Corruption ‘scaring off’ foreign investors

AmCham head Weston Stacey says corruption is scaring foreign investors away from the Czech Republic but bringing in dirty money

Weston Stacey: „Pan Cabaniss se pokusil sejít s třemi členy tehdejší vlády, aby si celou situaci vyjasnili.“ foto: © ČESKÁ POZICE, Richard CortésČeská pozice

Weston Stacey: „Pan Cabaniss se pokusil sejít s třemi členy tehdejší vlády, aby si celou situaci vyjasnili.“

Foreign investors are being scared away from the Czech Republic due to its corrupt image and political instability, the head of the biggest US business grouping in the country, the American Chamber of Commerce, has warned.

“During the crisis the flow of investment almost halted and now it is being discouraged by the unstable political situation and corruption,” chamber director Weston Stacey said Monday in an interview with the newspaper Lidové noviny. “Every investor who wants to do business in the Czech Republic first of all asks if corruption is as bad as it is said to be.”

Mud slinging by top Czech politicians, who ritually accuse each other of corruption, and the lack of high-profile investigations and court cases to punish corruption had their impact outside the country in tarnishing its image and deterring investors — with the exception of corrupt ones, Stacey said. It was a poor visiting card for the country but did help bring unwanted investors, he concluded.

“The current political dialogue attracts the wrong type of investor and it’s necessary to do something about it,” said Stacey, who has taken the lead in initiatives to encourage the government to pass new laws, particularly on large public contracts, which would help stamp out corruption.

Czech society is sick to the hind teeth of the corruption that was institutionally pervasive in the government and business environment and the overall level of faith in government action was low, he said. Even so, those who got rich through corruption had to be branded as criminals and not benefit from sneaking admiration for having the better of the state. “These people are not clever businessmen but criminals. And they steal your money,“ Stacey said.

Czechs had shown how demonstrated how society could change in the last 20 years and corruption could be conquered with the right will. Public support was necessary for civic groups, such as corruption watchdogs Transparency International and Oživení, and support for those who battled corruption and blew the whistle when it occurred, Stacey added.

Ministries were this month due to launch discussions on a proposal from the Ministry for Regional Development (MMR) for clamping down on corruption in government tenders. The move has been described as fundamental by anti-corruption groups, who have, nonetheless, said some of the original provisions could have been more ambitious.