Speeches

1. 1. 2020 21:24

Prime minister's New Year's speech

Prime minister's New Year's speech, 1 January 2020.
Prime minister's New Year's speech, 1 January 2020.

Dear fellow citizens,

For some time now I have been asking myself a fundamental question: why, at a time when nothing threatens us, nor is any foreign power interfering in our affairs, and when we have – as a country and as citizens – our fate truly in our own hands after centuries, do we have so few reasons for cheerful satisfaction?"

These words were spoken exactly twenty-eight years ago, in the year 1992 in the New Year's speech of the President at the time, Václav Havel.

And now, so many years later, I sometimes ask myself a similar question. A somewhat simpler one, actually.

Can we take joy in the fact that we are so well off?

You don't think we are? I do! I'll tell you why. And I'll also tell you what we are planning to do so that this era, in my opinion a good one, doesn't end. If you give me a minute, I'll tell you. And perhaps, miraculously, we'll agree. I would like that.

Yes, the Czech Republic is doing well. Very well. Our country is experiencing one of the most successful and most fortunate periods in its modern history.

On what basis do I have the nerve to tell you that?

After 17 years, Moody's raised our rating to the highest point in history: the same level as Belgium. Thanks to government reforms and public finances, in terms of per-capita gross national product we are better off than Portugal and Greece. And we've also overtaken Spain.

We have the lowest differences in income between the rich and the poor, and Czechs are also the least at risk of poverty and social exclusion.

We have the lowest unemployment in the European Union! 2.1 percent.

According to the Deloitte Quality of Life Index, our Czech Republic is not only ranked higher than the United States, but also higher than, say, Singapore or Israel. And it is by far the best off V4 country.

Of the thirty-six countries evaluated by the OECD, we are the tenth best in respect of clarity and stability of the tax system. Ahead of Austria, Canada and even Germany.

People's pride in our country is the highest in the last fourteen years. We Czechs, Moravians and Silesians are proud of the Czech Republic. I am very glad of that.

We live in the freest and most economically successful time. We should remind ourselves of that and appreciate it every day.

Our government confidently represents our country abroad.

At the UN and in Brussels at the European Council, where all the prime ministers and presidents of the European Union sit, is the most important place where I fight hard for Czech interests. It is there that we refused the mandatory quotas for illegal migrants and the redistribution thereof, because the safety of our citizens is an absolute priority for us. It is there that we managed to push through the fact that our industrial country, with its energy system built on coal power plants, needs more money to achieve carbon neutrality. It is there that we promoted nuclear energy, because energy safety is vital for us. That is the place where, every year, we battle for more European money for the Czech Republic for the years 2021 to 2027. It is where I actively present our vision for a strong, united and safe Europe.

We are growing. We are getting richer. More than most eurozone and European Union countries. We thank you for believing in us and spending money here at home and having faith in our stability.

The long-term growth of our country must, however, be based primarily on investments. For this reason, we have compiled the National Investment Plan: 20 000 projects valued at eight trillion, the complete investment potential of our country for the next 30 years. Imagine I was Harry Potter and had a magic wand and could transform these projects into reality right now. We would immediately become a second Switzerland. The plan is for 11 million people. Why? Because we don't want our nation to die out. Our future depends on our children. We must secure accessible housing for young families, as well as sufficient capacity in our schools and nursery schools and children's groups. After 12 years we are significantly raising the parental allowance, and we have approved shared job positions for mothers so that they can return to work sooner.

I know the opposition says that our national plan is unrealistic. Once again: the same scepticism, the negativism at all costs. I will impress upon the ministers to actively work with this plan and implement it in line with the readiness of individual projects. But I also want to involve you, all the citizens of our country. In the discussion. In national consultations. Look and see what you think the plan is missing or, on the other hand, what you don't want in it. Let's discuss this. Write me at the e-mail address narodnikonzultace@vlada.cz.

The source of funding for the plan will be the Czech budget, the EU budget, the National Investment Fund and PPP projects, meaning that we will call on private companies to compete over realisation of the investments, which the state will then lease long-term. At least we can compare how quickly and for what money private companies are able to build.

Seventy-seven percent of the whole investment plan consists of transport infrastructure. Thirty years after the fall of communism, our motorway network should already have been completed. We are therefore playing an intensive game of catch-up right now. Since I entered the cabinet, we have opened 91 kilometres of new motorways and started construction on a further 163 kilometres. This year alone we opened 34 kilometres and started building a further 40.
Naturally we will also continue with refurbishing the D1, which will definitively end in the year 2021. That will be 160 kilometres of de facto new motorway. In 2021 we are also opening another 52.5 kilometres of motorway.

The National Investment Plan is also, of course, mindful of healthcare. We have some of the best doctors in the world, but not all of our hospitals have the facilities and equipment for top global quality, and we have to gradually rectify this.

