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Czech Republic: Anti-Romani politician spreads hoax that Roma are bilking the state - through lightbulbs

19.9.2016 20:16
Jiří Maria Sieber attended a demonstration in favor of the Czech Republic leaving the EU on Wenceslas Square in Prague on 17 September 2016. (PHOTO:  Romea.cz)
Jiří Maria Sieber attended a demonstration in favor of the Czech Republic leaving the EU on Wenceslas Square in Prague on 17 September 2016. (PHOTO: Romea.cz)

Jiří Maria Sieber, a candidate for the Czech Senate from the Order of the Nation (Řád národa) political movement, has reported on his Facebook page that Romani people are allegedly leasing very expensive LED light bulbs from the RWE power utility for which the "welfare office" reimburses them. Allegedly the Romani ratepayers then immediately pawn the light bulbs in order to improve their financial situations.

News server Romea.cz contacted the Labor Office to verify the allegations. That state body says the charges are absurd and that the story is a hoax.

Energy-saving bulbs for less... at the pawnshop?

"Several people have contacted me to say that the Gypsies are selling very expensive energy-saving light bulbs cheaply in the bazaars for CZK 50 [EUR 1.85] each. This is a new way to raise money," Sieber writes on his Facebook profile, where he alleges that Romani people are acquiring the bulbs by leasing them from RWE.

"What's so magical about selling energy-saving bulbs?" he asks rhetorically, and immediately explains. "Their electricity, just like their gas, rent and water, is paid for them by the welfare office, or rather, by the Labor Office, so it's all the same to them how much they pay for electricity when basically they get it for free. As a bonus, they get these expensive, energy-saving  light bulbs, which they then sell cheaply. After the 24 months of their lease expires on the bulbs, they have the option of buying the bulbs for CZK 1 each. However, nobody monitors whether what is being used in their apartments are actually these expensive, leased bulbs, or ordinary light bulbs," Sieber posted to Facebook in mid-August, spreading yet another absurdity aimed against Romani people.  

Czech Labor Office:  We do not pay anybody to lease light bulbs 

"It is true that, for the purposes of calculating housing benefits, energy costs are taken into account; such costs are, of course, limited, and the applicable legislation establishes which energy costs can be taken into consideration when calculating benefits. The lease of light bulbs is not one of those costs," Kateřina Beránková, press spokesperson for the Labor Office of the Czech Republic, told news server Romea.cz.

The most efficient light bulb that RWE leases costs CZK 13,90 per month, and the lease contract for such a bulb is usually concluded for 24 months, so it costs a total of CZK 334. Logically, it follows that even if Romani people, or anybody else, were to sell such a light bulb for CZK 50, they would still have to pay the remaining CZK 284 to lease it because their housing benefits would not cover the cost.

In the context of electricity costs, the Czech Labor and Social Affairs Ministry has previously refuted a hoax alleging that the state was being cheated because deposits for electricity were being artificially increased. "Romani people" were supposed to receive higher benefits as a result of that alleged "trick" as well.

This is not the first time that Sieber has disseminated hoaxes about Romani people during his campaign. A couple of weeks back he published another hoax alleging that Romani people were receiving washing machines for free as part of welfare and that they were taking them to pawn shops immediately, unopened and untouched. 

th, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Tags:  

Hoax, Předsudky, Romani people, Sociální dávky, Labor Office



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