Czech President Václav Klaus has backed Finance Minister Eduard Janota to stay in the government during a meeting between the two men on Friday. Mr Janota is weighing up whether to remain after his 2010 budget package was overhauled by left-wing amendments on Wednesday. Social Democrats and Communists took the lead in pushing through fresh spending of around 12 billion crowns. This would push next year’s budget deficit up to 175 billion crowns or around 5.7 percent of Gross Domestic Product if all the spending is covered by extra borrowing and not taken from other areas. Social Democrats say the originally planned deficit of around 163 billion crowns can be safeguarded.
Mr Janota said he will make a final decision about his government future after a meeting with Prime Minister Jan Fischer on Monday. President Klaus has also condemned the budget changes, saying that they exacerbated the problematic state of public finances. Mr Janota said after the meeting there was no discussion over whether the president would refuse to approve next year’s budget.
Lower house deputies on Friday continued the financial juggling stemming from Wednesday’s budget vote. They voted to top up the missing 5.1 billion crowns from the 2010 transport infrastructure fund, which is mainly used for new motorway projects, with funds from the Ministry of Finance’s privatisation fund. The decision means that threatened delays to completion of highway and motorway projects should not occur next year because of cash shortfalls.
Social Democrat deputy and former finance minister Bohuslav Sobotka said the off-budget privatisation fund had 16.5 billion on its account. The Ministry of Finance planned to pump a large part of this sum for cleaning up past ecological pollution with the bill for this expected to run into around 10 billion crowns.
Wednesday’s budget drama has recast relations between the caretaker government and right-wing Civic Democrats. Civic Democrat chairman Mirek Topolánek said in an interview that the government should consider whether it should carry on. Other Civic Democrat party leaders have called for Social Democrat ministers to quit the government or warned that the Civic Democrats themselves will withdraw from it. The caretaker government was mainly founded on backing from the two biggest political parties in May after Mr Topolánek’s centre-right coalition lost a confidence vote. Prime Minister Jan Fischer has said he does not intend to resign.
Separately, the upper house of parliament or Senate, has called for the government to be given greater powers so that it can block a motion or amendment which radically cuts state revenues or increases spending. The change has little chance of being supported in the lower house of parliament but senators say they will try again after lower house elections in May. Senators also want to change the rules so that a minimum 10 lower house deputies would be needed to propose a law or amendment instead of just one.
The Czech Republic is prepared to offer around 300 million crowns to poor countries to help them deal with climate change. The pledge was made by Prime Minister Jan Fischer at the start of a two-day meeting in Brussels on Thursday. He said the cash should come from funds already earmarked for development and should be made available from 2010 to 2012. European leaders agreed on Friday to set aside around 187 billion crowns, or around 7.2 billion euros, as short-term support for developing countries. The EU hopes that the cash pledge will help smooth a deal on climate change at the Copenhagen summit.
Around 800 Czech Roma are heading back to the country from Canada according to Friday’s edition of the Czech daily Lidové noviny. Canadian authorities have turned down asylum requests from 400 Czech Roma with a further 400 giving up on the requests, the paper said. The expectations of a mass return were confirmed in Prague by the government office dealing with Roma affairs. It said that local councils would be approached to ensure that families who left could get back their flats without problems. Ottawa re-introduced visas for Czechs in July in reaction to an increasing number of Czech asylum seekers arriving in Canada.
Czech MPs called on Friday for disciplinary proceedings to be launched against the head of the Czech Republic’s spending watchdog, the Supreme Audit Office and checks on its functioning. The head of the office, František Dohnal, has come under fire for suspected of misconduct, poor management of the office and profiting from his position. He has denied any wrongdoing.
Around a third of Czech students would support the introduction of fees for their studies according to a survey released by the Ministry of Education on Friday. The survey questioned more than 11,000 university students on whether they would back an annual fee of up to 15,000 crowns. Around half of the students questioned said education costs already exceeded their means and said charges should be postponed. Around 40 percent welcomed the idea of student loans. The ministry has been attempting to push through higher education reforms for the last decade based on student fees and loans.
The Czech women's team will compete for a bronze medal in the World Floorball Champoinships in Sweden. The Czech team lost 1:5 to favourites Switzerland in their semifinal on Friday. They will now face either Sweden or Finland for third place.
In football, Arsenal manger Arsene Wenger has said he is ready to offer Czech midfield star Tomáš Rosický a new contract. The Czech captian has been plagued by injury over the last year and a half. But Wenger on the English club’s website that he was sure his patience would be rewarded and that Rosický would return to top form. He added that he rated players on their ability and leadership and that injuries could happen to anyone.
The weather is set to stay cloudy with rain and snow showers on high ground. Daytime temperatures should drop to around minus two on Sunday.
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