The lower house of Parliament on Wednesday evening approved the 2019 state budget with a deficit of 40 billion crowns, or 0.7 percent of GDP.
It passed with 108 votes from the coalition government of ANO and the Social Democrats with support from the Communists. All opposition MPs voted against it.
Budget priorities include increasing pensions overall and civil service salaries, in particular for teachers. The budget counts on economic growth in 2019 of 3.1 percent and an average inflation rate of 2.3 percent, with the unemployment holding steady at around 2.3 percent.
MPs voted on a number of amendments to redistribute funds within the budget, tabled by the Budget Committee and the Communists.
Some 600 million crowns will go to municipalities to repair and build schools and rent dwellings, as Communist MP Miloslav Vostra, chairman of the budget committee, had wanted; 327 million crowns more will go towards social services as pushed for by Social Democrat MP Roman Onderka; and 100 million crowns more than initially planned with go to firefighters and policemen, an initiative of Communist MP Zdeněk Ondráček.
The Senate has returned an Insolvency Act amendment to the Chamber of Deputies in part because the upper house wants to make it easier for the poorest to qualify for debt relief or declare personal bankruptcy.
Senators also proposed abolishing a condition that repayment to creditors equal the cost of the insolvency trustee's remuneration. The current version was supported by Minister of Justice Jan Kněžínek (for ANO).
Statistics show close to one in ten Czech adults face financial execution. Currently, a person who pays off at least 30 percent of their debts within five years is eligible for debt relief. Their remaining outstanding debt is then forgiven.
Among other measures, MPs have been debating introducing a “fast-track” model that would allow a person who repays half their liabilities in three years to qualify for debt relief.
Czech Senators on Thursday appealed to the country’s constitutional bodies to take seriously the annual report by the Czech counter-intelligence service and to fulfil its recommendations.
The upper House of the Parliament supported the call only week after President Miloš Zeman’s criticism of the Czech counterintelligence service.
The annual report which was released last week, warns of heightened activities on the part of Russian and Chinese agents in the country. The president said that the report failed to present any evidence to back its claims and described it as “blather”.
Customs police from Germany and Austria have confiscated dozens of kilograms of hazardous fireworks purchased on marketplaces in the Czech Republic.
Police from Saxony, Bavaria and Upper and lower Austria continue to check drivers crossing the border from the Czech Republic for the possession of illegal fireworks. Authorities in both countries have already recorded several cases of serious injuries caused by the hazardous pyrotechnics sold on Czech outdoor markets.
Over 690 people in the Czech Republic were infected with tick-borne encephalitis between January and November this year, which is more or less the same as for the whole of 2017. The figure is also the highest since 2006, according to data published by the National Institute of Public Health on Thursday.
The Czech Republic, along with the Baltic States, has the highest number of tick-borne encephalitis cases in Europe. There is no cure for encephalitis, but an increasing number of Czechs get themselves vaccinated against the disease.
The 17th century Pinkas Palace on Prague’s Kampa was auctioned off to an anonymous bidder for 480 million crowns. The starting price of the early Baroque building, which is situated close to Charles Bridge, was 470 million crowns.
According to experts, it is the biggest compulsory auction in the history of the Czech Republic. The building is currently undergoing reconstruction with expected costs estimated at 100 million crowns.
Friday is expected to be mostly overcast with occasional snow and rain showers and daytime highs ranging between 0 and 4 degrees Celsius.
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