The Czech economy grew by 1.1 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2010, according to government figures released on Wednesday. The country’s gross domestic product grew by 0.5 percent between the start of January and the end of March. The recovery of the automotive industry is seen as the main driving force behind the surge. The finance ministry has forecast 1.5 percent growth this year and 2.4 percent in 2011.
The caretaker finance minister, Eduard Janota, has rejected accusations that he had overstepped his mandate at a meeting of EU finance ministers in Luxembourg this week. Mr. Janota came under fire from President Klaus and the Civic Democratic party for having thrown his weight behind a proposal that the EU should have control over national budgets. Mr. Janota countered that while he had expressed an opinion on the subject there had been no vote on the issue and no decision had been taken. The proposal will now be discussed by heads of state and government of EU member states.
Police have arrested three Vietnamese dealers who sold heroin to young addicts in and around the city of Ostrava. The man and two women engaged in the activity since 2004, making approximately 10 million crowns. The police had been watching them since last April, and closed in after the death of a 19-year-old girl who died of an over-doze of heroin acquired from the said dealers.
Students are protesting against the possible introduction of tuition fees at public universities. The idea was floated at a meeting of the three parties expected to form a centre-right government. If the idea wins approval students would have to pay tuition fees to the tune of 10,000 crowns per semester. The idea has sparked a wave of protests and socially challenged students are now signing a petition against the introduction of tuition fees. A survey of 11 thousand students commissioned by the Education Ministry late last year indicated that two thirds of those polled are against the idea.
The results of an analysis commissioned by the Social Democrats suggest
that former party leader Jiří Paroubek is to blame for the party’s
election failure in the recent general elections. Although the party
technically won the elections, it did so only by a small margin which left
it unable to form a government.
The analysis, commissioned by the acting party chairman, Bohuslav Sobotka, says that the former leader’s aggressive style of campaigning and his poor performance in one-on-one tv debates with his main rival Petr Necas of the Civic Democrats had put off many potential and undecided voters.
Civic Democrat leader Petr Nečas, whose party campaigned against higher taxes in the general elections, has acknowledged that tax hikes may prove inevitable if the country wants to reign in the public finance deficit and introduce health and pension reforms. Following several rounds of talks with his potential coalition partners, TOP09 and Public Affairs, Mr. Nečas said his party was ready to consider raising the lower VAT rate or introducing a unified 19 percent VAT rate. All three parties have stressed that higher taxes should be the last austerity measure considered, if cost-cutting measures in the public sector prove insufficient. The planned shake-up in the public sector will involve cutting both jobs and investments.
The police are searching for the identity of a foreigner suffering from amnesia. The man is believed to be in his thirties and speaks fluent German. He turned up at a police station in the town of Lednice, south Moravia, to ask for help. He had no identity papers or documents of any kind which could provide a clue. He says he has no idea how he came to be in the Czech Republic. The man is blond, blue-eyed and measures 187 centimetres. The police have asked the public for assistance.
President Vaclav Klaus on Wednesday vetoed a lottery bill that would make it possible for municipalities to have a say in the licensing process for lotteries and video lottery terminals on their territory. The president’s spokesman said Mr. Klaus viewed the proposed legislation as a populist move ahead of the general elections which, if implemented, would do more harm than good. The largest Czech lottery firm Sazka said it was considering leaving the country over the legislation. Since the term of the outgoing lower house has officially ended the legislation will fall under the table.
The three centre-right parties who are working to form the country’s next government have signaled an unwillingness to leave the post of speaker of the lower house to the Social Democrats. At a meeting in Prague on Wednesday the three parties argued that the top post in the lower house should go to the parties which have a majority there. This goes against established tradition according to which the post of lower house speaker goes to the strongest opposition party. The acting leader of the Social Democrats, Bohuslav Sobotka, said his party deserved to be given the post in view of the fact that it won the elections and had the largest group of deputies in the lower chamber.
The heads of primary schools in Brno and the vicinity say they are shocked by a paintball company advertisement called “Come and shoot your teacher”. The advertisement arrived by mail and evoked a critical response from the local authorities. Deputy mayor Daniel Rychnovsky, who is responsible for education in the city, said the ad was in extremely bad taste in view of the growing incidence of school violence in the United States and Europe. The paintball company responsible has apologized for the ad, saying it was intended as a joke.
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