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Deputy Premier Ota Sik, the country's top economist, wants to eliminate price supports, close inefficient plants, retrain workers and import Western goods so that Czechoslovak consumers can become accustomed toand demand from their own manufacturers-better-grade products. In order to slip away from the Soviet embrace, Sik wants to borrow $500 million in Western Europe if the Soviets will not provide what he needs. With that money, Czechoslovak plants could buy the new equipment that they need to turn out high-quality products to sell in competitive Western markets.
Dubček realizes, however, that economic reforms, which will inevitably mean some unemployment and rising prices, are going to be harder to bring off than political ones. For this task, he needs the same outpouring of allegiance from the Czechoslovaks as that which buttressed his stand at Cierna and Bratislava. There was some early evidence that Dubček might get it. In a voluntary effort to strengthen the economy, thousands of Czechoslovaks last week began donating money and jewelry to the government. The one-week total: $3,000,000 in cash and gold.