Monday, 18 April 2022

Letter to the financial office- best not sent

With little amount of independent small business, and most people in the region employed (direct or indirectly) by larger firms from abroad. My experience as a foreigner doing small business here in this region, is that a large amount of resources within this financial office are focused on monitoring the habits of the smaller entrepreneurs. Example. I was forced into paying a commercial land tax rate for use of rental services. When only a minimum amount of people use these services in this region. Consider: Next to where i live logistic centres are built for larger multinationals, that soak up much of the labour resources (that could be used for smaller business), these centres don't blend in with the atmosphere of the region also. Houses are being built, yet restaurants and innovative services are closing down, or changing hands. The idea that tourism in the region might be good, and entrepreneurs could produce products for local markets, that are home grown. For individuals to be so heavily regulated by this office, with such minimal income is very odd from my perspective. Rather than looking at the region from lateral point of view, I feel this office looks at business through a linear perspective. Legislation designed in Prague to regulate or help multinational corporations mindlessly pounded on the head of the small business person, in a kafka style scenario. For the benefit of who? What's next Mr Financial office, or will you have to call Prague to get an answer on that. 

Tuesday, 5 April 2022

Letter about airbnb

 Dear Ministry of Finance,

Excuse this email being in English.

Since the new government was elected, my land tax has been raised because of airbnb, my bank accounts inspected for unpaid taxes, and a tax demand made for services fees that are paid to airbnb's bank account in Ireland.

I understand that a certain demographic in Prague is not happy with airbnb, yet in regional areas the innovative service has not really been used much by individual households. 

In the Rokycany area for example 51 apartments are for rent via the service. This is only a small percentage of the total apartments in Rokycany. Through my eyes, it would be better to build more social housing in these regional areas. This would allow elderly people to move to these locations, rather than live in their houses. `This might/would allow families to move into housing areas and free up income for retirement. Currently social housing is less than 3 percent, compared to 35 percent in Holland.

To blame the nationwide housing crisis on people that rent on Airbnb, rather than those that appropriated property illegally in the 90's seems like a political stunt, aimed at grabbing Prague voters. 

Also, it means mostly agents in regional areas will now handle rentals via airbnb and bookings dot com, as the financial office has put so much red tape around the innovative service. Thus it's no-longer innovative. 

Why not tax property agents that rent and aggregate property on airbnb, not individuals who use the service directly. Also, to ask airbnb for taxes on fee's that are sent to Airbnb's account, this seems grossly undemocratic. To me the current policy mostly just reinforces the idea that innovation is not allowed in regional areas. Already in agriculture, due to the actions of the former prime minister/minister of finance in your office, now in housing.

Does the argument have any substance?

Friday, 24 December 2021

The state of the Czech state as a foreigner 2021- Christmas

 It's interesting, when you goto the city of Plzen.. a lot of empty shops. When I look inside some I can see that the guts have been ripped out, yet the tiles on the walls are new and the concept of the business and writing on the outside of the building is almost fresh. All these shells gutted in order to meet the terms of the banks or the execution companies i guess, yet can't confirm? As i understand the land lords of small business's were under no obligations to change rents for small business's. One of the only small business's that survived that I'm familiar with as far as the hospitality industry is a small burger place, yet that is run as a sole trader with no employees and relatively low rent, And also a DIY built in infra-structure. I expect no loans with the bank. The bigger business's like, coffee chains in the centre have remained open. A few of the big brands have gone, or fallen into the ownership of the bigger multi-nationals. When you look at it, no way were those small business's/companies going to be protected through Corona by the Czech state. The Czech state primarily looks after its self, as a major priority. Someone once said to me that the Czech president has once described small business as a parasite on the system? 

Difference between State enterprise and small business?

