President Vaclav Klaus has urged Czechs to show initiative and personal responsibility in shaping their own future and that of the Czech Republic. In his New Years address to the nation Mr. Klaus said that all round it had been a good year and that he was proud that the country had managed to successfully overcome a government crisis. 2006 should not bring any major upheavals or about turns, since the country had inner stability, a state further enhanced by the country's membership in the EU and NATO, Mr. Klaus said. On the European front, the Czech president said he was glad to see that a real debate on the future of the EU was finally being allowed to develop. Speaking of the 2006 general elections in the Czech Republic, the president urged politicians to refrain from making empty promises and he urged Czechs to go to the polls because the future of the country depended on each and every one of them.
Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has promised to tackle corruption and raise living standards in 2006. In a speech broadcast on the 24 hours news channel the prime minister said that in the coming year Czechs could look forward to increased salaries and higher pensions. He said he would make it his priority to provide better conditions for business and push through radical changes in legislation and the police force in order to achieve a fundamental breakthrough in the fight against corruption. Mr. Paroubek said he expected the Czech Republic to maintain a five percent economic growth.
The new year is expected to bring a five percent pay rise for civil servants and the minimum wage will increase to 8,000 crowns /328 dollars/ a month. The average pension will also grow slightly to just over 8,000. Lower and middle income families are expected to benefit from a series of tax cuts, but Czechs will also be paying more for utilities. The price of gas, electricity and heating is expected to rise, and will inevitably send up the prices of goods and services.
Seven Czech climbers were killed on Saturday when an avalanche hit their camp in the Tatra mountains in northern Slovakia. Only one climber of the eight member group managed to escape when the avalanche hit in the early hours of the morning. The mountain rescue service launched a massive operation involving its own and Polish rescuers but they were unable to save any lives. The avalanche followed heavy snowstorms and high winds which paralyzed most of the country, resulting in the closure of airports, highways and cutting off the Slovak capital Bratislava.
The standard of care for patients in hospitals in central Bohemia will remain unchanged in 2006, according to Health Minister David Rath. The health minister was responding to a statement made by the governor of the region Petr Bendl who claimed that patients would only get emergency care since the largest health insurance company in the country VZP had not extended its contract with many hospitals in the region. The health minister sharply rejected the claim, saying that the facilities would all continue providing the same standard of care on temporary contracts. He said he was considering filing a criminal complaint against the governor on suspicion of scaremongering.
World Cup leader Jakub Janda of the Czech Republic narrowly beat Finland's Janne Ahonen in the second stage of the prestigious Four Hills tournament at Garmisch-Partenkirchen on Sunday. Gaining revenge after Ahonen took the opening stage at Oberstdorf on Thursday, Janda had leaps of 125 and 121.5 metres for 264.7 points to edge past Ahonen, who had leaps of 122.5 and 124 metres for 262.2 points. Matti Hautamaki of Finland took third with 260.3 points. It was Janda's fifth World Cup win of the season.
Monday is expected to be overcast with scattered rain or snow showers and day temperatures between 2 and minus 2 degrees Celsius.
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