The interim government on Wednesday rejected draft legislation which would have allowed clients to withdraw from the recently-established “second pillar” of pension reforms (that is savings in private pension funds) at a later date if they so wished. The prime minister made clear for the government that such changes were anti-systemic. The draft amendment was proposed by former finance minister Miroslav Kalousek, who spearheaded the second pillar under the previous government. A final decision on the matter will be up to the Chamber of Deputies. Far fewer clients signed up for the second pillar before a key deadline earlier this year than previously expected; it is thought that the raising of restrictions could make the package more attractive to potential clients.
Czech companies lose enormous amounts of money annually due to their staff spending time on Facebook and other websites instead of working, claims a freshly released study. Indeed, the report’s findings suggest that the average office worker in the Czech Republic is devoting around an hour a day to mucking about on the internet.
The police questioned the former defense minister Alexander Vondra on Tuesday in connection with the spying scandal that brought down the centre-right government. Former Prime Minister Petr Nečas’s chief-of-staff Jana Nagyová is accused of having ordered military intelligence to spy on the premier’s wife. The police believe that the then defense minister Vondra did not give the approval for such an investigation. The current defense minister Vlastimil Picek was questioned on Monday. The police said that they are planning to also question the acting chairman of the Civic Democratic Party, Martin Kuba, on Tuesday.
Former deputy labour minister Vladimir Šiška and the former head of the ministry’s IT department Milan Hojer have been charged with bribery and abuse of office in connection with a dubious public tender. The police suspect Šiška and Hojer of trying to bribe the OK system company with the promise of a 100 million crown public order if they withdraw their complaint against the ministry at the anti-trust office. The two men were detained and briefly held in custody in October 2012. The scandal resulted in the resignation of then labour minister Jaromír Drábek.
Changes of government in the Czech Republic are generally accompanied by a shake-up in the country’s civil service. Although the Rusnok caretaker government has not yet won a vote of confidence in the lower house, a change-of-guard in the top and middle ranks of civil service administration has already been launched. So how politicized is the country’s civil service and how is that affecting the running of the state? A question I put to political analyst Jiří Pehe.
Less than a third of Czechs return rested and relaxed from their holidays, according to the outcome of a poll conducted by zamestnanci.com. According to the poll results only 28 percent of respondents said they felt reinvigorated after their time off, as compared to 39 percent in 2008. The poll revealed that Czechs increasingly opt for shorter holidays, mostly for the duration of a week, and many of them remain on-call, dealing with pressing work issues over the phone. They also try to pack as many sights and destinations into that brief time as possible, often leaving them exhausted upon their return.
The former centre-right government of ex-PMPetr Nečas handed out a record 250 million crowns in bonuses to ministerial staff shortly before leaving office, the daily Lidové noviny writes. The sum is reported to be three and a half times bigger than that which government employees received in the same period last year. Former ministers have dismissed the idea that the bonuses could be interpreted as a golden handshake at the end of their three-year-term in office, saying there had been more work for everyone following a streamlining of the administration. The Rusnok cabinet which was appointed to office earlier this month has already replaced public officials at key posts in several ministries.
In this week’s Business News: The minimum wage will rise in August; Food prices in 2012 grew by a larger margin than in any other EU country; Czech Airlines has withdrawn from its contract with the unions; Fuel prices around the Czech Republic have gone up again; Škoda has signed an almost 1 billion crown contract to deliver trams to Bratislava.
In this week’s business news: Unemployment falls; Czech Banking Association releases bleaker economic outlook for 2013; more Czech companies are moving to tax havens; Moravia Steel receives large fine for collusion in Germany; Kofola is considering expanding into Balkans; and government debt decreases in Q2.
All 14 ministers in the freshly sworn-in Czech government have assumed their posts. On Thursday, Dalibor Štys took over at the Education Ministry, said he would not go ahead with a reform of the university system planned by his predecessor unless it gets sufficient political backing. The government officials inducted into office on Thursday included Minister of Labour and Social Affairs František Koníček, Justice Minister Marie Benešová, Health Minister Martin Holcát, and others.
Archaeologists unearth seven graves dating back to Great Moravian Empire
“Einstein in Bohemia” – Part II: how alienation in ‘half-barbaric’ Prague led him to a new theory of gravity, eventual love of a free Czechoslovakia
Czech Republic bracing for wind storm Sabine
Ron Perlman: Cinema is a much bigger art-form than superhero movies represent
“Einstein in Bohemia” – part 1: how a Prague sojourn sparked his theory of general relativity, journey of self-discovery