Final Word from Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Czechs have many reasons to be thankful during this holiday season. The economy grew by 3% for the year, wage growth was brisk, and inflation was practically zero. The crown was strong and was expected to get stronger, which made imports cheaper but didn't cause much damage to industry. Foreign direct investment slipped to $5bn, but the CR remained an attractive destination. Unemployment stayed high at 10%, yet most people who truly wanted to work were able to find a job. The housing situation improved, with lower mortgage rates and more building. The government ended the year in a stable position. Premier Vladimír Špidla said his two biggest successes were the EU referendum and public-finance reform. His party's missteps helped the Communists to enjoy a comeback in popularity, but without any real risk of a return to the ways of old. More light was shed on some of the CR's darkest moments, such as corruption and police incompetence. The press remained free and started taking a more global perspective. The nonprofit sector survived a tough period and seemed poised for growth. There was no terrorist attack. All in all, it was a good year.

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