Record figures for state investment agency in 2005

The state agency for attracting investment, CzechInvest, had some positive news on Monday: last year the agency secured a record number of investments, worth a total of over three billion US dollars. And if a deal to build a huge Hyundai car plant to Moravia comes to fruition, this year could be even better.

Alzbeta Honsova is the spokeswoman for CzechInvest. I asked her if there had been fears that - as the Czech Republic's labour costs increase - foreign investors might begin to look elsewhere.

"That's an interesting point that was mentioned by our CEO [Tomas Hruda] yesterday, that although the costs of labour and social payments etcetera are increasing and will increase, this is not the main obstacle to new investment.

"And also we are interested in the kinds of investment that are not based on a cheap labour force. The fact that the figures are so good this year also supports our prediction about new investment, that it will not be based on a cheap labour force.

"We hope we attract more investment that will come to the Czech Republic because of the location, because of the infrastructure and because of the good level of skills of our people."

Last year you mediated over 150 investments, over three billion dollars worth - how much of that money is from abroad? Is it all foreign investment or is some of it Czech?

"On the list of investment ranked by countries you can see that in second place are companies that are based in the Czech Republic."

Your figures for last year are very healthy - do you think that can be maintained?

"It depends on whether we are successful in achieving the Hyundai investment - if we succeed, next year the numbers might be even better. But in the long term I think we will decrease a little bit in the amount of investment, because it will be mainly medium-sized and smaller companies."

About Hyundai, there's been a lot of talk about this deal. It would even have an impact on the Czech economy, and would create 3,000 direct jobs and many more jobs besides in Moravia. At the moment I believe there is a Czech delegation in South Korea talking to Hyundai's bosses and a decision is due by the end of this month - how confident are you that Hyundai will in the end choose to invest in this country?

"I will quote our CEO who's been very optimistic about it, and he says he believes that the Czech Republic has a very high potential for this investment."