Government marks 1000 days in office

Milos Zeman

By Daniela Lazarova.

The minority Social Democrat government on Tuesday marked 1,000 days in office. The Prime Minister Milos Zeman faced journalists in an upbeat mood telling them that although many had forecast his "kamikadze team" a premature end, the Social Democrats were still at the helm and doing a fine job. 'I say with confidence that the Social Democrats have fulfilled 75% of their policy programme to date' noted Mr. Zeman, adding that his Cabinet will hand over the country in much better shape than it was at the start of his term in office. We asked government spokesman Libor Roucek, what he considered to be the government's biggest achievement to date:

"When we came to power in 1998 the economy was on the decline, inflation was rising, unemployment was rising and we totally turned that trend around. Our GDP is growing, as is industrial production and construction, inflation is going down, unemployment is going down - these are the most significant achievements of this government."

We've also seen some results of the government's Clean Hands Operation, it's crack-down on crime...On the other hand, it has been under severe criticism recently with respect to the growing deficit in state and public financing as well as the slow pace of privatization. So how does the government intend to tackle these problems?

"Yes, the deficit in public finances is growing but we have to take into account that the large majority of those debts were made under the previous government. If we look at banks for instance, or state owned companies - all of them had huge debts and what we did was consolidate those debts, ie. we transferred them to the so called consolidation agency. That has made the debts transparent - which they were not before 1998."

The government is also spending a lot of money on revitalizing the economy. Is the money well invested?

"Yes, the money is well-invested and I wouldn't say that the government is overspending. Some journalists, some analysts are saying that the government is pouring too much money into the economy. If we look at last year's economic results we can see that government spending on the economy was actually "flat" ie. that economic growth was created by private investment, mainly by foreign investment."

Let's talk about EU accession talks. We are hearing a lot about the proposed seven year transition period on the free movement of labour for new applicants and there is even talk of a possible barter-deal in the pipeline in the form of a seven year ban on the sale of land and property to foreigners. What is the government's stand on this?

"We would like to see no transition period at all. If that is not possible then we''ll aim for as short a transition period as possible."

Is there a possibility of this being linked to sale of land in this country?

"It is too early to say, because the matter has not yet come up in negotiations with EU member states."