Deputy Prime Minister Karolina Peake has submitted a number of proposals that would combine certain ministries, to help reduce spending. Ms Peake has suggested unifying the Health Ministry and the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry, as well as joining the Transportation and the Industry and Trade ministries. Eventually, the deputy prime minister wants the Regional Development Ministry to be scrapped completely. The savings that would result from these changes could be up to 7.7 billion crowns. The proposals, which are meant to come into effect in 2014, are currently being discussed by other ministers. Ms Peake expects that her colleagues will approve at least one of her proposals.
The new Labor and Social Affairs Minister Ludmila Müllerová (TOP 09) wants to carry out personnel changes at the ministry in order to cut ties with the former first deputy Vladimír Šiška, according to the Lidové noviny daily. Vladimír Šiška was charged with bribery in October, after which the then labor minister Jaromir Drabek resigned from his post.
The Czech economy has now been in recession for 15 months, which is the longest period since the late 1990s. The ongoing crisis in the eurozone, low household demand as well as the government’s austerity measures are all considered to be the major factors behind the faltering economy. Last week, the Prague-based Banking Institute – College of Banking held a conference focusing on ways of restarting economic growth. One of the keynote speakers was Jens Arnold, a senior economist at the international economic organization OECD. He suggested that raising
Cards issued under a new electronic system streamlining welfare and social benefit payments will – in the end – not be compulsory. The prime minister made the announcement on Tuesday, making clear the system – which has come under criticism from both non-governmental organisations and political circles – will be revised.
The Czech Republic on Saturday marked the 23rd anniversary of the Velvet Revolution which toppled the communist rule in the country. Top Czech officials commemorated the student march of November 1989 which led to the fall of the communist regime, as well as the Nazi persecution of Czech students from 50 years before. But this year, the anniversary was partly overshadowed by anti-government rallies held in Prague and other places in protest against the government’s austerity programme.
The minister of finance, Miroslav Kalousek, has described an anti-government protest by trade unions on Saturday, which was the Czech Republic’s national day of the fight for freedom and democracy and the anniversary of the start of the Velvet Revolution, as shameless. Mr. Kalousek made the comment on a television debate programme on Sunday. He said the demonstration had been legitimate but that the government was not willing to implement a socialist programme. On a different TV show the chairman of the Senate Milan Štěch, who is a former trade unions leader, said the sentiments expressed in the protest, which was held beneath a banner reading Stop the Government, were shared by most Czechs.
Thousands of people gathered on Prague’s Wenceslas Sq. for an anti-government demonstration held by trade unions and other groups on Saturday. Organisers said 20,000 to 25,000 people had turned out for the protest, though the police put the figure at around 10,000. Speaking under a “Stop the Government” banner, the chairman of the country’s confederation of trade unions, Jaroslav Zavadil, told the crowd that they did not deserve the current government of “corrupt” ministers. Mr. Zavadil said people were currently too afraid to launch a general strike, but said he hoped the nation would wake up a bit more. Other demonstrations were also held in the centre of the capital.
President Václav Klaus confirmed former senator Ludmila Müllerová, of TOP 09, as the new Labour and Social Affairs Minister. She replaces Jaromír Drábek, who resigned from his post at the end of October. Mr Drábek stepped down after corruption charges were brought against his former first deputy. At her appointing on Friday, Mr Klaus stressed that stability was needed at the ministry; the naming of a successor to Mr Drábek was originally delayed by regional and Senate elections, as well as an inner-government dispute over raising taxes.
Representatives of various unions, some NGOs and the public are planning a demonstration for the November 17 state holiday, under the slogan “Democracy doesn’t look like this”. The demonstration is meant to express the participants’ dissatisfaction with the current political leadership and the state of society. The organizers of the common platform Stop to the government! (Stop vládě!) have not revealed the number of people expected to attend the protest on the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution. A protest against government reforms that they organized on 21 April drew approximately 100,000 people.
Ludmila Müllerová of the TOP 09 party will be named Czech minister of labour and social affairs on Friday, Prime Minister Petr Nečas told reporters on Tuesday. She will replace her party colleague Jaromír Drábek, who stepped down in September after his deputy minister, who was a close associate, was charged with corruption. Ms. Müllerová previously served as an advisor to Mr. Drábek. One issue facing the new minister will be how to proceed with a planned card system of receipt of social welfare payments, which has come in for much criticism.
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