30-12-2003

Bam, photo: CTKBam, photo: CTK The human tragedy in the Iranian city of Bam continues to fill front pages. Bam is turning into a mass grave, says Pravo, reporting that the number of victims is now close to 30 thousand. A miracle in the midst of the rubble, reads the headline in Mlada Fronta Dnes, reporting on the unexpected survival of a six months old baby girl, found cradled in her dead mothers arms.

On the domestic front, Pravo speculates about the possibility of Miroslav Kalousek, the recently elected chairman of the Christian Democratic Party, joining the Cabinet. Mr. Kalousek, who had so far rejected this possibility, made a surprising about-turn on Monday, telling the media the issue was open to debate. Pravo notes that a nod from Mr. Kalousek is all that is needed for the Prime Minister to set things in motion -because it is strategically much more advantageous for the leaders of the three governing parties to be in on the Cabinet's decision making, the paper says.

The coming year is expected to bring price rises and many Czechs have begun stocking up on the respective goods - alcohol, cigarettes, petrol and phone cards among other things. The last few days have started a shopping frenzy, says Hospodarske Noviny, noting that this is partly due to the expected price rises and partly to the January sales which have started early this year.

In the editorial section of Lidove Noviny, the editor in chief of Euro magazine Pavel Paral has a sorry outlook for next year. Don't anticipate good times. There wont be any - he tells readers, suggesting they go easy on the champagne on new year's eve. The end of the year is usually a time for optimistic forecasts, but this time round it is better to keep our feet firmly on the ground, Paral says.

The fiscal reforms will start to bite - so expect to pay more for most things not just those listed in the papers - such as cigarettes, alcohol and services. The period of no-inflation is over, the economist says. Moreover the steady growth of the euro against the dollar has thrown a damper on hopes of economic growth in Western Europe. And the West European economy will influence our own not just in terms of growth but also in terms of unemployment, Paral ends on a gloomy note, asking the Christian Democrats in Cabinet to say a prayer for a year without too much fiscal turbulence.

For some good cheer one needs to go to page three of Mlada Fronta Dnes where a few selected people have been asked what they are looking forward to in the coming year. Among the replies are : membership in the EU, the European Football Championships and the Olympic Games in Athens.

30-12-2003