The Czech ombudsman, Otakar Motejl, warned on Thursday that thousands of
the country’s disabled were on the verge of poverty. Mr Motejl told
reporters that a Czech law aimed at protecting the handicapped should
quickly be amended; if MPs fail to do so, many disabled Czechs will face
The relevant act was tightened in 2009 as part of a government drive to combat welfare abuse. It now only grants disability pensions to people who had previously worked and paid social insurance. Those with the most serious disabilities who were unable to work, however, are as of January 2010 not eligible for any state subsidies. The ombudsman believes the current situation is a breach of their constitutional rights.
The Ferdinand Peroutka Awards for outstanding journalism were handed out
in Prague on Thursday. Among this year’s recipients are economic
columnist for the weekly Respekt Jan Macháček, Petruška Šustrová from
the daily Lidové Noviny, and writer Pavel Kosatík.
The awards are named after Ferdinand Peroutka, one of the most significant figures of Czech journalism in the 20th century. He began his career in 1919 but left Czechsolovakia after the communist coup of 1948 and settled in New York.
In related news, the Czech National Bank on Thursday decided to keep the
key interest rate at a record low 1 percent. Analysts believe that among
the main reasons behind the central bank’s decision is the weak growth of
the Czech economy and a low risk of inflation.
Most experts do not expect the bank to lower the interest rates any further. They believe the rates will rise, with the only question being when it will happen. The Czech National Bank lowered the key interest rate to the historic low last December.
In related news, ČEZ CEO Martin Roman temporarily suspended the head of the company’s controversial anti-theft unit, Karel Vaniš. A ČEZ spokesman said Mr Vaniš was carrying a weapon during one of the squad’s raids that took place in 2006. The company’s management reportedly only learned of the incident on Thursday, and asked the police to look into the case.
Part of the Czech team for the Winter Olympic Games left Prague for Vancouver on Thursday. Among those in the group are acrobatic skier Nikola Sudová, who has recently been battling to get fit in time for the Olympics. Sudová, whose discipline is moguls, says she is going to Vancouver to compete, not just take part. The team’s cross country skiers, including medal hopeful Lukáš Bauer, are already in Canada training. The Czech Republic took four medals at the last Winter Olympics in Turin and Czech newspapers have been speculating that the country could well do better this time out.
Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout was released from a hospital in Prague on Thursday, two days after he was admitted for observation due to severe nausea. The ministry released no further details but said Mr Kohout would follow his programme as scheduled. This includes a session of the Czech government next week, and a trip to Lebanon and Syria the week after that.
The Czech National Bank announced on Thursday its prediction that the country’s gross domestic product will grow by 1.4 percent this year. The bank’s governor, Zdeněk Tůma, said their outlook for the economy had not changed from the previous estimate, released in January. Meanwhile, experts from the International Monetary Fund, who visited the Czech Republic last month, said they expected the Czech economy to grow by 1.5 percent in 2010, and the Czech Finance Ministry predicts a growth of 1.3 percent.
Heavy snow on Wednesday caused disruptions to rail and road transport in several parts of the Czech Republic. This followed fresh snowfalls of up to 25 centimetres on Tuesday night. Strong winds further complicated the situation. Around 20 local train lines were blocked, though all major lines were passable. Roads were closed in some places, and four districts declared a state of calamity. Much of the Czech Republic has been covered in snow for almost two weeks, with the capital Prague seeing more snow than at any time in the last three decades.
The Ministry of Health is planning to increase noise limits on motorways in the Czech Republic by five decibels, E15 reported. In 2006 the government decided on a highway noise limit of 60 decibels during the day and 50 decibels at night. The newspaper said the change would affect both limits. The World Health Organization considers noise of above 42 decibels to have negative effects on the health of nearby residents, while noise of 55 decibels and higher is believed to prevent healthy sleeping. E15 suggested one of the possible reasons for the change in the law was an attempt to avoid having to build anti-noise barriers.
There are now between 2,000 and 3,000 Vietnamese-run večerky (corner stores) in the Czech Republic, a senior member of a Czech Vietnamese business association, Nguyen Nam, said at a Prague conference on the retail industry on Wednesday. He said, however, that while the grocery business was growing, Vietnamese traders reported stagnation in textiles sales. Mr Nam said one sign of the growing importance of Vietnamese retailers was that the large Czech wholesaler Makro was now advertising in their language.
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