every country will surprise you. In the common market, we can all have the very best. Swedish machinery. French nuclear research. Czech engines, beer and anti-virus programs. Spanish fish. German cars. Belgian fabrics. Dutch technology. Danish design. Greek ships. Austrian Alps. Italian fashion. Estonian eGovernment. Finnish education. The Polish
entrepreneurial spirit. German precision. British common sense. And then, obviously, European peace. This is why the Union was formed. Together, it is a unique power. I’m sure you noticed that I didn’t write that we can all have “European cars”, “European fish”, “European fashion” or “European Alps”. We can’t. Because this would not then be THAT Europe. A continent where everyone is capable of something first-class. They do it in their own way, enabling them to compete globally, and then Europe can compete with all of this. There is no grouping like it anywhere else in the world. The European Union can be perfect because lots of original and independent countries cooperate within it. It could not be perfect as a single republic where everything is controlled and the same. But it must also remain together. Look for what it has in common. And I don’t mean the splendid parties enjoyed by European officials, but values. Values make Europe enterprising and creative. Thanks to values, Europe can also provide a strong social backdrop for 500 million people. You’re probably aware of the values I have in mind, but I’m happy to repeat them because it is with these values that everything truly begins. Freedom, democracy, justice, solidarity, diligence, responsibility, respect for knowledge and creativity, the equality of all people, Christian ethics and cooperation. Then Europe can be a superpower. And what about us? Do we have a say? We must. But we have to know precisely what we want, why we want it, and spell it out loud and clear.
So… What do we want? The European Union’s greatest added value is the national identity of each country. A powerful Europe thanks to powerful states. That sounds logical, doesn’t it? Let individual countries decide themselves on everything that it is possible for them to decide on themselves. Do you want an example? All right, the energy sector they will
have. We don’t want everyone to be under pressure from Germany, which, without consulting anyone, decided to abandon nuclear sources, restrict coal, and use its weight to pressure other states into adapting. What, on the other hand, should be common, “European”? In particular, free movement without barriers, the market, the fight against crime and tax evasion, the transport network, the support of innovation and student programmes such as Erasmus, the way of life and tolerance for minorities – these should be European. In the future, even European defence will be built on the armies of NATO member states and cooperation with other Union countries’ armies. The EU and the North Atlantic Alliance should now, for example, also protect borders in the Mediterranean and actively help to resolve the situation in Syria and Libya. Unless it wants to relegate itself to fifth fiddle in the world, Europe can’t just let America and Russia control the action there. And then, logically, there is European diplomacy. We no longer want the famous quip by Henry Kissinger, the former US Secretary of State, to hold true. He complained that he couldn’t just pick up the phone and call Europe because he didn’t know who to call. Calling Europe means calling specific leaders. European politics needs fresh blood, capable and experienced people, not incapable and vacant politicians who have served their parties since secondary school. Who speaks on behalf of Europe? The EU has all manner of prime ministers and presidents, but then it is Angela Merkel or the French president who negotiates on behalf of Europe.
It would be like the governors of California and Texas negotiating on behalf of America, making a mockery of the federal president. The people of Europe must vote, as the heads of their states and European institutions, figures who will enjoy respect and authority in the world. The Czech Republic, too, in EU institutions, must be represented by people who will have a competent say in decisions on pan-European affairs and who will also champion our vision and national interest. In Brussels, we should have experts who know that the “Czech Republic” brand comes first. The Union is a strategic destination for us because, today, it defines most of our legislation and technical standards.
Will anyone take us seriously? Well, first of all, we have allies who are thinking along similar lines. That’s right, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary. We are the Visegrad Four, as I’m sure you know. We have always lived next to each other, we know each other and we have common interests. For example, we don’t want our hourly wage to be four times lower than in the Western countries, we want to remain free and we don’t want people to flee our countries in search of something better. From a cultural standpoint, we are also close to Austria and Slovenia. And that makes up the whole of the former monarchy which, in itself, was a superpower for several centuries. Sure, the monarchy has gone. But Central Europe from the Baltic to the Adriatic, together that is an amazing machine. And secondly, everyone will take us seriously if we stand on our own two feet.
We have the potential to be a lot stronger than we are today and to belong to the elite. And that’s going to take a lot of work. Don’t expect the others to do it for us. There is a well-known parlour game: Say, why is your country the best in the world? So, say. Why is the Czech Republic the best country in the world? I’m thinking about 2035 and I know quite clearly how I would respond in 18 years’ time. Because when you see the Czech Republic, you’re putting a reputation into words! Because other countries cannot do without original ideas by Czech companies and scientists. And they will gladly pay good money for them. Because our people are educated and creative. They will cope with any profession excellently, even in industry, in which the country is a global technological class of its own. Because we not only have global brands managed from the Czech Republic, but also innovative small and mediumsized enterprises. Because we have a powerful and self-sufficient energy sector. Because we can defend our security ourselves. Because Czech debts are small, wages and pensions are decent, and unemployment is almost non-existent. Because we have good lives with an efficient health sector and social facilities. Because Czechs know how to govern like few others. Because we know exactly what we want. And that is independence. But where does independence begin? Perhaps in the heart of the fifth son of a Moravian cobbler. When I announced that I was going to present my vision of how we could grow in 18 years, a few people immediately warned me not to be too much of a dreamer. They said I should stay grounded. That we don’t have it in us. That the people just want to live in peace. That they don’t have any confidence. But I don’t believe that. Ever since 30,000 people wrote to me telling me their ideas. I have to say that, for the most part, we had
very similar views. So we do know what we want. One of the messages I received was from a primary-school boy. He said he was 13 and that he also had a dream and he was writing his own vision. Fantastic. I have another ally. Perhaps we will meet one day and I can find out everything I forgot to cover in this book. Children are great; they know how to dream. We should all do our best to keep them dreaming. And I have one more dream. That 10 million people wonâ€™t be afraid to dream. And what about your dreams? Write to me at www.chcemelepsicesko.cz, Iâ€™ll be pleased to read your messages.
Andrej Babiš What I Dream of When I Happen to Sleep First edition, Praha 2017 Processor: Andrej Babiš Submitter: ANO 2011 Press: CZECH PRINT CENTER a. s. /AndrejBabis
I remember that September evening in 2011 as though it were yesterday. It was just before midnight. I'd just got home and everyone was aslee...
Published on Sep 5, 2017
I remember that September evening in 2011 as though it were yesterday. It was just before midnight. I'd just got home and everyone was aslee...