Czech government considers uprooting from centre of capital

Prague

The Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek recently announced a new initiative to save the government money. The plan revolves around relocating the numerous ministries located in the centre of Prague to less expensive areas of the city. A pilot project is already underway, which could see the Ministry of Trade and Industry uprooted from the historic city centre.

According to Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek, the Czech government is needlessly occupying historic buildings in the centre of Prague, which would be far better suited to commercial or other uses. This week, he announced that newly constructed facilities further from the city centre would save a good deal of money - around 12 billion crowns - and provide better working environments for the various ministries. If the plan comes to fruition, Prague’s historic city centre will find itself far more available to commercial and other interests. But the proposal, which has yet to be officially approved, would require a massive construction of new ministry buildings across Prague. A pilot scheme, in which the Ministry of Trade and Industry would move from the centre is already underway. I asked the ministry’s spokesman Tomáš Bartovský to explain the process:

“We are preparing a description of the project and special material for the government. This is supposed to then be discussed in May of this year. If the government approves the plan, then we can move to the next step, which is calling a public tender for the project, which should take place in the second half of this year. So basically, now we are preparing special studies and materials describing the economics involved and then the government will decide.”

I also asked Tomáš Bartovský about the potential strengths and pitfalls of such a proposal.Specifically, whether the centre of Prague was at risk of becoming a ghost town or a residential area merely for the ultra-rich and also if there were any other governments that had undertaken such schemes?

“Well, I wouldn’t be particularly afraid of Prague’s city centre becoming a ghost town, because I think it is actually pretty lively, especially in the summer. We have noticed that there have been similar projects for example in Germany, when they moved the state administration from Bonn to Berlin after Berlin became the capital city of Germany. Our point of view is that it is better if we have the buildings used, let’s say, for apartments or hotels than for the state administration because the officials stay there for eight or nine hours a day and then it doesn’t live anyway. So it really doesn’t bring any life to the city centre.”

Nonetheless, for all the protestations of saving money, there will certainly be critics who find the image of a government selling off its multi-million crown offices in the historic centre to the highest bidder and packing its bags and moving to the suburbs not only a little suspect but also quite hard to swallow.