Rokytnice - a bankrupt town on sale

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Rokytnice nad Jizerou is a small town in the north Bohemian Jizerske Mountains with over three thousand inhabitants. It has always been a popular skiing resort. Back in the early 1990s, the town's officials expected a tourist boom in the region and came up with some new ideas on how to improve the environment in the region and attract more visitors.

Rokytnice nad Jizerou is a small town in the north Bohemian Jizerske Mountains with over three thousand inhabitants. It has always been a popular skiing resort. Back in the early 1990s, the town's officials expected a tourist boom in the region and came up with some new ideas on how to improve the environment in the region and attract more visitors. For that they borrowed huge sums of money from a state-owned bank. Alas, the tourist boom didn't happen and Rokytnice was left with a phenomenal debt of 400 million crowns (more than 11 million US dollars). Now the town is so broke it can't even afford to pay the interest on the debt and the chances of finding more sources of income are scarce. What is even worse, there is no money left in the coffers for running the local school or for garbage collecting and street lights. The state came up with a radical solution. It organised an auction and a lot of the town's property was put under the hammer. More than half of Rokytnice's property was sold to various bidders. This included a number of apartment blocks, the public library, a children's playground and a hairdressers' shop.

The most attractive item on the list was a parking lot in the centre of the town. Parking spaces are vital for skiers and mountain sports are the only possibility of income for Rokytnice. All that remains in the town's ownership is the town hall, the school and the fire station. Understandably, people are worried. Who knows who the new owners are? What are they going to do with their new property? Are they going to turn the public library into a casino? Or the playground into a junkyard? Even the fate of the council flats is at stake. Those involved claim that it is now impossible to find out who is really responsible for Rokytnice's debts. And so instead of punishing the culprit, the state will now destroy individual towns - Rokytnice is not the only town which has found itself in dire straits. Towns and municipalities in the Czech Republic owe the state, banks and various companies over 48 billion crowns and their debts are growing. Some believe Rokytnice was just the first guinea pig on which the state was testing its new method. For the benefit of ordinary people living in those towns I hope that Rokytnice is the last such guinea pig, and the state will find other ways to get its money back without ruining communities. And I certainly hope that my local council has no debts and our shops and public library will not go on sale like in the unfortunate town of Rokytnice.