All Friday's papers lead with the VAT bill the lower house of parliament approved on Thursday. The ruling coalition pushed it through with the slimmest majority - just one vote - and Pravo's headline calls it a victory for the government in the lower house.
Mlada Fronta Dnes takes a different perspective, writing that May will see a significant growth in prices. The paper notes that dozens of goods and services will be transferred from the reduced 5-percent VAT rate to the standard 19-percent rate. Mlada Fronta Dnes lists some of the items subject to higher VAT: restaurant food, toilet paper, tickets to football matches and admission to zoos and swimming pools.
Lidove Noviny's headline emphasises the fact that diapers and tickets to cultural events which had caused some heated debates, will stay in the reduced 5-percent rate. The paper writes that economists estimate that on average the new law will raise expenses of every Czech household by 5,000 to 10,000 crowns a year. Inflation is expected to grow by 0.9 percent in May, Lidove Noviny quotes an analyst from the HVB bank.
Mlada Fronta Dnes dedicates a special supplement to Vaclav Klaus's first year as Czech President. The paper recaps the twelve months since Mr Klaus was elected. A lot of room is devoted to President Klaus's relationship with the government, his attitude to presidential pardons and his views on European Union enlargement. The supplement also compares Vaclav Klaus to his predecessor Vaclav Havel, under a headline which sums it all up - "Vaclav Havel and Vaclav Klaus: Two Different Worlds".
Pravo writes that recent statistics show that on average, women live seven years longer than men in the Czech Republic. While the average life expectancy for women stands at 79 years, it is only 72 years for men. The Chairman of the Czech Society for the Health of the Elderly, Miroslav Hanus, tells the paper that Czech women live longer because they watch their lifestyle and see doctors more frequently after the age of fifty. A new project called "the Healthy Aging of Men" has been launched to convince men that an active change in life style will help them live longer, the paper reports.
Hospodarske Noviny features an interview with Jan Svejnar, professor of economics at Michigan University, USA. He tells the paper that the Czech Republic could become a European country with the fastest growing standard of living, if it took the necessary steps. Its economy would grow twice as fast if the country had a government bold enough to undergo daring reform processes in the areas of health, pension, and social benefits, reduced tax, as well as allowed the young generation easy access to higher education.
The same paper also writes that Czech Airlines (CSA) plans to call a public tender in April for the supply of fifteen new passenger planes. This would bring the total number of planes owned by the national air carrier to fifty, its president Jaroslav Tvrdik announced, adding that it is yet to decide whether to acquire Airbuses or Boeings. The investment should total tens of billions of crowns, with the main goal to stand up to low-cost airlines by 2006.
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