Final Word from Friday, January 2, 2004





Gerhard Schröder called on his countrymen this week to spend more money as a way to drive economic growth. Vladimír Špidla didn't go quite that far yesterday, but he did defend the sharp increase in consumer borrowing. The living standard of Czechs is rising, he said on TV Nova, and families know they can borrow more. What he didn't say is that he desperately needs the tax money that their spending brings. ODS Chair Mirek Topolánek argued that consumer spending is the only thing driving growth. As Špidla's tax hike reduces disposable income, Czechs will be motivated to try to maintain their living standard. Increasing their borrowing is one way. Tax avoidance and tax planning are another. These have been primarily the domain of the rich, but Špidla's reforms could make beating the tax man a game played by a growing number of Czechs. Germany 7

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