Nominations complete for Czech caretaker government

Jiří Rusnok, Jan Fischer, photo: CTK

Designated Czech prime minister Jiří Rusnok on Monday announced he has filled the last vacancy in his caretaker cabinet. The post of finance minister is to be taken up by Jan Fischer, former presidential candidate and himself an ex-prime minister of a technocrat government. Mr Fischer said boosting economic growth would be his top priority in his new role. The government is to be appointed later this week, and will then have 30 days to seek confidence from the lower house.

Jan Fischer, photo: Štěpánka Budková
Jan Fischer has become the 15th nominee for the Czech technocrat cabinet that is set to replace the centre-right government led by prime minister Petr Nečas. Mr Fischer, a statistician by profession, will take up the post of finance minister, and will also serve as deputy prime minister, as designated cabinet leader Jiří Rusnok told reporters on Monday.

“Mr Fischer will head the Finance Ministry and at the same time, will become a deputy prime minister of this government. We have met several times; it’s a difficult job for anyone, so we agreed that the two of us will work as a team to make sure our public finances are under tight control, which is a priority for this government.”

For his part, Jan Fischer briefly outlined some of the priorities he said he would pursue in his new position. In a country going through the longest recession on record, economic growth is high of Mr Fischer’s list.

Jiří Rusnok, photo: ČTK
“This country needs to return to economic growth, and its fiscal policy must reflect this. We will push for a cheaper administration but our priorities must include investments into transport infrastructure, into science and research so that we can bring back long-term growth.

“We don’t want to carry out any far-reaching changes to the tax system and tax rates. But it will be my duty to improve our tax collection discipline, and to prevent tax evasion.”

Jan Fischer, once a communist party member, finished third in January’s popular presidential election. He endorsed the eventual winner, Miloš Zeman. But on Monday, he rejected allegations that his nomination for the government was a payback from President Zeman.

Mr Fischer is also to cover some 5.5 million crowns of debt originating in his own presidential campaign. When asked whether he was the right person to oversee public finances while being unable to repay his own debt, Fischer said all his bills would be paid “today or tomorrow”.

Jiří Cienciala, photo: CTK
In the caretaker government, Jan Fischer joins, among others, Jan Kohout, nominated for the post of the foreign minister; Jiří Cienciala who is set to head the Ministry of Industry and Trade and Martin Pecina who has been nominated for interior minister. Defence Minister Vlastimil Picek is the only member of the previous government to retain his post.

President Miloš Zeman is set to appoint the technocrat cabinet of Jiří Rusnok on Wednesday. The government will then have 30 days to ask the lower house for a vote of confidence, a move the outcome of which is difficult to predict.