When I look at the hospital infra structure here, what do i see. I needed to get an old hospital bill, in order to get the bill, I have to goto a woman in a room, she has her own room about 20 square meters. Then i have to pay a bill in another room about 40 square meters in order to get the old bill. Both areas have only one person working in them. Its 100 percent obvious that heating these rooms for the cold half of the year is expensive and not ecological, other uses could be brought to this infra structure, yet i somehow expect that the two floors above it are empty.  This whole building might easily be changed and the people that are in these rooms might work from home, if the state here had an Estonian style infra-structure. 

In Estonia for example, I can send a document to an office/court from my email, and from that computer I can then encrypt any file so it can be sent to a government office, the government office will then recognise that document. In Czech what the state did was build a similar structure between all offices and the state that is something similar to email, so people can "if they would like too." get one of these data boxes. The Czech state created more systems of communication that are more easily hacked, in Estonia less and much less intrusive. For large business's and law firms the system makes more sense. Yet for the small business person, the Czechnology  machine makes little sense. Another password, another way the state can monitor the small business, another potential hack out of the individuals control.  One system empowers the state and big business, the Estonian one empowers the individual. 

In the corona times, we saw the big business's get bailed out. Yet the only small business that could survive, are mostly those that were one person or couple operators. These other systems like hospitals, get to function in un-ecological high cost ways, with little scrutiny. 

What happens to foreigners. How the Czech state keeps them out?

In Czech with foreigners. The government made legislation so that business visa costs went up 100 percent in the last years. To top it off they put up the cost of health care by 500 percent. The way they put up the cost of health care for foreigners was that they created a monopoly out of the state health insurance company PVZP, so now the foreigner can only use that company for health insurance by law. The idea that profits from selling health insurance to marginalised foreigners goes to supporting the state health insurance company, is a little strange to start with, yet i guess with CORONA the government went for the monopoly opportunity. Initially payments were around 40,000 crowns for a year, the previous year the foreigner paid 7-8000 a year. The state health insurance company covers foreigner only for the term of the contract. So if the small business person (sole trader) gets sick in her/his stay, unless they have paid for health insurance for 5 years they are not technically covered for the illness.. in the next term of the contract. Those foreigners who get a work permit to work for a company, are covered by the public health care system, so long as they remain employed.  To top it off in countries that are developing, rather than developed, it's near impossible to get an appointment to put in a business visa. Also, i was told by my immigration lawyer that one of her clients a Syrian student, was granted a scholarship to Charles university, the ministry explained that his documents were not correct, when they were. In the waiting period the student was killed.  Unfortunately when people make these mistakes at the ministry of interior, rather than being told they are no-longer needed, I expect they are promoted. The other thing that the Czech state has done, is that they have increased the requirement of language from basic too comprehensive. With such a lack of diversity within the Czech population already. Building a migrant labour force out of people that have no interest to stay here other than for the money they are paid, creates problems for the Czech community, so I'm told. Yet i think this is also a myth that the Czech media is selling. Much of this media comes out through the former prime minister. know to have many conflicts of interest. 

Part of the definition of fascism

Similarly, fascism as an ideology is also hard to define. Originally, it referred to a totalitarian political movement linked with corporatism which existed in Italy from 1922 to 1943 under the leadership of Benito Mussolini.

Another Definition

often capitalized : a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition

Saturday, 18 December 2021

Anger management review..

I wrote this review of the ministry interior based in Plzen today. Decided it best not to stir the hive though, so took it down. Again the ministry refuses to give me permanent residence. Seems like a life in litigation to stay here.

It’s hard to know where to start with the description of this office. If officials do speak English, they’ll refuse to use that skill. If your from a Western European mindset, be prepared for dose of what life might have been like pre 1990s. What to expect. 1) lack of common sense 2) zero trust and lack of respect for EU directives 3) officials that are not paid enough to understand the law or what a human right is 4) no empathy for your situation, if your having a bad day don’t expect it to improve if you goto this office 5) expect to be judged by a lot of subjective information, say as little as possible 6) generally.. understand that the democratic process just never made it to this office. Don’t let these people get you down though, be patient and see the experience as some sort of comedy. Expect every process to take 3 or 4 times longer than you expect. The important thing to understand is that these people don’t represent Czech people. People that apply to work or accept jobs in these kinds of offices, are a very specific type of person. Don’t disrespect them, they know every trick in the book to make your life difficult/expensive. Sit back, relax and take a seat in a Kafka novel. If your an innovative, independent thinker, take serious time out to consider if this region is worth your energy.

