Candidates Weigh in on Debt Penalties – Zeman Dodges Questions

Milos Zeman

Prague, Dec 23 (CTK) – The Czech presidential candidates cannot agree whether the state should pardon penalties for the debts people have toward it, and they have also different views of the rise in the minimum wage and pensions, they said in a CTK poll released today.


Only incumbent President Milos Zeman, who will seek re-election in January, did not answer the poll questions.


Businessman and lyricist Michal Horacek proposed that the state relieve its debtors of the fines for debts in taxes as well as social and health insurance. This general pardon should be declared next year on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the establishment of Czechoslovakia, he said.


Physician and activist Marek Hilser shares his view. He said such a step would help solve a number of social problems and give people a new chance to return to a normal life outside the grey economy. This would pay off for the state eventually, he added.


Musician Petr Hannig, head of the marginal Reasonable party, also considers the pardoning of debt penalties a reasonable idea.


On the other hand, Skoda Auto former board chairman Vratislav Kulhanek takes a reserved stance on this measure, while former Science Academy chairman Jiri Drahos does not regard this as a good idea at all.


Former Civic Democrat (ODS) chairman and ex-PM Mirek Topolanek pointed out that it would be a morally hazardous step. He said debt penalties could be pardoned in individual cases, but he would be against applying this measure across the board.


Asked about pension indexation, Drahos said it should follow exact and predictable rules and not the will of the governing politicians.


Former ambassador to France Pavel Fischer said the indexation was more or less underway. However, both pensions and the minimum wage should be raised “in a more urgent way,” he added.

Both Hannig and Horacek support a rise in pensions and the minimum wage as well. However, Horacek noted that pensions must be indexed reasonably not to threaten either the private or the public spheres. Hilser supported pension indexation corresponding to the possibilities of the economy.


On the contrary, Defence and Security Industry Association President Jiri Hynek, running for the Realists marginal party, does not support a rise in the minimum wage. “The pension indexation must meet the state’s economic possibilities,” he said.


Topolanek does not like a rise in the minimum wage either since “it actually increases unemployment and does not solve the problem of low wages at all,” he said.


He is for a legal pension indexation based on average pay and inflation.


A rise in pensions is a natural process and this should not be “a mere indexation,” Kulhanek said. “However, a wage depends on a number of various economic factors that the state does not and should not influence,” he said.


State expenditures should correspond to its revenues if possible, Hynek said. “It is not good to raise the state debt at the time of economic growth,” he added.


Hilser also said he would lower the state debt during the economic prosperity.


Drahos said this would depend on circumstances. “It state expenditures went to investments, for instance, that would help increase its wealth, this might be preferred to cutting the state debt,” he said.


Fischer said he welcomed any step to help use the budget means responsibly. It is irresponsible to raise the state debt and thereby burden young generations, he said.


Horacek said he was convinced that the state debt should be cut by increasing the state efficiency.


The state should undoubtedly lower its indebtedness at the expense of expenditures and at present there is a unique situation to materialise this, Topolanek said.