Student Agency boss Jančura lashes out at corrupt politicians, flawed competition watchdog

Politics & Policy|Companies
David Kasl | 18.04.2012

That’s the way it is in every company. For example in the railways business: from what I know, even Czech Railways and all potential competitors,  there is only a difference in management between us. It’s the so-called white collar; those at the top. We have the same energy costs, and the costs of operating a train could also be the same, although Czech Railways are buying expensive trains from Škoda… which we really would rather not.

We buy the cheapest trains on the market provided we have a sufficient guarantee of reliability in order not to have 30 percent more trains in our fleet because so many are out of service… We have the same labour costs – the real difference is about how many people are in the general directorate. At Czech Railways, they get huge paychecks in that department; they’re very lucky as it’s seven times more than ours. That is the only difference, apart from what is stolen internally…

Q: Andrej Babiš apparently spoke with you soliciting support for his movement ANO 2011. Would you yourself be willing to enter politics?

JANČURA: I will never enter politics because I don’t possess the gift of the gab. I’m not that kind of ideal erudite, chatty person. I intend to spend another 10 or 15 years working at this company. But I would be really glad if Andrej Babiš sacrificed himself for this task. It is really important because a leader has to go into something like that with a full sense of service. Should Babiš go into this field, then that will be a good thing because the [former Civic Democrat, ODS, prime minister Mirek] Topolánek wing and others who are fearful of Babiš are talking nonsense saying that [businessman Roman] Janoušek is no ‘godfather,’ rather that this label applies to Babiš because he is suspiciously wealthy. But Babiš was not responsible for any notable privatizations and his property came about only through his own toil. And he is willing not to invest his property but donate it to this country by virtue of the fact that he will attempt to reorganize [the country] politically. ‘Public Affairs (VV) actually had a very good result. I voted for them too…but my eyes were soon opened when I got to know Mr. Bárta’

Q: Do you think he is hopeful of what can be achieved? When people reflect on how the Public Affairs experiment turned out…

JANČURA: Public Affairs actually turned out very well. I voted for them back then too… but my eyes were soon opened when I got to know [VV de facto chairman] Vít Bárta, who in his position of Transport Minister was only really putting on a show; he didn’t fulfil his promises and was really a very bad person. Then certain stories began to emerge such as that he wanted to turn politics into a kind of limited company…

But all of that doesn’t bother me because they were successful in uncovering many [scandals related to figures in other political parties] – probably even the recent conversations between [ex-ODS Prague mayor Pavel] Bém and Janoušek. Public Affairs will probably not exist in the future but they have fulfilled their historic duty – whatever their ambitions or motivations may have been, many things began to come to the surface thanks to them. This includes the bugging affair, which I think was perfectly legitimate to do, because it yielded such important revelations. Why shouldn’t we be able to hear what the most notable politicians in this country are discussing? So long as it actually comes to the surface and isn’t used merely for extortion.

Q: Why should people believe in Babiš of all people?

JANČURA: It is the same as with [TOP 09 pary head and Foreign Minister Karel] Schwarzenberg – he certainly isn’t in politics for the money, because he doesn’t need any. Otherwise he [Schwarzenberg] would secure for himself the restitution of [certain] castles, which he isn’t trying to do at all. Similarly with Babiš, I don’t think that he would be interested in privatizing the Czech Republic. I believe that he is the only one of the larger figures who isn’t interested in turning politics into a business endeavor. He is an old-style farmer, a food producer and the only thing that could be privatized in his sphere is [the state brewery] Budvar. And he will never buy that because it will be bought up by the owners of other trademarked brands in order to open up a market to the rest of the world. Babiš has many prerequisites for victory. But the problem is that people have to believe in and trust him that he is clean and means well. Due to his extreme wealth, he doesn’t present the ideal image. While [Czech businessman] Petr Kellner has a perfect media picture — by virtue of the fact that he is barely ever covered by it. 

Q: Would you have a problem with the Social Democrats, whom polls currently show winning in a general election, heading a future government?

JANČURA: Even though I am a right-of-center voter [albeit] with a sensitivity towards social matters, I think that if the Social Democrats (ČSSD) took over and began to reverse the VAT increases to a manageable level, then that would be an interesting development. But everything depends on what kind of social democracy it would be. There is a godfatherly side represented by [Petr] Hulinský, [Michal] Hašek, [Jaroslav] Palas and [Petr] Rafaj, which at the moment has been sidelined, but it remains strong as these people are sadly such good politicians that they can forge an agreement with anyone. They are very dangerous for social democracy. But let what should happen, happen. Let there be new elections.  

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