Models in snow boots and skimpy fur costumes unveiled Škoda Auto’s new car, the Yeti, at the Geneva auto show on Tuesday. Škoda has speeded up the launch of the sports utility vehicle to help counter the crisis and worldwide slump in car sales. Sales are set to begin in the summer but the company has not yet put a price tag on the new car.
A proposal allowing businesses to write off Value Added Tax for all new cars purchased was passed by the lower house of Parliament. The move forms part of the government’s raft of measures aimed at tackling the financial crisis. Proposals by the opposition and dissident members of the main government party, the Civic Democrats, to cut existing VAT levels and incentives for scrapping old cars were defeated.
Almost 5,000 people suffered from tick-borne infections in the Czech Republic in 2008, around 900 more than a year earlier, according to the National Institute of Public Health. Of these, 633 suffered from encephalistis, which affects the nervous system, with three men dying in hospital following infection. Lyme disease affected 4,350 people. The figures mean that 2008 was the second worst year for tick-borne diseases after 2006.
Czech power giant ČEZ has announced a record net profit of 47.4 billion crowns in 2008, an increase of 11 percent on the previous year. The company predicts this year’s profits will rise even higher, to 50.2 billion crowns. This is largely thanks to the fact that it sold a lot of this year’s power production at high prices before the financial crisis hit. The almost 70 percent state-owned company says it will scale back its acquisition ambitions for the moment because of the crisis by removing Russia and Ukraine from its target areas.
Czech Airlines said Tuesday that it carried 2.4 percent more passengers last year with the total reaching over 5.6 million. Passenger figures started to fall with the onset of the world financial crisis in September and reached minus 8.7 percent in December. The airline predicts lower passenger numbers for 2009. The state-owned airline is slated for privatisation this year.
The Supreme Court confirmed earlier court rulings that the public exhibition of a baseball bat with the message “for gypsies” in a restaurant does not constitute discrimination and did not affect human dignity. An earlier court decision said that although Roma might feel offended they had no right to damages or an apology. The court case dates back to 2001 when Roma activists and non-profit organizations launched a complaint against the restaurant in Pošumaví.
Czech police carried out checks on foreign workers at sites throughout the country on Tuesday. The step was aimed not only at detaining illegal workers but also informing foreign workers about the government’s recently introduced crisis measure encouraging them to return home. Police handed out leaflets in seven languages detailing the offer of a free plane ticket and 500 euros.
US President Barack Obama aims to make a keynote European speech during a two-day visit to Prague that begins on April 4, according to press reports. He is preparing to make the Czech capital the venue for his “European speech of the year,” Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek told reporters. During his brief visit, President Obama will also attend a short EU environment summit covering climate change, the Czech Environment Ministry said. One issue still to be settled is the backdrop for the set-piece speech. Presidential aides are said to be considering an open air venue, possibly Old Town Square, or in front of the Rudolfinum rather than Prague Castle.
The Ministry for Regional Development has warned that 40,000 households could face severe problems when rent regulation ends in 2010. Two thousand households could be thrown out on the street as a result, it adds. Local authorities are now facing growing demand for social housing from the elderly, disabled, unemployed and low paid. The ministry is looking at ways of boosting the construction of cheap, social housing.
In related news, the state budget ended in February with a surplus of 5.4 billion crowns, or more than 240 million US dollars, the Czech finance ministry informed on Monday. The state budget for the whole of 2009, as approved by Parliament, is expected to end with a deficit of over 38 billion crowns. However the finance ministry expects the deficit may reach 73 billion crowns.