Tuesday, 14 December 2021

The struggle of the non-profit as a foreigner

 I stopped publishing at this blog years back.. why? because i created a non-profit organisation. I figured that the old building might become a community project, especially as i was doing the project mostly with the help of volunteers.  I was hoping for a community voice/blog, yet it did not happen.   A foreigner starting a non-profit organisation from Australia that owns a railway station, that is something that does not make much sense to people around here, this is at least is the vibe i get. 

Since the non-profit started, I've run into brick wall after brick wall, yet the brick walls were here before that, i thought the non-profit might be a way around some of those problems and be able to integrate the local community through the project.  No such luck. Every plan/process that i have put forward to any government body has been knocked back. Every possible problem with my status as immigrant has been investigated and taken to the court, the supreme court once and municipal court twice. Every loan application knocked back. Septic tank, land tax rate, foreigner guest entry for airbnb... and the list goes on. I actually can't think of anything that can be inspected by the state and has not been. 

Anyway.. So the people that I started the non-profit with, they have kind of lost interest. So i'm now the director of the non-profit and owner of the building, sounds like a conflict of interest. Yet so be it..

 Anyway, doing my best to reboot the non-profit project in 2022 with open, democratic & inclusive ideas. During this whole time though, i've continued with volunteers through workaway and airbnb, things go well if you take the Corona virus into consideration. 

I guess its a little similar to Australia, the capital cities are good and fine, yet living in a small neglected town in regional Australia as a foreigner and starting a non-profit for culture and the environment... It could be even more painful. 

I do feel though that in all this ridiculous misery, I have somehow found myself. Those capitalistic bones, they really just don't fit me, and I guess that is why I'm here. I recall a line i once heard in a song, the only good thing about a small town is leaving it.

Blog on, and hopefully better times in 2022. Here is the link to the non-profit. The show must go on.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

In the last month a couple of things have happened with the nonprofit. I’m busy with Airbnb and restoration of the lounge area at the station. So have limited time. What’s happened?

We had 11 volunteers from world life experience at the station for 5 days and were also given a donation by WLE of 2500 euros. Donation has been accepted, we have a bank account.

Next week a meeting is planned with the major of the town in Zbiroh. Discussion of second uses for the spaces in the station will happen. Example, nonprofit organizations that organize events and trips for the elderly and disabled can use the guest lounge that is being reconstructed. Women on maternity leave that already have gatherings, can use the space.

Have been in contact with the  company that owns the tracks. SZDC. They have agreed to rent the track that is closest to the station. The organization that runs the legion train has also expressed an interest in having the historic train park here at the station in 2020. Both rental of tracks and negotiation with the historic train, seem best to be a process that would go through a nonprofit. At the moment trying to put a group together that would like to be involved in that. A lot of details. 

Planning how to spend the funds we have. Thoughts. Work out what grants are relivant to the station, employ professional grant writers to apply for grants and subsidies. 

Steps. Setup website, social media, mailing list, transparent accounting, communicate with other nonprofit that’s are interested to use the space. 

The largest demographic of people that live close to the station, are the elderly. Having a bus that might drive and pick people up and bring them to the station  for gatherings, once a week or month. Is something possible. 

Saturday, 24 February 2018

What projects to have with a Non Profit

How did the non-profit happen?

Last year World life experience offered a donation to the station of 2500 Euros. The idea to start a non-profit has seemed like a good idea for a while, yet nothing had ever come my way to spring the idea into motion. From a distance this is probably the most obvious way to get things moving, it gives a path for people that want to help, a way to help. It’s not been easy at times to manage people that just want to help out in an alternate business environment. This year because of the contribution from world life experience, the station has a non-profit. Kulturní Stanice. Founded by Lucie Šavlíková, Markéta Gottwaldová & Pavla Waldhauserova.

