Final Word from Tuesday, December 31, 2019

For 30 years, give or take, Czechoslovakia and then the Czech Republic have had a mixture of soft capitalism and soft socialism. Grocery prices jumped sharply, but heavy discounting on a regular basis allowed the elderly and other price-sensitive and time-insensitive buyers to pinch their pennies. A restaurant meal could be had for Kč 5,000, but also for Kč 80 in some places, thanks to tax-reporting practices that suited everyone except the revenue man and Ronald McDonald. A villa could set you back Kč 100m, but various forms of social protection, including low property taxes, kept housing within reach of the have-nots as well. This is all changing at incredible speed. Taxes and prices are rising so fast that those without a nice, steady income are being left behind. Hard capitalism, overseen by oligarchs and multinationals, is the next phase, and it will be brutal for those not equipped for it. It's the brainchild of Andrej Babiš, but his have-not voters haven't realized it yet. [ Czech Republic transformation retailing retailers ]

Glossary of difficult words

to pinch pennies - to spend as little money as possible;

Ronald McDonald - the mascot of McDonald's;

have-nots - economically disadvantage people;

steady - regular and established;

brainchild - an idea or invention which is considered to be a particular person's creation.

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