In Business News this week: end of the road for many Czech truckers; Tatra pins hopes on facelifts; Prague pushes for changes in EU deficit rules; Finance Ministry retreats from tax perk attack; and a Czech cheese provokes French farmers.
Czech road hauliers estimate their numbers have been decimated by the economic crisis combined with continuing high overheads. The country’s biggest grouping of truckers, ČESMAD Bohemia, says one in 10 of its members have probably gone to the wall. Figures from the association – which represents around 15-20 percent of all truckers – suggests that figure could be even larger with its membership slipping from 2,100 to just over 1,800. The biggest problem is continuing slack demand for moving goods. This is combined with high fuel prices and road tolls, delayed payments from customers, and the strong Czech crown.
Iconic Czech vehicle producer Tatra this week unveiled facelifts of a series of its heavy vehicles. The centre of attention was the civil version of its T 810 truck which has been modified from an original military design. Tatra, which has been suffering from weak sales and losses in recent years, hopes the vehicle will prove a hit with construction companies especially. The company, which celebrates its 160th birthday this year, also showed off a new version of a tipping truck and fire engine.
The Czech Republic is lobbying for a relaxation of EU debt and deficit rules to help it pave the way for pension reforms. The country has teamed up with eight other countries, mostly members of the former Soviet bloc, calling for the existing rules to be rewritten to help it organize an overhaul of the current pay-as-you-go pension system. Prime Minister Petr Nečas, argued the case to a sceptical German Chancellor Angela Merkel on a visit to Berlin on Thursday. Current EU rules set a limit of 3.0 percent of Gross Domestic Product for public deficits. The Czech government is pledged to overhaul its existing pension system, saying it cannot hold up under the pressure of an ageing population.
The Finance Ministry says that it will not now implement some of its most unpopular tax measures next year but keep them pending till later. The postponed measures include the abolition of tax perks on luncheon vouchers and tax advantages for those with mortgages and who have taken out insurance. Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek admitted that the retreat was a strategic one aimed at making his package of tax increases for next year easier to pass through parliament. But like a dog with a bone, Mr. Kalousek is not giving up. He says that he will get back to those outstanding tax perks in time for the 2012 budget.
French farmers have turned their anger upon a Czech cheese. Farmers in Western France who invaded local supermarkets as part of ongoing protests hit upon a Czech version of the emental cheese. They say this a false description since emental, originally from Switzerland, should come from mountain districts and the Czech imposter has no permission to use such a name. The French farmers have called for national authorities to act against the Czech cheese and for local supermarkets to stop selling it.
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