Why have a non-profit?

In the last years through the many people that have passed through the place, lots of ideas about what might happen here have have been documented. You can visit them here at this link.  For now the station grows through revenues brought to the station through airbnb and the good will of volunteers that arrive via the workaway project. The progress is slow, using volunteers works, yet some things need to be done by professionals, especially with old buildings. As the building is a cultural monument many subsidies are available. Its been difficult to follow all the steps, as a non-profit it might be easier. To organise events in a community that fit with the community is difficult in a low density population area. I'd prefer not to go into a deal with the bank and a construction company, or have to make deals with concert promoters. I'd rather work with a community in connection with a non-profit.

If you have an idea, that you'd like to bring to the station, or want to work with ideas already in motion, write us.

Thanks for your attention.


Monday, 22 January 2018

Answers to questions about starting project in cultural monument. Accommodation/volunteers/bikes.

-If you want to make any changes to an historic building, you have to put them through often the reason why these kind of buildings are sold at a low cost, is because its not possible to do much with a cultural monument, without huge cost.

-It took around 6-12 months to get approval to paint the windows. To allow volunteers to paint windows rather than experts, is also a little complicated. NPU are still yet to give me permission to paint the doors. If you can finance it, 70 percent of costs can be covered by the state. Yet your obligated to use qualified people, that have a wealth of skills. You'll have to pay the costs and after the job is done to the expectation of, you can then ask for money back. This makes it very complicated, as you really have to run the project in conjunction with a bank and construction company. Fortunately i don't have any 100 percent immediate jobs that need to be done.

-In your situation, it might be important to make sure that no immediate works have to be done on the building. I suggest contacting and seeing what parts of the building are protected and what you can do. Prior to buying. The real-estate agent might be selling you something worth 1 CZ, for a million.  Process with the NPU, has its reasons, yet its not simple.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

the older more loyal

Most young people studying that i meet through the volunteering are expecting to get a contract with their first job. The idea that the cleaner at the bank could be the bank manager, or the dish pig might manage a hotel are ideas far away to the young. Its about having an education and entering the labour market in a higher position, it seems. I saw an article on linked in that says for the first time in years, the employment for people in their 50's and over has increased. One of the reasons given was that older people are more likely to be loyal to their employer. Link to article. financial review link.

Friday, 3 November 2017

Driverless vehicles

Often i see trains driving past the station almost empty, i catch a bus to the station empty. Driverless autonomous vehicles for sure are going to change things.

Today I saw an article online. here is a link. In Estonia they have bus's without drivers. This might be the tip of the iceberg for the future of travel in Europe.  Rather than owning a car, people might own a driverless bus with 200 people in a town, or something. Driverless Vehicles might even run on railway tracks linking small towns to faster train hubs. The idea that a public transport systems might combine with a felixaeble timetable through an app.

Weinstein ripple effect

I'm seeing a lot on the youtube at the moment about Harvey Weinstein, man was able to get away with what he is for so long, and now the minister for defense in the UK has resigned. Power brokers have to change their ways if they want to keep that job. The beginning of new kind of behaviour?

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Czech elections

The elections in Czech were held over the weekend. The new Czech prime minister is Mr Andrej Babiš. While in Czech i have not paid so much attention to the politics, it has always seemed quite confusing. In the media outside of Czech, Babiš is being painted as a Trump. For me they are quite different though. Babiš has a billion more in wealth than trump, yet compare the GDP of the US to the GDP of the Czech republic and you'll see that Babiš is a titan in the Czech economy. It's not possible in any logical way for this man to govern the country in any direction, without having a conflict of interest. A man today told me that while working as minister of finance, his wealth grew from 33 billion Czech Crowns to 88 billion, in a period of 4 years. I'm no expert on the politics in Czech, yet as i know it, the situation in the last years has not been so good for small and medium sized independent businesses, is this man with all his understanding and influence going to make it any easier? Did Czech just become a corporation?

