With the new millenium in sight, Czechs can expect a lot of changes in the year 2001. This is mostly because of reforms the Czech Republic is having to make to bring it in line with European Union regulations. Pavla Navratilova has the details:
There'll certainly be one thing affecting everyone: Living costs for each household will increase by an average of more than 300 crowns a month, as many institutions see the beginning of the new year as the most suitable time for price increases.
Rents in the Czech Republic are already catching up with those in EU countries. Back in 1990 rents formed 7 percent of people's take-home pay, as of next year they will rise to nearly 20 percent. Electricity will go up by 14 percent, but with more options for the consumer to choose from. The price of gas will go up steeply --by 24 percent - but Finance Minister Pavel Mertlik has set the price for the first half of the year only, while in the second half the price will be set by the newly established Energy Regulation Office.
Czech Railways are about to increase fares on passenger trains by some 10 percent and public transport in towns and cities will be more expensive as well. Prices of fixed-line phone calls will go up too - one increase that consumers can't avoid because Czech Telecom still has a monopoly on the telecommunications market in the Czech Republic.
A new Labour Code will be introduced next year, bringing further changes to everyone's workplace. Working hours will be reduced from 42 and a half to 40 hours a week, but no lunch break will be included. Young employees will have longer holidays - four instead of the present three weeks.
Driving will also have new rules: children will only be able to travel by car in children's seats, only hands-free mobiles will be allowed while driving and - at last - pedestrians will have priority on zebra crossings.
State employees can rejoice; their monthly salaries will increase by 6 percent while teachers and doctors will get even more.
So these are the changes we are aware of, but what the new year will bring in other aspects of life remains to be seen.
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