A high-ranking official at the Czech Consolidation Agency has been charged with large-scale corruption. Executive board member Radka Kafkova was arrested in the middle of the night after she made a money exchange, Czech Television reports. The police have been investigating the case, which involves tens of millions of crowns, for three years. One of the Consolidation Agency's main tasks is to bail state-owned companies out of problematic loans.
The Finance Ministry expects the country's economy to grow by 6.2 percent this year. Its projection is up from previous estimates of 5.6 percent. The positive projection is based on external trade and an expected increase in household spending and investments. The ministry says economic growth will slow down next year to reach 5 percent.
Meanwhile, the centre-right coalition put forward its own candidate for the post of speaker of the lower house of Parliament on Wednesday. Christian Democrat Jan Kasal will face the Social Democrats' Lubomir Zaoralek in the election on Friday. The coalition says Mr Kasal will only pull out of the race if the Social Democrats agree to tolerate the coalition's proposed platform.
The Czech electricity grid, which suffered an overload on Tuesday, has called off a state of emergency. The network CEPS balances electricity generation with consumption in the Czech Republic and battled its biggest blackout in thirty years. All large companies are still advised to minimise their energy consumption.
Outgoing prime minister and Social Democrat leader Jiri Paroubek says the centre-right coalition has rejected a generous compromise solution that would have put an end to the political deadlock. The three-party coalition of the Civic Democrats, the Christian Democrats, and the Greens has been trying to form a government but is one vote short of a majority in the lower house of Parliament. On Wednesday, the Social Democrats proposed to name a candidate other than Lubomir Zaoralek for the post of lower house speaker and give up control of a parliamentary commission. The coalition has rejected the offer.
The Czech Railway company is planning to buy more Pendolino trains to cover destinations to neighbouring Slovakia and Austria. There are already seven Pendolino trains travelling between Prague and Ostrava and on the Prague-Brno-Breclav line. Seven more are expected to cover the Prague-Bratislava and Prague-Vienna lines as of December. A trip on the Pendolino, known for speed and comfort, is expected to cut travelling time by up to thirty minutes.
Lebanese children, who are in need of medical care and cannot get it at home because of the ongoing Israeli-Lebanese conflict, may be offered treatment in the Czech Republic. On Wednesday, Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan proposed to increase the budget of the government's Medevac project by ten million crowns (an estimated 445,000 US dollars) to include Lebanon. The project makes it possible for children from war-torn countries to get medical attention in the Czech Republic.
The European Commission has proposed to allow 17 EU member states, including the Czech Republic, to lower VAT for services that demand hard labour. In the Czech Republic, this would mean that services like construction work, window cleaning, and home care would be taxed at five percent until 2010. The proposal has yet to be approved by the Council.
The Czech electricity network is suffering an overload and has called a state of emergency. The network CEPS, which balances electricity generation with consumption in the Czech Republic, says the overload has led to several blackouts. All large companies are now obliged to minimise their energy consumption. The crisis committee is holding an emergency meeting to find ways of bringing the situation under control.
Police are looking for a person who has been shooting an airgun at random in the Bohemian town of Ceske Budejovice. At least four people, among them one child, have been shot since Thursday. None of them were seriously injured. The residents of the Maj residential area are scared to leave their homes as the shots are believed to be fired from a window.
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