The Chamber of Deputies’ budget committee has recommended that the lower house approve in the first reading a draft budget for next year put forward by the minister of finance, Miroslav Kalousek. The 2011 draft budget envisages a deficit of CZK 135 billion (USD 7.7 billion), down from this year’s target deficit of CZK 163 billion. The Czech government is seeking to cut the country’s fiscal deficit, which widened to 5.8 percent of gross domestic product last year. The target for this year is 5.3 percent. The right-of-centre coalition has 118 mandates in the 200-seat lower house, meaning the budget is likely to be passed without difficulty later in the year.
Meanwhile, the Czech Under 21 side have qualified for their age level’s European Championship. After beating Greece 3:0 at home in a play-off game the youngsters won 2:0 away on Tuesday to secure a 5:0 victory on aggregate. The Under 21 European Championship takes place in Denmark in June. A draw for four-team groups in the eight-nation tournament will be held next month.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas has outlined measures aimed at limiting an expected sharp rise in electricity prices next year. The Energy Regulatory Office says that because of a boom in solar power plants, households could pay up to 12 percent more for electricity in 2011, with businesses set to pay up to 17 percent more. Mr Nečas said on Wednesday that those hikes could be reduced through a new tax on subsidies for solar power, along with an increase in charges for land leased for the location of solar panels. He said the government could also offset the price rises with incomes raised from selling emissions permits. The industry, finance, environment and regional development ministries are due to produce a joint paper on the matter by next Wednesday, the prime minister said.
The Czech branch of the environmental advocacy group Friends of the Earth has put forward a proposal to give 3 percent of the territory of the Czech Republic over to wilderness. Currently around 0.3 percent of the country is occupied by untamed nature. Friends of the Earth say territory could be set aside as wilderness over several decades. The land would not be used for commercial purposes such as logging and would be a boon for tourists, they say. The group has been inspired by a German government initiative to make 2 percent of the country’s territory wild countryside.
The state-controlled energy giant ČEZ is considering postponing the completion of the Temelín nuclear power station in south Bohemia, Hospodářské noviny reported. Within the next six months ČEZ is due to announce the winner of a huge contract to build two new blocks at the plant, and planned to put them into operation in 2020. However, a source at ČEZ said the project could be delayed for many years. The financial crisis has raised doubts over whether the increased capacity will be needed, the newspaper reported. Three companies are in the running for the multi-billion-dollar contract: America’s Westinghouse, the French company Areva and a Russian-Czech consortium of Atomstroyexport, Gidropress and Škoda JS.
The Czech Republic’s footballers eased to a 2:0 away victory over tiny Liechtenstein on Tuesday night, notching up their second win in Euro 2012 qualifiers in five days. Tomáš Necid found the net for the visitors after 12 minutes, before 18-year-old debutant Václav Kadlec added a second just before the half hour mark, becoming the youngest player ever to score for the Czech Republic. The Czechs are now second in Group I behind Spain, who they visit in their next European Championship qualifier in March.
The recently appointed governor of the Czech National Bank, Miroslav Singer, says the creation of new pan-European Union financial regulators is not an appropriate response to the financial crisis. Mr Singer made the comments at Prague Castle on Wednesday after talks with Czech President Václav Klaus, with whom he is in accord on this matter. The central bank head said care should be taken that the Czech Republic’s stable financial sector should not get into trouble because it is wrongly regulated or because decisions were being made for which Prague was not responsible. Pan-EU regulators are set to begin exercising greater control over the bloc’s financial markets in January.
Legendary Czech jockey Josef Váňa may be forced to quit racing due to injury, the newspaper Sport reported. Váňa, who is 58 next week, won the Grand Pardubice steeplechase for the seventh time on Sunday when his horse Tiumen came first in a photo finish. However, the jockey has been suffering from knee problems and requires surgery to replace a knee joint. He said if that happens, he cannot envisage taking part in the Czech Republic’s best known race again.
Czech trades unions say they will wait until after further talks with the prime minister, Petr Nečas, before deciding whether to take strike action in protest at planned cuts in public sector pay. On Tuesday union leaders informed Mr Nečas that they were starting an indefinite “strike alert”. For his part, the prime minister said the right-of-centre coalition would not back down over plans to reduce the total amount spent on state salaries by 10 percent next year. While the cabinet is due to discuss the unions’ demands in two weeks’ time, a representative of the unions said on Wednesday that they were doubtful much could be expected of talks with government leaders.
Preparations are underway for the launch of the Czech Republic’s first television station aimed at the country’s large Vietnamese community, Hospodářské noviny. The channel will be named Viet Sen; the word sen means dream in Czech and lotus flower in Vietnamese. One of its owners told the newspaper that it would begin on the internet with weekly programmes on such topics as Vietnamese events and football leagues and how to negotiate Czech bureaucracy. In two years the station should begin broadcasting on cable and satellite. However, the whole project is contingent on the receipt of European Union funding.
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