The caretaker government of Prime Jan Fischer is putting the finishing touches to plans aimed at curbing the country’s ballooning budget deficit. The so-called exit strategy includes the possibility of a higher 25% tax bracket for bigger earners, ending aid for home buyers and changes to index-linked increases in social payments. The target is to almost halve the current state deficit to under 3.0 percent of Gross Domestic Product by 2013. That is the level need for adoption of the euro. Prime Minister Fischer has said the measures, to be discussed next week with industrial leaders and unions, could plot the course for the next government following May elections.
Czech cross country skier Lukáš Bauer won the 15-kilometre World Cup event at Otepää, Estonia, on Saturday. Bauer came in more than 16 seconds ahead of second placed Andrus Veerpalu. It is Bauer’s third straight win at this fixture in a row and reinforces his second place position in the overall World Cup standings. He will now return home for a few days to Boží Dar in West Bohemia before heading off to Canada to begin training for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
A survey suggests that most Czechs are unsatisfied with the clean up of pavements following heavy snowfalls this week. A change in the law last year appears to put the responsibility on local councils for such snow clearance. But the survey by the SANEP agency shows just over 70 percent of respondents are unhappy with their efforts so far. Just under half think that a better job was done when the responsibility fell on the owners of properties which had a frontage on the pavement. But only a third of those surveyed wanted a return to that previous system.
Saturday’s edition of the daily Lidové noviny reports that Minister of Finance Eduard Janota will undertake a far reaching audit of state-controlled companies ahead of elections in May. The audit aims to weed out incompetent political appointees at the head of companies. The report says it will also seek to make sure their pay and bonuses are in line with practices elsewhere, for example in neighbouring Germany. Companies lined up for the audit include power giant ČEZ, Czech Airlines, Czech Railways and the operator of Prague airport.
The venue for the opening World Group Davis Cup tie between the Czech Republic and Belgium has been announced. The venue for the confrontation between March 5-7 will be the small eastern Belgian town of Bree. The Czechs are favourites for the encounter following their run to the final of the Davis Cup last year when they lost against Spain. The Czechs hope to get to the final again this year but with a different result.
The Czech-German film, Habermann’s Mill, scooped two awards at the Bavarian film awards on Friday. Slovak director Juraj Herz was awarded the director’s prize and Mark Waschke the prize for best actor. The film, which should be released in the Czech Republic in March, traces how the life of a rich Sudeten saw mill owner is transformed by the crisis of 1938 and then the war. The Bavarian film awards are recognised as the second most prestigious in Germany.
Czech deputy foreign minister Helena Bambusová has suggested the country
should take an active part in the long-term renewal of earthquake-hit
Haiti. In an interview with the Czech News Agency she said rebuilding the
country would be a good opportunity for the Czech Republic to give further
aid if that is cleared by the government.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already pledged 5.0 million crowns as immediate emergency aid. It will be used by a United Nations programme aimed at restoring supplies of drinking water. The government should discuss further aid at its Monday meeting. Estimates put the number of dead caused by the earthquake at the start of this week at up to 200,000 with up to 300,000 homeless.
In tennis, Czech women’s doubles specialist Květa Peschkeová has won the Hobart, Australia, title with Taiwanese partner Chuang Chia-Jung. They beat the Romanian-Taiwanese pair, Monica Niculescu and Chan Yung-Jan 3:6, 6:3, 10:7. It is Peschkeová’s 14th doubles title and follows a half year away from the game following injury. The Hobart tournament is seen as a warm up for the Australian Open.
Commemorations for Czech student Jan Palach have taken place in Prague and at his birthplace near Mělník on Saturday. It was 41 years ago on January 16, 1969, that the 21-year-old student set fire to himself in the centre of Prague to protest against indifference following the crushing of the Prague Spring by Soviet-led Warsaw Pact in forces a year earlier. He died of his injuries three days later. His sacrifice stirred Czechs and focussed world attention on the country.
A BBC television programme, discussing prostitution in European capitals in connection with British weekend trips and “stag parties”, has described the Czech Republic as a transit centre for trafficking in women. The documentary used a hidden camera to record a conversation with a Czech, allegedly involved in trafficking, who offered two women for 3,500 euros each a month. The filmmakers also spoke to a Slovak national involved in trafficking and a prostitute from Slovakia who said she was forced into prostitution in Amsterdam. The documentary said that Prague had 70 brothels in addition to strip clubs, noting the rise in British sex tourism and stag parties in recent years. According to the programme, those were factors contributing to prostitution and trafficking in women. Besides Prague, the documentary filmmakers also looked at the problem of prostitution in Amsterdam, Riga and Warsaw.