The Ministry of Education is proposing electronic state leaving exams as part of a process to simplify and decentralise the system. After an hour-long meeting with President Václav Klaus, Education Minister Josef Dobeš told reporters that they had fully agreed the administrative demands of leaving exams were a major problem. Mr Dobeš supported the reintroduction of state leaving exams next year shortly after assuming office and the proposal was approved by the Parliament. President Klaus has opposed their centralised compilation however, preferring they be made by individual schools. The president and the other coalition parties have also opposed the Public Affairs minister’s plan to make the last year of nursery mandatory for all children.
Minister of Culture Jiří Besser says he wants to cancel the State Cultural Fund, which he said is indebted and has failed to fulfil its purpose. Speaking to the parliamentary committee for science, education and culture, Mr Besser said that the fund will be dissolved as quickly as possible, provided he has the support of the finance minister, with whom he plans to meet in the coming weeks. The fund for the development of cinematography would be kept. Parliament has supported the idea of cancelling the fund before, and the culture minister’s proposal has received nonpartisan support. The State Cultural Fund was established in 1992 with the aim of supporting important cultural projects independently of the state budget. However, the fund has been without its planned income for most of its existence.
The World Economic Forum’s report on global competitiveness shows the Czech Republic as having dropped five places since last year to 36th place. The rating suggests that the Czech Republic, along with Estonia at 33rd place, remain the most competitive countries of Central and Eastern Europe. The report states that both countries have continued to rely on outstanding school systems, effective and developed markets for goods, labour and financial services, and technological proficiency. According to the forum, the Czech Republic’s rating is hurt by indicators of public trust in politics, the burden of state regulations, clientelism and the transparency of government decisions. Six of the top ten positions on the list of global competitiveness were taken by Western European countries.
The initial conclusions of an inspection of army purchases set up by the Minister of Defence indicate substandard contracts having been signed that are disadvantageous for the ministry. According to the economic daily E15 on Thursday, inspectors have for example been unable to discern the cost of several vehicles and the margin received by their manufacturers. The paper’s source says that the MoD intends to sign a deal next week with the Defence and Security Industry Association of the Czech Republic to prevent non-transparent and overpriced army commissions. A special national authority for military purchases is also to be established by January of 2012.
The Prague Zoo will be opening an exhibition of wetland birds on Saturday that will include a pair of rare African Shoebills from Tanzania. According to zoo director Miroslav Bobek, only 40 such birds live in captivity in the world, making them as uncommon in zoos as the Giant Panda. The four aviaries at the exhibition will also include birds from the Americas, Australia and Europe. Other new attractions to the zoo will be the Hamerkop, the Wattled Crane and the White-headed Lapwing.
The deputy governor for finance of the Region of Plzeň, Milan Chovanec, has been elected regional governor. Mr Chovanec was the sole candidate for the post after governor Milada Emmerová resigned in order to serve in parliament. She was the first regional governor ever to resign in the Czech Republic. Mr Chovanec, a Social Democrat like his predecessor, was elected by representatives from various parties in the regional council. He plans to retain his responsibilities in the regional financial office at least until next year’s budget is approved as the region, which is currently free of debt, is considering a loan from the European Investment Bank for road repairs.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas has confirmed that the government’s representative for human rights, Michael Kocáb, has offered his resignation. Mr Nečas said his cabinet had not yet had the opportunity to discuss the matter, but that he believed it would garner little debate. Last week, the Prime Minister announced Mr Kocáb’s resignation after a meeting and publically thanked him for his work in the field of human rights. Mr Kocáb then told the press that he had in fact not offered to leave his post. The situation resulted in a row between the two, with Mr Nečas saying he would ask the cabinet to dismiss him if he did not resign on his own. The Prime Minister wants to replace the post of human rights representative with a controversial conservative advisor Roman Joch.
The region of Ústí nad Labem has calculated damages from August floods at nearly two billion crowns, or almost two times the amount first estimated immediately after the disaster. Damages to bridges, roads and railways alone are estimated at 1.3 billion crowns, while water management infrastructure requires 450 million in repairs. The majority of damaged roads are in the area of Děčín, which is eligible for state subsidies of up to 90% of damage costs because a state of emergency was promptly declared there. Flash floods on August 7 left 1534 buildings inundated, destroyed 145 bridges and damaged 87 roads.
One person died during a fire at an industrial plant in the small west Bohemian town of Vřesová on Wednesday night. Three others were also injured in the blaze, which broke out just before midnight following an explosion at the Sokolovské uhelné fuel plant. The man who died was aged 56, said a spokesperson for the rescue services. Two employees suffered severe burns in another fire at the plant in 2007.
Police in the region of Liberec will be spending more time on foot next year due to budget cuts, the region’s police director told reporters on Thursday. According to preliminary calculations, the department’s budget for next year will be cut by almost half to 68.5 million crowns. The director said the department would be asking mayors to exempt the police from rent where possible and officers will receive 10 to 12% less in wages. Plans for a new, 430-million crown police presidium in the region have also been cancelled due to cuts in the Ministry of the Interior.