"A smile makes everything easier and being respectful goes a long way," says former minister of regional development, Klára Dostálová, who is currently an MP and chair of the Committee on Public Administration and Regional Development of the Chamber of Deputies.
You have been in politics for quite some time now. What has your job as minister given you?
Politics means new connections, experiences, and horizons. If you are in the executive branch, meaning the government for instance, and in a field you understand on top of that, you can directly change things for the better. This direct approach was something I enjoyed very much. I took a very active part in leading the state with the aim of developing our country to achieve a better life for all of us. I am rather in favor of the majority voting system because it makes one accountable to the voters.
But our electoral system is based on the proportional representation of all parties...
Yes, and that means a lot of compromises in numerous areas that are often difficult to explain. One thing I was really disappointed with was the media. Sadly enough, the media world frequently dictates what is true and what isn't, and the citizens often have no way of fact-checking this.
This autumn will mark a full year from when you handed over the reins to the coalition of five. How would you rate their actions so far?
Their entire election campaign was built on the hatred of a single person, with a platform all over the place that could encompass the interests of many different entities and parties. This platform hodgepodge has been with the coalition of five throughout its first months of "ruling" as well. Nobody is actually in charge of the government. The Prime Minister is still stuck in his pedagogical way of speaking and mentoring. He should be the one fighting tooth and nail for the Czech people's interests. That is not the case, unfortunately. It is also due to this approach that people in Czechia are sinking into poverty. Furthermore, there isn't a single economist in the government – a historical first if I am not mistaken. Experts in the ministerial chairs are few and far between, they feel more like political appointees. Their priority is passing an amendment to the Civil Service Act that would allow them to have an unlimited number of political deputies. Vanity and a thirst for revenge against the former government are the driving force, unfortunately. It is quite sad, really.
You are still in the Chamber as an independent MP for ANO...
I remain independent but I like ANO's vision and policy. I have always admired that the deciding factor for whether one becomes a minister or even a chair of the Committee on Public Administration and Regional Development like I am now was not party credit but rather the person's knowledge, wisdom, and experience. The work of a committee chair is very legislative. We in the committee only discuss individual propositions put forth by the different ministries.
Do you not miss being a minister?
The work of a minister (if they know what they are doing) is creative and fulfilling. And I have to admit that I enjoyed working at the MRD very much. There was a great team and everyone wanted to keep things moving forward. Seeing the most experienced officials leave the Ministry is breaking my heart.
Our last year's interview ended with you saying that your biggest achievement as minister was the passing of the new construction bill, which was to have a positive effect on housing affordability and also facilitate further key government investments. How is the bill doing now?
The government is tearing down everything that could be construed as a success of the previous one, unfortunately. Instead of getting new processes up and running and starting to honor deadlines, the government pushed the new construction bill back a year, including digitalization. It has a major amendment planned, which will put individual stamps and unenforceable deadlines back in play. Departmentalism has won out once more. There was a very apt commentary from one unnamed architect, who said, "Allowing only government officials to write the construction bill is like letting children write their own school rules." I fear that a faster construction approval process is out of reach once again.
"We prepared subsidized loans for the younger generation called 'Your own living'. We launched the Výstavba (Development) program via the National Fund for Housing Development – a subsidized loan program to make housing more affordable," you said last year. The situation has deteriorated substantially since then, housing is less affordable and accessible than before...
We must keep reiterating how the roles are divvied up when it comes to housing. The private sector and municipalities have to be the ones who build! The state provides tools, both financial and legislative. Minister Ivan Bartoš only cares about social housing. That is wrong. Social housing is a tiny subset, we must address the middle-class income group, especially in big cities. Let us finally stop playing at there being the state, the municipalities, and then the rest. The private sector is a major player and the state and municipalities both should learn how to cooperate. Before I left the MRD, I handed Ivan Bartoš a rental housing model where the private sector could build on state-owned land. The construction and management of rental apartments would be handled entirely by the private sector and the state would pay for it in the form of a service. The state would determine who lives in these apartments, so there would be housing available for people serving the public good such as teachers and healthcare and rescue workers but also the elderly, single parents, young people, and others.
How do you feel about the situation with sky-high prices for rent, fuel, electricity, gas, food...
As far as inflation goes, we have to finally concede that it is cost-push, not demand-pull inflation. Cost-push inflation is imported and the Covid period exacerbated it greatly. Production and import both slowed down. At a time of disproportionate energy prices, the government's mettle is truly tested. Ours is not looking all that great compared to other European countries. Every other country has concrete measures in place with immediate effect. We keep kicking the can down the road and waiting... I don't even know what for... I guess for everyone in Czechia to bleed out financially.
You are a representative of the Hradec Králové Region. Does the upcoming September municipal election concern you?
I am not running in the municipal election, but I will do my very best to provide help and support to all of our candidates, be they running for regional representation or the Senate. We have good candidates.
Why are you no longer the chair of the Mountain Rescue Board of Directors?
The current minister is always the chair of the MR Board of Directors. It makes sense because the vast majority of funding goes through the MRD. I am happy that there is more funding than before. I helped raise the budget from roughly 90 million to almost CZK 250 million per year. Mountain Rescue workers are the first responders where anything that happens in the mountains is concerned, a professional and well-equipped team is a necessity. I feel that even the rescue workers themselves appreciated the MRD's work while I was minister.
Let's talk about your biggest love of all – your grandson Kryštof. How are you enjoying being a grandma?
I love it and my little baby is just fantastic. Hugging him is a cure for all ailments of the world. Kryštůfek loves water. We went on a seaside vacation together and we had a grand old time!
Klára Dostálová with her grandson Kryštůfek, her husband seated in the background.
Klára Dostálová (born March 13, 1971, in Prague) is a politician and economist, independent for the ANO 2011 movement, and chair of the Committee on Public Administration and Regional Development of the Chamber of Deputies.
Following her studies at PUEB, she worked at the Czech Savings Bank, Stavokomplex CZ a.s., as well as Hotel Černigov. She "came into her own" as director of the Center for European Planning, which she led successfully for many years, together with her colleagues, she played a major part in revitalizing the Kuks municipality.
In the years 2014–2017, she was the deputy minister of regional development only to take over the ministry and lead it herself until 2021. While working as minister, she was also chair of the Mountain Rescue Board of Directors.
She has been an MP for the ANO movement since October 2017 and a representative of the Hradec Králové Region since the autumn of 2020.
#Dostálová is married and has two children and a grandson, she lives in Hořice near Jičín.
"The ANO movement is the opposition in the Hradec Králové Region. We are a constructive kind of opposition that doesn't torpedo the proposals coming from the regional office just because we didn't come up with them ourselves," she says about her role as representative. "In the years 2021–2022, we made a lot of things happen. Primarily opening 30 km of new highways. That was definitely a big help at the D11 to Jaroměr as well as the D35 toward Časy. To be honest, though, it happened mainly thanks to our former government. A big salute is due to all the healthcare workers in the region – from GPs, through regional hospitals, all the way to the university hospital in Hradec Králové – for handling the pandemic the way they did. They should take a bow. What I do mind, though? That things are moving excruciatingly slowly in the region. Looking at my field, I feel that destination management has ground to a halt in the region. Hradec Králové, for instance, was headed towards becoming a model city in terms of bike trails, but everything just stopped for some reason. I understand that it was faced with many other issues such as Covid and Ukrainian refugees."