30-11-2003

In this week's Mailbox we look at the future of exchange bureaux, the Civic Democratic Party's annual congress, and Asia's most attractive tourists. We answer questions from Harry Blanton, George Timothy, and Sunil Khubchandani.

Harry Blanton lives in Frankfurt, Germany, but comes to the Czech Republic several times a year on business. He's been listening to Radio Prague for two years now and writes:

"Is it true that the Czech National Bank wants to close down all exchange bureaus in the Czech Republic? I read on the web that only banks are going to be responsible for changing foreign currencies in the future. I think I am one of numerous businessmen who disagree with such a measure. How would we exchange money during the week-ends, for example?"

The bad news is that what you read on the internet is true. The Czech National Bank (CNB) said it was considering this option. The good news is that because the media made it sound like a done deal, it got a lot of negative reaction and the CNB made another statement stressing it was just a consideration. The bank is in the process of finding better ways of monitoring and controlling exchange offices - for obvious reasons. But the truth is that were it to go ahead with the plan, it would affect some three thousand exchange bureaux, many of which have good deals and offer services that banks cannot offer. For example, as Mr Blanton already pointed out, some are open twenty-four hours, seven days a week. Last year the three thousand or so exchange bureaux had a 47 billion Czech crown turnover. Transferring the service to the banks would not only be a huge advantage for them but it would also, as some economists have pointed out, reduce competition and increase prices. So, it is most likely that this CNB plan will not be carried out because of all the opposition it would get.

George Timothy from Atlanta, Georgia, in the United States sent us an e-mail asking:

"I read in the news that your main opposition party insulted and cracked jokes about government officials. One of your Czech websites quoted a Civic Democrat who said at the party conference last weekend that the governing coalition was curing obesity with pigs' knuckles and anorexia with a diet. I myself have never lived nor been to the Czech Republic but I have Czech roots and need to say that I am sorry to hear that a party I respected had to turn to such measures to put down the government. I am curious to know how the Czech people reacted to this."

You'll be surprised to hear that there was very little reaction from the people. The media did say that Civic Democrats spent most of the time ridiculing the ruling coalition, especially Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla and his deputy and Interior Minister Stanislav Gross who are both from the senior Social Democratic Party. In some cases they were specific about what was said but I think it was not taken so seriously by the ordinary Czech. Although, some party supporters did say they thought the Civic Democrats hold "cultured" talks but that was all.

But moving on to a question from Sunil Khubchandani in Bombay, India:

"My name is Sunil and I speak four languages. I like to tune in to Radio Prague, because I can understand three of your broadcasts! I do not remember which language department I listened to when I heard that your country wants more tourists from Asia. Can you tell us more about that?"

Yes. It is tourists mainly from Japan and China that the Czech Republic wants to attract because they are known to be sincerely interested in our cultural and historic heritage and spend a lot of money while on holiday. Israel is another country that the agency CzechTourism is to concentrate on and one of our dailies at the beginning of the week also reported that an advertising campaign called Czech Days has been launched in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan where honeymoons in Prague have apparently become a hit.

And that brings us to the end of Mailbox. We have received quite a few entries to this month's competition and most of them were correct. But you still have until the end of December to tell us what building near the Old Town Square in Prague is connected with cubism. If you've been tuning into Radio Prague regularly, you should know the answer because we recently featured the building in question in one of our programs. Send your answers to the Radio Prague English Section, 120 99 Prague 2, the Czech Republic or to english@radio.cz.

30-11-2003