Hello and a warm welcome to Radio Prague. I'm David Vaughan. First the headlines.
After five years of continuous growth, real salaries in Czech industry fell last month, on the impact of the recent downturn in the Czech economy. Taking inflation into consideration salaries were 1.7 percent lower than in the same period last year. Trade unions have expressed concern over the decline, saying that it will heighten tension between labour and management, but some economic analysts have welcomed the figures. They argue that the trend is a sign that Czech industry is at last beginning to restructure. Overall wage increases this year are not expected to exceed inflation.
The leader of the Christian Democrats, Josef Lux, has been playing down suggestions that his party, represented in the current government, supports the renationalisation of ailing privatised firms. He said that the party has no such plans and is a strong defender of private property rights. Mr Lux added that the Christian Democrats are one of the only Czech parties that have always supported the full return of property confiscated by the Communist regime. The controversy arose over the weekend when Mr Lux's party colleague, Interior Minister Cyril Svoboda said that the party would consider renationalisation.
State prosecutors have rejected an appeal for some of the tax evasion charges to be dropped, that are currently faced by the former financial manager of Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party, Libor Novak. Mr Novak's lawyer had called for the charges to dropped because they were brought when the party had already paid its outstanding tax debts to the local financial authority in Prague. Mr Novak is widely seen as one of the central figures in the series of financial scandals currently linked with the Civic Democratic Party.
The head of the Czech and Slovak section of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Jiri Huebner, has said he is disappointed by the Czech National Bank's decision at the end of last week to sustain its policy of high interest rates. Mr Huebner said he felt the policy would stifle growth in the economy. He pointed out that in most countries interest rates are between three and five percent higher than the rate of inflation, while in the Czech Republic this figure amounts to around fifteen percent. A number of other international bankers have echoed his view, but an unnamed source from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, of which the Czech Republic is a member, has praised the Czech National Bank's decision to sustain its restrictive monetary policy. He said that the bank was correct in not being put off course by January's poor economic results, and instead appealed for tighter discipline in the state budget.
Czech Television has reported a sixty percent increase in advertising revenue last month as a result of Winter Olympics in Nagano. Viewers had to sit through nearly three times the number of commercial spots than in February last year, and Czech Television made between 25 and 30 million crowns from the games. However the head of Czech TV's commercial council said that despite the scale of the revenues, the figure was not enough to cover the massive costs of coverage.
The Finance Minister Ivan Pilip has said that the Czech Republic is to prepare a report during the coming weeks on the advantages and disadvantages that will emerge from joining the European Union. This, he said, will form the basis for establishing the Czech Republic's priorities and requests during accession negotiations. He acknowledged that the Czech Republic's current economic situation gives the country few advantages in comparison with the EU's advanced economies, and the country is not in a position to negotiate many advantages.
Today we can expect another showery day with temperatures between 6 and 10 degrees Celsius. On Wednesday we can expect it to be warm with further showers, but by Thursday a cold front from the north- west will bring, colder weather, with temperatures between 2 and 6 degrees.
And that's the end of the news.
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