Fiala unveils new economic vision – but can it deliver?

PM Petr Fiala at the Czechia at a Crossroads conference

Prime Minister Petr Fiala has just launched a plan he says will help modernize the Czech economy in key fields – and make the country a European hub within the next 10 years. But what are the chances of his Restart Czechia programme actually having a lasting impact?

The prime minister was upbeat when he unveiled his new vista for the economy in a presentation at a business forum named Czechia at a Crossroads – and highlighted key areas of focus for the coming decades.

“Transport, energy infrastructure, nuclear power, lithium, chips and trends in information technology. These are six concrete fields that have enormous potential to change our country. Therefore a major part of our strategic investment must go into those very areas.”

Petr Fiala has dubbed this programme Restart Czechia and says it should also help cut red tape, boost confidence and improve the education system. All of this should make the country a key European hub within a decade.

“We are doing what must be done” is the tagline for the freshly launched vision.

Jiří Pehe | Photo: Tomáš Roček,  Czech Radio

But can this ambitious plan succeed? I discussed Restart Czechia with political scientist Jiří Pehe.

“On the one hand, it is a positive development that the prime minister presents a certain vision for the Czech Republic and says in which areas the Czech Republic could develop into what he sees as a sort of hub for Europe.

“But on the other hand, we have, unfortunately, very bad experience with Czech politicians presenting visions and then of course not acting on them, not fulfilling them.

“So it was a nice speech. We know what we should do and where the opportunities are, but unfortunately given the state of Czech politics I’m not sure that much will come out of this.”

Why do you think he’s doing this right now?

Petr Fiala | Photo: Office of Czech Government

“The fact that the prime minister presented his vision is partly tied to the fact that the Czech business community is very worried about the state of the Czech economy.

“There are several appeals to the government, from various organisations in which Czech businessmen and entrepreneurs are gathered, to do something, to get the economy out of the current slump.

“Above all I think that top businessmen in the Czech Republic are really afraid that the economy is stalling not just now – it may be a long term development, because there is really no vision for the Czech economy and the government, in presenting its current package of austerity measures, is basically undercutting the economy.

“So I think it was a reaction to those concerns from the Czech business community. But unfortunately I don’t think that this will dispel the fears that we can see rising among businessmen.”