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New Czech political movement uses the old campaign trick of alleging "inadaptables" abuse welfare, names the Romani community as an example

20.6.2021 7:20
Robert Šlachta (PHOTO: Přísaha)
Robert Šlachta (PHOTO: Přísaha)

The new Czech political movement called Přísaha (Oath), for all intents and purposes, is basically its founder Robert Šlachta, the former head of the anti-corruption unit in the Czech Police. In the runup to the autumn elections, he has been attempting to get the media to profile him for potential voters in a legible, transparent way.

Šlachta says his movement is a bit more on the conservative side, falling into what he terms the "fair center" of the political map. We don't yet know where exactly his movement actually belongs, but apparently it's a bit more to the right than he would have us believe.

As part of his press campaign, Šlachta has been expressing his views on the issue of welfare benefits and the welfare state in general. In those statements, he has declared that his movement cares about making sure welfare benefits do not flow to those who are "undeserving".

His most specific remark on that issue was made during an interview on Monday, 14 June, for the iDNES.cz news server. "I mean the socially inadaptable," he said in the interview, adding that this is specifically to do with the area of northern Bohemia. 

"Our social system is based on affidavits, and in my view there should be thorough monitoring of those drawing the benefits, especially by people who should not be drawing them. Naturally it costs this state a great deal of money," he alleged.

The interviewer then asked whether he meant the Romani community. "Socially inadaptables don't just have to be Romani. They can also be those who live at the expense of others, if I can put it like that. Naturally, the Romani community," the politician explained.

To put it mildly, these statements are unfortunate, as you can see, for more than one reason. First, from these statements it follows that the Romani community (at least in northern Bohemia) is considered by this politician to be "socially inadaptable". 

Such generalizations are unacceptable and above all, they are dangerous. Second, the allegation that the Czech welfare system is based on "affidavits" and does not involve monitoring is absolutely mistaken. 

For example, if you apply for material distress benefits, you can anticipate quite a thorough and sometimes even unpleasant check-up on your situation from social services sooner or later. The issue of alleged "welfare abuse" is one that the media use to attract audiences, and in Bohemia it has been a traditional "issue" for years now, but from the standpoint of how the state actually functions, welfare abuse is marginal at best. 

Third, Šlachta has also made the frequently-reiterated claim that such welfare costs the state a lot of money. All such assessments are relative, but that one is absurd. 

For example, in 2019, according to the Czech Statistical Office, the welfare benefits disbursed totalled CZK 1.5 trillion [EUR 58.6 billion], of which the amount disbursed for benefits specifically targeting social support (per-child allowance, housing benefit, parental benefit, maternity benefit, death benefit, foster care allowance) was not quite CZK 34 billion [EUR 1.3 billion]. Such benefits account for just 2.23 % of the entire state budget. 

In 2019, the housing benefit that is so frequently mentioned as burdensome totaled just CZK 7.08 billion [EUR 277 million], or 0.46 % of the entire state budget. That's quite a small percentage, you have to admit. 

It seems that even Šlachta, whom the public otherwise appreciates for his incorruptibility and his integrity, sometimes succumbs to the charms of populism. Either that is the explanation, or he is ignorant of the facts.

It's hard to say which explanation is correct. Time will tell.

lav, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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hmotná nouze, Politics, Populism, Roma



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