President Václav Klaus has signed the bill on the state budget for 2013, a third version of the budget prepared by the cabinet of Prime Minister Petr Nečas. No hurdles remain for the budget, which outlines a deficit of 100 billion crowns next year, from coming into effect. The deficit, according to Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek is expected to be about 5 percent of GDP, rather than the 3.5 percent deficit target expected earlier. The final version of the budget passed in the lower house only last week, on the heels of the government’s tax reform package, which was signed earlier by the president, raising the country’s VAT rates and other taxes.
Czech goalkeeper Petr Čech, who plays for Chelsea in the Premier League, earned his 8th clean sheet of the season on Wednesday, helping his club beat Norwich by a score of 1:0. As a result Chelsea are within four points of second-place Manchester City but has a game in hand. On Sunday, his team embarrassed Aston Villa winning 8:0.
A new poll published by the STEM agency has suggested that public trust in the government, its members, as well as and the country’s legislative branch remains low. The poll found that the current government was trusted by only 17 percent of Czechs, 1 percent more than a year ago, while trust in the prime minister fell from 28 to 25 percent. The lower house enjoyed trust of only 18 percent and the Senate 27 percent. The chairwoman of the Chamber of Deputies, Miroslava Němcová posted 39 percent and the chairman of the senate, Milan Štěch, 31.
The oldest among nine candidates for president, Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, released a doctor’s report online on Thursday giving him a clean bill of health. The report, by Professor Milan Kvapil, head of the internal medicine clinic at Prague’s Motol Teaching Hospital, concluded the 75-year-old foreign minister’s health would allow him to meet all the demands of office. Some in the past criticised Mr Shwarzenberg for sometimes dozing during political meetings, which in turn fuelled speculation over his health. Of the nine candidates, five, including Schwarzenberg, are over 60 years of age; he is the only one over 70. The youngest candidates are senator and Social Democrat deputy chairman Jiří Dienstbier, 47, followed by Sovereignty Party chairwoman Jana Bobošíkova, who is 48.
Senator Tomio Okamura on Thursday filed a complaint with the Czech Constitutional Court over his elimination from the upcoming presidential election. Earlier, the Interior Ministry refused to register Mr Okamura for the election on the ground he had failed to collect the required 50,000 signatures in support of his bid, a decision confirmed by the Supreme Administrative Court. In his complaint, Mr Okamura is contesting the cut-off of 50,000 signatures as unconstitutional. The senator’s complaint could lead to a delay or cancellation of the first direct president election, the first round of which is scheduled for January 11 and 12.
A 39-year-old Czech man was injured in a hunting accident in the area of Jeseník on Wednesday, when an as yet undetermined shooter hit him in the leg. The man had to be treated in hospital; the police are investigating. Similar incidents are not uncommon during hunting season: last month a 59-year-old was hit by shotgun pellets in the hand and leg, while in February a 60-year-old hunter died after being mistakenly shot in the chest. The police regularly monitor hunters to try to prevent similar incidents, checking the state of hunters’ firearms as well as checking for alcohol consumption.
All Czech health insurance firms posted losses in 2012 and spent their financial reserves– proof that a crucial part of health care reform - the health insurance bill - is badly needed. The firms finished in the red for the first time since 2008. Czech hospitals had to wait almost to the end of the year whether health insurers would sign new contracts with them for the coming years. The year did see any major shake-ups up at the Health Ministry but did see the chief hygiene officer replaced and major changes introduced in the management and administration of the country’s largest state-owned insurer VZP.
The leader of coalition party LIDEM, Karolína Peake, has called a meeting of the party’s top leadership for January 3 to discuss its future in the current government. Following the firing of Mrs Peake as defence minister ahead of the holidays, LIDEM’s top leadership called on remaining party ministers to resign by January 10. The Civic Democrats led by Prime Minister Petr Nečas have indicated a hope that the current crisis can be quelled and have made clear they want to continue with LIDEM as a partner. A departure by the smallest party would badly weaken the already fragile government which would be far from sure it could secure a majority in the Chamber of Deputies. Mrs Peake has repeatedly suggested LIDEM has no intention of staying in the coalition but will head into opposition.
Some 240 people are taking part on Wednesday in the 66th edition of the Alfréd Nikodém Memorial, an annual winter swim in the Vltava River in Prague. This year, swimmers from Slovakia, Poland, the UK and Germany also participated in the event which takes place near the National Theatre building in the centre of the capital. The swim is named after Prague winter swimmer Alfréd Nikodém who established the tradition in 1923.
Despite a spell of unusually warm weather, the authorities on Wednesday warned drivers against snow- and ice-covered roads in parts of the country. In the eastern part of the Czech Republic, many roads continue to be covered with frozen snow and fallen trees complicate traffic in some places. Most main roads in the Šumava and Krkonoše mountains have been gritted but the authorities call on drivers to exercise extra caution.
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