The regional elections are approaching, and as per usual, practically none of what regional politics is really about gets addressed in the election campaign. And the public fails to realize that in this case, politicians get to decide about our everyday lives much more than what's immediately obvious. And then there are enormous amounts of money about to be distributed...
What do most ordinary families care about? When you think about it, it's nothing especially earth-shattering. Most people want good schools to send their children to. We also want reliable bus and train connections between towns and villages, or at least good roads leading from one place to another, so that we can get to work or do our shopping without problems. And we want adequate health and social care for our parents - or for ourselves, once we grow old. To have someone to take care of us in old age or when we get sick.
All of the above is largely decided by the regions, territorial units that were established in the year 2000 and have since been operating with billion budgets to make everything work as it should. Most people don't see regions as important and feel that the main things are decided in the government or in the ministries. That's why campaigns for regional elections usually address national issues - in the past, it was doctor’s fees or refugees and currently it's primarily the coronavirus. But regardless of whether or not we're bothered by refugees, fact remains that regional politicians have zero say in how many of those our country will accept. That's the government's job.
Take, for example, the campaign recently launched by the CSSD. The leader of the party Jan Hamáček, dressed in his iconic red sweatshirt, promises that he would protect us in the crisis and grant us higher salaries. The ODS also claims to "put the Czech Republic back on its feet" after the coronavirus crisis, and SPD promises food self-sufficiency for a change. Other political parties have taken a similar approach, addressing national issues or debating the (lacking) performance of the government. But why does everyone talk about things that have absolutely nothing in common with the decision-making of regions and governors?
The problem is that politicians in regional councils decide on completely different matters. And paradoxically, those matters have a much greater impact on our everyday lives. The regions operate with more than 200 billion crowns, which is a nice round sum of money. And this money goes mainly to schools, the integrated rescue system, social services, road construction and also regional public transport.
Unfortunately, people base their decisions on who to vote for in regional elections on national themes, while they should actually be asking the candidates the following questions:
How will you ensure that our schools have enough money and teachers so that our children can receive a quality education?
Will you invest money in the purchase of new fire and rescue equipment so that we are well taken care of in the event of an accident or fire?
Will you build enough social services and hospitals so that my parents have someone to take care of them when they get Alzheimer's?
How will the regional zoning plan change and how will you influence in the debate with the state where the new sections of motorways will lead?
We should think about the promises politicians give us before the regional elections and how the governors can really influence those things from their position. If, in four years, we allow the parties to keep blabbering on about unrelated national issues in these elections again, without even touching the matters all the regional billions actually go to, we'll be acting like brainless sheep, only to wonder what the heck the new governor is doing in his office later, having had no previous information.
That is the budged all regions (except Prague) had at their disposal last year. It's basically 1/7 of the state budget. Or as much money as 8 ministries together have to operate with.