Final Word from Friday, June 20, 2003

"We pretend to work, and the state pretends to pay us," was a common expression under the Communist regime. Under the Vladimír Špidla regime, it could be replaced by, "The state pretends to carry out public-finance reform, and the unions pretend to protest." So far, neither side has been very aggressive. The government might succeed in making some changes, especially in the tax field, but the question is whether they'll amount to true reform. The test will be to what extent government waste is reduced. The unions, for their part, are making demands but are being careful not to upset or topple the government. Karel Kühnl of US-DEU says that reform will come, one way or another. Either the government will do it, or the financial markets will. The best the CR can hope for now, it seems, is a pretend reform that delays the day of reckoning until sometime into the future.


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