Summary: Following accession to the European Union the big issue for the Czech Republic is to strengthen growth prospects. Growth potential at present is somewhat above 3%, implying a moderate pace of catch-up to living standards in the EU and elsewhere. There is room for greater ambition in growth performance, and it is welcome to see this reflected in the programme of the new Czech government. This Survey underscores four main challenges. Fiscal consolidation is the dominant challenge for macroeconomic policy, and is not only necessary to cope with ageing and to bring down the tax burden but is also needed to fulfil euro-area entry conditions. A welcome programme of fiscal reform has begun, including proposals for a system of multi-year aggregate spending ceilings and significant expenditure cuts. However, to date, mainly revenue-raising measures have been implemented while the full impact of expenditure measures is yet to be realised. The attempt to secure broad political consensus on pension reform is commendable, but it must be underscored that whatever reform is finally implemented, it will have to bring considerable fiscal savings. Health-care reform also has to deliver savings, but concrete proposals have yet to be made. To facilitate assessment of the true fiscal position, extra-budgetary funds need to be more fully integrated in mainstream government budgeting procedures. Also, with the further decentralisation of public services, the need for good budgeting practices and accountability in regional and municipal governments is all the more important. The Central Bank and the Ministry of Finance have formulated a transparent strategy for entering the euro area, that foresees minimising the time spent in ERM II. Annual reports will assess the economic conditions in relation to the Maastricht criteria and a request to enter ERM II will only be made if the probability of a positive first assessment by the EU authorities is high. The choice of a 3% inflation target for the run-up to euro entry is justifiable on me
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