Final Word from Thursday, June 10, 2004

The cabinet decided yesterday to go ahead with the 10-year lease of 14 Gripen fighters. ODS objected but has been surprisingly passive so far in opposing the Kč 20bn deal. ODS Vice Chair Petr Nečas told the BBC that his party lacks the necessary information. If strategically timed, information leaks could help ODS bring down the cabinet. Insiders, for example, say the recent Kč 1bn price cut is merely a sleight of hand involving a change in the payment terms but no real savings. There are also the usual doubts about why politicians would approve a deal that is Kč 5bn more expensive than the alternative and that doesn't address the key issue of what to do 10 years from now. The D47 highway contract was a defining moment for the cabinet of Miloš Zeman and was later canceled. The Gripen contract could become a similar defining moment for Vladimír Špidla. supersonic ČSSD


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