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Interesting airbnb guests- long-term business in e-bikes.

Towards the end of summer i had an interesting couple stay from Germany through the airbnb. They built electric bikes for the long term, the company based in Germany . As i understand it, a lot of bike manufactures are focused on building a bike for the short term. Enviado puts together all its bikes in Germany, yet gets almost all its parts from China, they are built as robust as possible. Most of the bikes needed for the courier market, are used in a disposable way by the drivers, especially if a driver might be working for Domino's pizza or another company. The company is focused on this market. Through my view it seems like China has cornered the world into a situation, where most parts and products come from that part of the world. Yet China can't offer immediate service if a battery is faulty, or if a bike somehow fails. I think companies in Europe that build to spec for the market here can maybe thrive. My thoughts are that as time ticks on, less cars are going to be on the road, more e-bikes. Maybe driverless delivery vehicles, made from e-bike parts. who knows? The consumer market looks to be based on the short term. A bike company that imports complete bikes from China, does not want to build a battery that lasts longer. Yet a battery that will not allow the driver to discharge its complete charge will last longer, yet not drive so far. Was interesting to meet Sebastian, wishing you guys much success with your business. Thanks for staying through the airbnb.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Mushrooms from Coffee

One idea that keeps bouncing back, is growing mushrooms from the coffee waste. Oyster mushrooms thrive in the used coffee. A lot of start-ups have started in the US and UK, for this. If you put coffee & mushrooms into youtube, you'll see a whole bunch of videos showing how different business's are using this waste. I'm thinking that the station is a good place for this, mostly as I have a huge basement space.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Over the summer and start of this Autumn, volunteers have spent a lot of time with stripping windows. When i have just one volunteer at the station, I tend to focus on smaller jobs around the place, with 2 or more, focus has been the preparation of the windows for painting. This year I had a lot less volunteers than the last years, shorter stays rather than longer ones works better. Airbnb guests pay so as not to work, volunteers are guests working in order to stay. Using the funds from the airbnb to pay for food and materials.

Friday, 7 July 2017

change in Xpat community

I've been here in Czech since 2004, a lot has changed in that time. When i first arrived, Prague had a totally different X-pat community. Because Czech was not a part of the Schengen countries, yet a part of the EU, foreigners were able to travel outside Czech for one day and then come back for another 3 months. In 2007 the x-pat community changed (the year that Czech joined Schengen), unless the xpat had a business or a Czech partner, to stay was not so easy. Many moved further east or back to their home countries. Kind of sad in a way. Now the x-pat community from developed third countries is made up mostly of those working in high end corporate jobs, people with a Czech partner or people that teach English. The Czech republic offered no amnesty to people that had lived here a long time under the old laws. Some since the 1990's.

Recently Prague has really changed, as far as urban culture for younger people. A lot of alternative cafe's have started, that resemble those in Western Europe, UK, US, Australia and Canada. Prague has its own coffee culture. My thoughts are that this evolution might have happened sooner and have more integrity, if more of those foreigners had stayed. 

Airbnb Group From Celebration of 17th November

A couple of weeks back i had a group of 10 people staying through the aribnb from an NGO that organises the celebrations for the 17th of November, on the internet this public holiday is written as the "Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day." They hold the event at Národní Třída. link here

On the 17th of November 1939, nine Czech students were Executed by Nazi forces that occupied the then Czechoslovakia. Link here The 9th of November is also International Students' Day.

The group were positive, full of energy and enthusiasm for Czech and its future. Was kind of refreshing to see this.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

repair of table that broke in the post

I bought this table for one of the airbnb flats. Table was really badly smashed in the delivery by GLS, its been quite a huge job to bring it back it back to its better days. This table is a kind of hack of a halabala table, and something else. Sometime in the last 20 years two tables were put together. Probably 1950's. Quite abstract, want find it in any design catalogue. Yet will find parts in a halabala catalogue. 

