Prague - The heat is increasing in the undeclared war between the Czech president Václav Klaus and his potential challenger in the next February's elections Jan Švejnar.
Both gentlemen are prominent economists and it is the economic reforms from the early 1990s - which have catapulted former Czechoslovakia from the communist central planned economy into the free-market era - over whose authorship they have recently fenced via media.
Klaus throws downs gauntlet for Švejnar
A week ago, President Klaus visited Masaryk University in Brno, where he met with students. Answering one of their questions, he sad the following (according to the Právo daily's account):
"Doctor Švejnar's biography on his webpage says he was one of the main architects of the Czech economic reform from the 1990s. That very sentence is not true. He simply didn't take part in our economic transformation, not by a single milimeter. And I say this with full responsibility, because at the time I was member of all the relevant bodies and commissions, tasked with the very issue."
Czech born, Michigan-based Jan Švejnar who served as an adviser to the first post-communist president of Czechoslovakia, Václav Havel, called the above cited assertion by Mr. Klaus "untrue" in an e-mail message sent recently to Aktuálně.cz.
"The term 'architect of reforms' is generally used to describe the ideological author of the reforms, not the managing engineer," explains Mr. Švejnar.
"At the end of the year 1989 I came up with one of the main proposals for the economic reform, which was published under the name "Strategy of the economic transformation of Czechoslovakia" first in the PlanEcon report (in December 1989) and then in The Ark of the Lidové Noviny edition (1990)."
"I submitted this proposal to the Czechoslovak academic community in January 1990 and to the ministers of both the Federal and the Czech governments and the governor of the National Bank at the weekend meeting in Koloděje Castle (near Prague - a note from A.cz), held between February 2-4, 1990."
"Unlike Vladimír Dlouhý, Tomáš Ježek, Dušan Tříska, Jan Vrba, Josef Tošovský, Jan Vaňous and Josef Zieleniec, Václav Klaus was not present at the meeting. My proposal had a major influence on the following discussion and the conceptual development of the transformation, but the method which I was recommending, and the coupon privatization realized under the leadership of Václav Klaus, differed mainly in my insistence that a strong legal system be created which would prevent the wholesale pilferage of the state property and other illegal acts."
Švejnar strikes back with vengeance
"I was also consistently proposing that citizens get strong minority shares in the hitherto state companies with the majority shares being used for financing pensions, helthcare system and facilitating the arrival of strategic partners," explains Jan Švejnar in his e-mail, adding that the complete text of his proposal can be found at his webpage.
"If Václav Klaus authored any serious concept of the economic transformation, I would be very happy to read it. As for the realization of the coupon privatization, which aside from other things enriched the world's vocabulary by the term "tunneling" (channeling of the funds one is entrusted to look after into one's own pockets - a note from A.cz), Václav Klaus can certainly take credit for that," Jan Švejnar pointedly ends his message.
Václav Klaus became the first official candidate for the presidency last week, when the group of 122 lawmakers from the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), which he founded in the early 1990s, unanimously endorsed his nomination.
It is expected that Jan Švejnar, considered the most serious contender in the race, aside from the incumbent, will make a final decision on whether or not to run by the end of this week.