The Czech branch of the anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International says its recent study shows around 20 billion crowns (almost one billion USD) is wasted every year in the Czech healthcare system. If used efficiently, this money could improve the quality of care patients receive, they say. Combined with losses in the health insurance system, the estimated figure would rise to 27.6 billion. According to Transparency International, the losses are mainly caused by a high sickness rate and the way in which public contracts are awarded.
Representatives of the Czech government, trade unions and employers have not reached agreement on the planned government reform of the tax and welfare systems. At an extraordinary tripartite meeting on Wednesday, the trade unions rejected the government proposal, arguing that the prepared changes would badly affect the situation of people with low and mid-level incomes and would reduce the budget revenues. The employers welcomed the reform steps but voiced a number of reservations. In order to reduce the country's fiscal deficit, the Civic Democrat-led cabinet intends to introduce a 15-percent tax on personal income and cut corporate tax from 24 to 19 percent. The basic five-percent VAT imposed on food, drugs and some services is to be raised to nine percent. The package will be submitted to the lower house in June. A vote should take place at an extraordinary session during the summer recess.
Former world 800m champion Ludmila Formanova has announced her retirement. The 33-year old athlete said on Wednesday the reasons were her state of health and her son Petr to whom she wanted to devote more time. Formanova was crowned world champion of the two-lap event in Seville, Spain in 1999 and also won the world indoor championships in Maebashi, Japan in the same year. A foot injury saw her pull out of her heat in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, and she has not competed at top international level since 2002. Formanova took a year out from competitive sport in 2005 to have a baby but returned a year later only to be plagued by a muscle injury from February that year.
A South African court has extended the custody of Czech businessman Radovan Krejcir, who is wanted by the Czech authorities, until May 17 when the court is to decide whether he can be released on bail, the Czech Ambassador to South Africa Jaroslav Siro told the CTK news agency. The Czech ambassador also confirmed that the embassy had provided a court interpreter for Mr Krejcir. Radovan Krejcir, a Seychellois citizen, is wanted in the Czech Republic for various crimes, including conspiracy to murder, money forgery, tax evasion, extortion, and abduction. He has already been sentenced in absentia to six and a half years in jail for fraud. He fled from the Czech police to the Seychelles in 2005. The South African police arrested Mr Krejcir at Johannesburg airport two weeks ago when he entered the country with a false passport.
Police say they have filed charges against four supporters of the far-right Narodni odpor movement who were detained on Tuesday during clashes with the police in the Moravian city of Brno. They are suspected of attacking a public official and face up to five years in jail if found guilty. Seven police officers and two journalists were injured during Tuesday's violent clashes in Brno.
The Czech Republic beat the United States 4:3 on Tuesday, taking top spot in Group B at the Ice Hockey World Championship in Moscow. After going up 3:1 in the final period, the Czechs looked headed for a more comfortable win until the Americans struck two late goals to level the score at 3:3. "We should have defended the 3:1 lead. That didn't happen but I'm happy we scored the deciding goal," Czech coach Alois Hadamczik told reporters. "We saw a very good hockey game tonight."
The lower house has approved the establishment of a national memory institute which would study the country's communist past and the period of the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia. Its main task would be to collect, analyse and publish documents from those times including materials concerning the activities of communist secret services. Left-wing parties were against the bill: the Social Democrats expressed their protest by not taking part in the vote. The bill has yet to be approved by the Senate, which had proposed it, and signed by the President.
Police say the prolonged weekend, when many people took Monday off ahead of Tuesday's state holiday, brought an increase in the number of traffic accidents on Czech roads, with 17 people killed. On May 1 alone, six people died in road accidents around the country, according to preliminary police statistics.
President Vaclav Klaus has signed an amendment to the law on public health under which doctors from EU countries, who temporarily work in the Czech Republic, will not have to pay membership fees to professional chambers - a fact previously criticised by the European Court of Justice which ruled in January the Czech Republic had failed to harmonise its legislation with EU law in this respect. The amendment also enables patients to see their medical records and make copies of them. Patients' relatives will have access to their medical records after their death, including information on the cause of death and the autopsy results, unless the patient explicitly forbids it. So far doctors were obliged to inform patients on their health condition, but they did not have to show their medical records to them.
Two Czech bodyguards suffered injuries in an attack against a Czech diplomat in Afghanistan on Tuesday. Rebels opened fire at a car carrying the head of the Czech diplomatic mission in Kabul Filip Velach. He escaped unharmed but three of the rebels were killed and two Czech bodyguards injured in the crossfire. The Czech embassy in Kabul re-opened in mid-April. Some 180 Czech soldiers are currently operating in Afghanistan and a Czech field hospital opened there last month.