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.
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.
The captain of the Czech national football team Tomas Rosicky scored for the English Premier League club Arsenal in their 3:1 win over Portsmouth on Sunday. A day earlier Rosicky's international team-mate Milan Baros came off the bench to score the winner for France's Lyon in a 3:2 win over Le Mans. Both stars should be in action when the Czech Republic take on San Marino next Saturday and Ireland the following Wednesday in Euro 2008 qualifiers.
Over half a million people attended an exhibition at Prague's National Museum entitled Lovci mamutu (Mammoth Hunters) which closed on Sunday. Museum officials said they had sold 3,000 thousand tickets on the last day of the popular exhibition, which opened its doors ten months ago and twice had its closing date put back. As well as a life-sized replica of a mammoth, its main draw was the original Venus of Vestonice, an 11-cm statuette of a female figure believed to be 25,000 years old.
Food prices in the Czech Republic could increase by 25 percent in the near
future, warns the head of the Czech Agricultural Chamber. Speaking on a TV
debate programme, Jan Veleba said the increase was possible due to high
demand for grain on world markets; grain prices have doubled in the last
year. The Agricultural Chamber has proposed that value added tax should
increase from 5 to 9 percent in January, as planned. However, the minister
of agriculture, Petr Gandalovic, says the VAT hike will not have a
significant increase on the price of foodstuffs.
Meanwhile, the opposition Social Democrats say they will fight the rising of the lower VAT bracket from 5 to 9 percent. MP Michal Hasek said the party would table an amendment blocking the increase in a month's time; he said the move was not just a political gesture.