Table dispute.

Table was broken by GLS, i paid for the table and delivery and then 5 minuets latter when i looked at the box, saw that it was broken. In Germany (GLS) when a package is sent, and its not fit for travel the courier will inform the sender that the package was not packed properly. Yet in Czech, no such rule exists. Subsequently the person that picks up and delivers packages can treat an object as he chooses. I tried to get the funds back from the seller through Aukro, (Aukro is a kind of Czech eBay) run by a Polish company called Allegro. Anyway, as the seller refused to file a claim with GLS, it was assumed that it was my fault the damage. Because i signed for the goods without inspecting them. With the paypal the seller has many more rights. Its interesting how the Czech state has done all it can to keep paypal out of Czech, Paypal offers buyers a better deal, and gives the option of broader sales to sellers. Czech postal tracking is not recognised by eBay, because Czech post fail to comply with international norms with shipping times. This means that Czech in most instances are forced to use the domestic market for selling. Prices are lower, this in turn gives a lower value to quite cool furniture, and thus insures that a lot of nice things from Czech culture get put in the trash. Historically Czech's haves created some really interesting furniture, before and during communism. Mostly the bigger transport companies like Czech post, GLS and PPL in Czech are able to get around the consumer laws here. The democracy mostly fails here (i think??), as the Czech people don't demand the service and very few mid to small sized business offer accessible services, within the transport industry.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Tree falling down

A couple of weeks back, a tree fell down at the station. Looks like well have a good amount of wood for the winter also thinking to making some chairs that people might sit in. Tree look as if it had no root system, i guess it had just rotted. This year has been really dry with a couple of days of wind. Was lucky that no-one was hurt by the falling tree, it fell directly onto the main road and had to be cleared by the council. Thank you and thanks to volunteers that cleaned up all the mess and brought these heavy logs onto the platform. 


Restoration of Windows

Over the last weeks I have been spending a lot of time with the windows in the building in conjunction with a local tradesman and volunteers, taking all the layers of old paint off and then re-painting. The most efficient way seems to be to use a heat gun/ with gas bottle in conjunction with a scraper. As the building is a monument, I have limited choices of what colour's I can paint the outside windows, I had a different bunch of blues and also a different bunch of cream colours. I've chosen a blue, it seems to fit well. For every different process with the buiding a new permit is needed from the monument preservation society.

Initially I wanted to apply for funding from the local council to restore the windows, yet the bureaucracy was thick, and it really did not make sense when i have volunteers. As an owner of a monument your able to get 60-70 percent back on what you pay for work & materials from the local council or ministry of culture. The accountability is complicated though, and often has a big element of idocracy to it.  Often i see buildings that are very old, that look perfect, for me this kind of spoils the old buildings atmosphere. Fortunately i have found a local man that was previously a registered  architect working mostly in Prague, he understands materials and the way of old buildings. For now he likes the project and is not so expensive to employ. He's able to show the volunteers how to do the jobs, guide them through any process's and make sure that all is ok.

Bellow are pictures of the restoration of windows we have done so far.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Plaque Restored

Between 2012 and 2015 (before i was here at the station) the plaque that commemorated the life of the station master Václav Hajduk, went missing from the platform. It took about two years of negotiations with different authorities to get the plaque restored to the building. It was strange that the plaque was taken, as it was stone, not metal. Anyway, The Organisation against fascism (CŠBP) that installed the memorial plaque in 1971, were back for a ceremony in conjunction with the major of Zbiroh and representatives from the local historic society last week. Thank you CŠBP for putting the sign back. The platform feels much more comfortable to have the plaque back in place. 

Translation of what is written on the sign.
For the freedom of his country he sacrifised his life in the antifascist resistance. Vaclav Hejduk Station master of Zbiroh Nadrazi born 20.7.1900, arrested 22.12.1943, in-prisoned in Pilsen, Wroclaw, Dresden, missing since 14.2.1945 -people be awake.