The future of our nation naturally also depends on education. The school system is a long-term priority of ours. As Alois Rašín said, we are a small nation and thus we must endeavour to have as many educated people as possible. We must have well paid and motivated teachers. The school system must be open, accessible and professional.

Sport is important for our lives and the lives of our children. The investment plan has not neglected this either. This year the National Sport Agency will begin functioning, which athletes have long been pushing for. The agency will transparently finance sports clubs, particularly youth clubs.

Another important thing is what we leave behind in terms of art and culture. It is here that we leave our mark in the minds of the generations that come after us. As has already been said – we are not a large nation. But the paintings of our masters, our literature, architecture, theatre, film and of course the Czech Philharmonic are what leave behind an important awareness of the Czech nation in the world – of its talents and values. Without art and culture, no national identity can exist. I am therefore convinced that as part of our National Investment Plan we must devote proper attention and support to art and culture. Without our support, for example, the National Museum would not have been renovated. And we must continue supporting such important projects.

Of course, we are also investing in the army. I don't want to visit our soldiers and tell them how proud of them we are and then have to watch them fly in old Russian machines. We are getting rid of the old Russian equipment and, finally, massively investing in modernising the army and purchasing new Israeli radars and American helicopters. This is one of the reasons we have increased the expenditure of the Ministry of Defence to CZK 75 billion next year and the number of soldiers to 25 500. We are two years ahead of earlier plans.

You have certainly noticed that climate change and the environment are a major topic. You have probably increasingly noticed the effects of climate change at home. We are struck by drought. Because our planet is important to me and my colleagues, we have adopted clear measures. We are markedly reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We are investing in renewable resources. And we are preparing for the end of the coal age.

The main thing for us, however, is the fight against drought. Water is, quite simply, the basis of life. For this reason we are returning it to the landscape, restoring hundreds of ponds and pools, providing quality drinking water for hundreds of thousands of our citizens. Trees are a great ally in this fight; thus we have kick-started a project to plant 10 million trees – symbolically one for each inhabitant of our country.

And whether our neighbours to the south like it or not, we must invest in energy safety, which means nuclear power. Otherwise we won't meet our climate goals. I am glad that we recently managed to push this through in Brussels as a clean energy source.

I could go on at length about everything else in which we want to invest, but I want to end this part of the speech with you. With people. Because it is mainly in you that our government has decided to invest, and you will return it to us with your confidence and consumption.

I won't quote the numbers of how much we are tacking on for retirees, teachers, doctors, nurses, police officers, firefighters, soldiers and social service workers. We are simply fulfilling what we promised, and we will continue to do so. Thank you for your work every day.

We are working on other things that are holding us back: certain laws, especially, from the perspective of investments, the Building Act. This is key. It has already been drafted and next year it will likely be the most important topic in the Chamber of Deputies. There must be a joint agreement between all parties. One office. One stamp. That is the magic formula.

Digitisation will also simplify lives. Everything we are doing today is aimed at making state services to citizens, sole traders, entrepreneurs and corporations more accessible. Cybersecurity is also highly important. The recent example of the Benešov hospital showed us in practice what can occur.

Even though the situation in the justice system is improving, law enforcement remains a priority. We must continue to address executions and fight against fraudsters who are coercing you into bad loans in order to steal from you.

You often hear in the media that the global economy is cooling down and harder times are coming. That we can't manage all these plans. Someone is always trying to drum up fear with this.

So I want to tell you: don't worry!

We have nothing to be afraid of. We have an amazing time before us. We are the Czech Republic, a country for the future. We still have twice the growth of the European Union average, and a very low debt rate. Our government will never repeat the frightening situation of 2009, when during an economic cooling down the government cut back public budgets, took people's money and thus augmented the economic problems further and prolonged them disproportionately. Under our government the state will take the baton of economic growth and invest more in people. The approved budget for this year continues to count on growing pensions and salaries, and this will continue in the future. We have an outlook for 2021 and the budget will be decidedly pro-growth.

For this reason, I am certain that my wish for the new year must be full of optimism and the expectation that we will be still better off. I also want to wish all of you the fortune to do what gives you joy, what gives meaning to your life. Let every day of the new year be full of satisfaction and good feelings, be it from work or whatever else you care about. Because we only live a full life if we are happy and satisfied with what we do. And when someone praises us for it. When they say that they love us.

The most important thing in life is family and children. Having children. The more children we have, the better off we will be. Because you know what's interesting? Everyone wants to be well off. I don't know anyone who doesn't want to be well off.

So I wish for YOU, for you to be well off!

In the new year of 2020, I wish you much love and health. You and those close to you. And also those whom you love.

Andrej Babiš, Prime Minister

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