NGO: Crisis over, but many Czechs threatened with poverty

Social Watch finds much to criticize in the Czech Republic, sees rising intolerance. Last year, the Czech Republic managed to overcome economic stagnation, but many people in the country are imminently threatened with poverty, according to the annual report that its authors from the Social Watch international network’s Czech branch presented today.

Islam and immigrants became new targets of intolerance, while public expressions of hatred of Romanies were less frequent compared with previous years, the report on the situation in the Czech Republic in 2014 says.

Though the Czech Republic has a new strategy of promoting equal opportunities for women and men, the implementation of particular steps is stagnating, the report adds.

The Czech Republic ranks among the countries with the lowest level of income poverty, which is 60 percent of the median pay.

However, a high number of people are closely above the limit and only a few hundred crowns a month divide them from the fall into poverty. About 0.5 million people in the country of 10.5 million do not even reach subsistence level.

“In 2014, recession was interrupted eventually and the Czech Republic showed growth, but it was lower than in the previous periods. The Czech Republic has lost many years in approaching the EU average. Now there is some hope that convergence will resume,” economist Ilona Švihlíková said.

The Czech Republic has ended up in “the trap of the medium-income countries” and the government should come up with a solution to it, she added.

One of its characteristic symptoms is the outflow of dividends. Last year, 219 billion Kč of them flowed out of the Czech Republic. Since 2006, the outflow has been higher than the invested sums, Švihlíková said.

The “model of attracting foreign investors” does not work any longer, which also affects wages. Though the firms’ profits were rising last year, it was just slightly reflected in salaries.

“The proportion between profit and pay has been disrupted,” Švihlíková pointed out.

In terms of equal chances of both genders, the original optimism is fading away, Veronika Šprincová said.

The government established the post of human rights minister, occupied by Jiří Dienstbier (senior government Social Democrats, ČSSD), who pushed through equal opportunities in the government coalition agreement and the government program and he adopted the respective strategy until 2020, but he is hesitating to take particular steps.

One of them is an amendment to the election law that would introduce a proportionate representation of men and women on the lists of election candidates, Šprincová added.

The situation in the human rights agenda is similar, Tomáš Tožička said.

“The statement in support of human rights inside the Czech Republic and outside it was promising. Unfortunately, it remained on a rhetorical level,” said Tožička.

The government said the Czech Republic would like to help people in need mainly in their own countries. However, only 0.11 percent of GDP is annually allocated to development aid instead of 0.33 percent, which the Czech Republic pledged joining the EU in 2004, Tožička added.

Intolerance is on the rise in the Czech Republic, but expressions of hatred aimed at Romanies were replaced by Islamophobia and resistance to immigrants, the report says.

Social Watch, established in 1995, is an international network of some 700 organizations and institutions from 70 countries aiming to help eradicate poverty and its causes, remove all forms of discrimination and racism and ensure an equitable distribution of wealth and the human rights observance.

The Czech Social Watch coalition has nine organizations: Alternativa 50+, the Ecumenical Academy Prague, Educon, Eurosolar, Forum 50%, Gender Studies, the Masaryk Democratic Academy, the Nesehnuti (Independent Social Ecological) movement and the Trust for Economy and Society.