Babiš unveils "new" Czech innovation plan
Czech prime minister Andrej Babiš says the country must move beyond acting like a huge assembly line for the rest of the world. Unveiling his government's innovation plan to move the country into the European elite, he said, "We're going to change the long-term character of our economy. We want to be involved in final production, creating added value." Such a shift, he predicted, would allow Czechs to earn higher salaries, as companies prospered and the state took in higher revenues. "By doing this we can also increase our independence on certain traditional industrial sectors," he said.
For many, these are worn out, familiar words that by themselves will do little to help companies hampered by excessive bureaucracy, an opaque tax regime and an under-funded education system. To his credit, Babiš claims the government's new innovation strategy calls for supporting research, start-ups and spin-offs, smart infrastructure, tax write-offs for R&D and increased marketing of the country abroad. The prime minister is mistrusted across wide swathes of Czech society, including the private sector. However, many business leaders are withholding judgement while they watch to see if he's able to carry out a series of reforms, including a modernization of the construction planning approval process.