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Grayling Political Digest, June-July 2018

13th July 2018


A Confident Government

264 days have passed since last autumn’s parliamentary elections, which were clearly won by the ANO movement. It took the current prime minister Andrej Babiš almost nine months, many negotiation meetings and two attempts to assemble a government supported by most MPs in the Chamber of Deputies. As of early this morning (1:20 AM to be exact), the Czech Republic officially has a government that has overcome the essential hurdle of a vote of confidence. It was a long and exhausting process, to say the least.

The plenary session lasted for an unbelievable 15 hours, during which many insults were traded, protests were held – both by politicians and citizens outside the parliamentary buildings, and emotions ran high. One of the pivotal reasons is the fact that, almost 29 years since the Velvet Revolution in 1989, the Communist Party is directly involved in supporting the government for the first time. They might not have any visible personnel representation on the ministries, but we can expect them to wield considerable influence for their 7% of votes. Nevertheless, there can be no disputing the fact that we now have a government backed by most MPs (105 MPs) in the Chamber of Deputies.

Speaking of staffing, there were hiccups when assembling the current government, with wrangling over the post of foreign minister and the infamous 13-day career of justice minister Taťána Malá, who had to resign over issues with her dissertation. Compared to Mr Babis’s first government, some ministers retained their posts and others were replaced, so get your bearings with our lowdown on the “newbies”. Let’s hope there won’t be many changes soon, because political uncertainty is not good for business. 

 

Quo vadis, Czech healthcare?

There have been many discussions on the direction taken by the Czech healthcare system and on whether it successfully make the jump from the Communist era’s centralised system to a more liberalised healthcare system. In recent years, industry and other payers have been calling for the reform of certain policy areas surrounding market access, medical devices and the whole distribution of financial resource across the sector.

In the past, ministers have frequently set out to completely revamp the system, but most of these initiatives have fallen short of expectations in the wake of heated debate and numerous various and conflicting interests within the sector. Building on discussions organised by the Healthcare 2.0 initiative, spearheaded by Mr Veprek, ministry officials are mooting a gradual approach, which might just do the trick. Many analyses and evaluations of Czech healthcare systems have been published, but one of the latest published by the renowned The Economist offers a unique perspective and evaluation. Elizabeth Sukkar of The Economist Intelligence Unit was able to identify several bottlenecks that would have to be addressed, and included input from respected Czech experts and the current health minister. The report can be downloaded here.  

 

The Dusk of Plastics?  

Following on quickly from the introduction of a proposal to reduce the environmental impact of certain plastic products, tabled by Mr Frans Timmermans of the European Commission, the Czech environment ministry has announced its own initiative to cut down on plastic use. The ministry has signed a self-imposed agreement with several Czech companies to reduce the use of single-use plastic materials and support other ways to mitigate the environmental impact (the use of porcelain and multi-use dishes, a ban on plastic straws, etc.).

The ministry has also been able to extract a positive declaration on the use of own dishes and cups from the State Health Department, which has issued a written statement that public health authorities will not penalise the use of own dishes to get a coffee or a juice. The authorities also plan to address multinational companies such as KFC, McDonald’s and Starbucks.

 

Trucking with a Light Touch?  

Despite recent hesitation by transport minister Dan Ťok on whether to remain in office in the ANO movement’s second government, there appear to be several initiatives ready for implementation in the transport sector. In a recent interview, Ťok noted that he intended to prepare new rules that would directly impact haulage companies.

The ministry could propose a cut in the maximum allowed weight of a lorry load in the Czech Republic from the current 48 tonnes, which is the second highest figure in the EU. The transport minister has already discussed the issue with MPs sitting on the Economic Committee, most of whom agreed with his plan, and now he plans to discuss the matter with transport companies. This initiative could have a considerable impact not only on businesses, but also on the country’s infrastructure, since over 50,000 lorries pass the Czech Republic every week. 


Grayling Team

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