The Czech Republic has prioritised the areas of competitiveness, employment and sustainability of public finance. It scores highly in areas such as new technology and education, but less well in labour productivity.
The public debate on the Lisbon strategy in the Czech Republic is only irregular and informal. Last year the government set four main priority areas for the Czech economic policy in connection with the Lisbon strategy. These are competitiveness, employment, sustainability of public finance and sustainable development.
Competitiveness: the Czech government claimed it would focus on R&D especially by enhancing the non-governmental investment in R&D. It wants to support innovation through the promotion of progressive technologies and support to entrepreneurship and SMEs as well. In October 2004 it endorsed a new programme designed to overcome administrative barriers to entrepreneurship.
Employment: The government wants to take measures in the field of education (via a law on further education) and increase levels of employment especially through raising motivation to work and fighting long-term unemployment through higher investment in HRD (Human Resources Development).
The deep reforms providing the long term ‘Sustainability of public finances’ will be crucial for macroeconomic stability, meeting the Maastricht criteria and the requirements of the Stability and Growth Pact. Therefore all the other priorities should probably be subordinated to the second stage of public finance reform consisting of the reform of the pension system, modernisation of the social security system, tax reforms. On the other side, the political will to start the radical reforms will not be strong, especially in pre-election period (election scheduled for June 2006, but early election still remains an option due to government crisis). The later the reforms come, the stronger the natural pressure from financial markets will be. Urgent need for public finance reform will therefore strongly limit the government in the implementation of other priorities.
Sustainable development: The European Strategy for Sustainable Development and the Strategy for Food Security are supposed to be fully implemented in the framework of the third pillar of the strategy.
Overall there was very little public discussion on the ongoing relaunch of the Lisbon agenda. The Czech government issued its position in February 2005, supporting the Commission’s proposal. The last major conference took place in March 2005 under the auspices of the vice-chairman of the senate. The emphasis in discussion was put on two most burning issues – research and development and healthy public finances.