Liberation, not punishment

SVERŽOV, a small village near Bardejov numbering fewer than 600 souls, will become an ‘e-pay laboratory’ this summer. The 20 beneficiaries of social allowances who live in the village will get their allowances on e-pay cards rather than in cash. The Slovak Spectator spoke to Pavol Ceľuch, the mayor of Sveržov, about the project.

SVERŽOV, a small village near Bardejov numbering fewer than 600 souls, will become an ‘e-pay laboratory’ this summer. The 20 beneficiaries of social allowances who live in the village will get their allowances on e-pay cards rather than in cash. The Slovak Spectator spoke to Pavol Ceľuch, the mayor of Sveržov, about the project.



TSS: Why did you want to take part?


Pavol Ceľuch (PC): In our village we have no problems with usury, non-payment [of utility bills and local taxes], drugs or alcohol. But since municipalities are worried about going into this experiment, we decided to try it out. We offered our village as an alternative to the ministry, and they selected us.



TSS: What will it look like in practice?


PC: We have municipally-owned social housing here, so we want to try to facilitate payments for that through the e-pay terminals: electricity, water, and combustibles that we buy them. Also taxes and fees that everybody must pay would go through the terminals. Although, I repeat, we don’t have problems with their paying on time, we can handle it with this rather small number of people. We believe that if we manage to catch the problems early on in the project, it might be positive for the municipality that we went into [the project] and weren’t worried.


It’s also important that the people are not worried. The cards are not a punishment. Everybody sees it as a punishment, but I say no, on the contrary, it’s liberation.



TSS: Do people in Sveržov see it as a negative thing?


PC: After the information that appeared in the media – which I would call half-truths, because they are not lies, but they are not fully true either – I feel like they are ‘freaking out’, and they are now getting worried. They had no worries before, when I told them that we could go into this project. They said ‘Alright, let’s try it’. I never lied to them, or promised them something and did not live up to my promise. There is mutual trust between me and them.

And now I have to admit I am a bit disappointed with some of the news. Last night I saw [the
e-pay cards] presented on TV as a sort of whip for those who will be using them. It’s true that it’s going to be a whip for the negligent ones, but for those who observe their duties, the card will be a liberation. So don’t write negatively about it. The cards are not a punishment for these people; they are a punishment for the usurers.


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