The Czech Republic's state budget for 2008 is expected to have a deficit
of 70.8 billion crowns, or 3.5 billion U.S. dollars, the Finance Ministry
said on Monday. The deficit should account for 2.95 percent of the budget,
which falls within the three percent limit set by the Maastricht criteria
for the adoption of the euro.
The deficit in 2008 should be lower than in the previous two years as it reflects the changes incorporated in the fiscal reform proposed by the government and passed by the Chamber of Deputies in August. The expenditures of the state should rise by 66.5 billion crowns, while the state income is expected to be higher by about 87 billion crowns.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has dismissed speculation that he is planning a cabinet reshuffle. Czech newspapers reported last week that Defence Minister Vlasta Parkanova (Christian Democrats), as well as Justice Minister Jiri Pospisil (Civic Democrats) might be replaced by MP Jan Vidim (Civic Democrats) and Minister Cyril Svoboda (Christian Democrats), respectively. Mr Topolanek said on Monday that both ministers had been doing very well and that he was satisfied with their performance.
Monday was the first day of the new school year for about 1.4 million children attending elementary and secondary schools throughout the Czech Republic. The 2007/08 school year also sees a change to the syllabi of elementary schools in the country. From now on, each school is responsible for its own curriculum. Monday is also the tenth anniversary of the revival of Jewish education in the Czech Republic. The sole Czech Jewish school was founded ten years ago in Prague.
Social welfare benefits amounting to 73 million crowns (or more than 3.5 million U.S. dollars) was abused last year, the weekly Profit reported. Inspections carried out by Labour Offices in the Czech Republic revealed that in 2006, social benefits were illegitimately drawn in more than 34,000 cases, most of them being child allowances. One of the goals of the fiscal reform recently approved by the lower house is to reduce the abuse of social benefits, some of which should be replaced by the so-called 'negative tax'.
The fate of about 250 million crowns worth of property of the former IT ministry remains unclear, the daily Hospodarske noviny reported on Monday. The ministry, established in 2003, was abolished by the current government in 2007. The agenda of the IT ministry was passed onto the Interior Ministry, together with all its property. The control commission of the Czech Parliament has discovered that about 250 million crowns (12.3 million U.S. dollars) of its property is missing, the paper said.
The consumption of coffee in the Czech Republic rose in 2006 to 370 cups, or about 3 kg, per capita. Five years before, the average Czech consumed 330 cups. With the average annual consumption of 3 kg of coffee, Czechs rank among the world average with Scandinavian countries topping the list with about 10 kg per head. In the Czech Republic, instant coffee is becoming increasingly popular while the Czech speciality known as 'Turkish' coffee is gradually losing popularity.
The Parliamentary Institute, an information centre of the Czech Parliament, has said that the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia did not commit treason by refusing the positioning of an American radar base in the Czech Republic. Senator Jaromir Stetina, of the Green Party, had approached the Institute with an inquiry whether the position of the Communist Party did not harm the ability of the country to defend itself.
Cardboard cut-out figures in police uniforms holding binoculars have been placed on roads in the central Bohemia region. Up to 200 dummy officers are being used to help the same number of real officers keep traffic under control in the region on the busy, holiday-end weekend, said a police spokesperson. The cut-out policemen are intended to help prevent accidents, though they are also intended to draw attention to the fact the regional force does not have enough officers.
The Czech filmmaker Vaclav Marhoul has begun shooting his latest picture Tobruk in the desert in Tunisia. The director and screenwriter prepared a dozen actors for their roles by drilling them at the Vyskov NATO base in Moravia earlier this summer. Mr Marhoul said they needed military experience in order to be able to perform their roles in the war film well.
An estimated 10,000 music lovers turned out on Sunday afternoon for a staging of Antonin Dvorak's opera Rusalka at a most unusual venue - a natural amphitheatre at Prague's Divoka Sarka, a wooded area on the outskirts of the city. The performance was dedicated to the late Frantisek Preisler, who conducted operas in the same location last year and the year before. Audience members brought blankets and umbrellas, and had to walk 20 minutes from the nearest tram stop. Entrance was free for the event, which was organised by the Prague 6 local authority.
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