General practitioners are once again threatening to strike in protest of delayed payments from the General Health Insurance Company, VZP. GPs say they are getting payments up to a month late despite the fact that the General Health Insurance Company is under forced administration, a move that the health minister David Rath said would secure financial stability. The health ministry is likewise under pressure from chemists who are threatening to strike over the government's decision to lower their profit margins by 3 percent as of January 1st. The opposition Civic Democrats have strongly criticized the health minister for his performance in office, saying that the radical measures he has effected have merely heightened the crisis in the Czech health sector.
New head of Czech Airlines (CSA) is a noted restructuring and privatisation expert; Jiri Havel assumes role as Deputy PM for Economic Affairs; Prime Minister unveils half-time private/non-profit jobs scheme in Ostrava; Czech delegation heading to South Korea in hopes of sealing $1.2bn Hyundai deal; Parliamentary commission report on Unipetrol to find 'corrupt' only ex-aide to Prime Minister
This Sunday, New Years Day, will find many Czechs - like people around the world - making New Year's resolutions. But they won't have any say over some changes, which have been decided by Parliament and come into effect on the 1st. Understandably, people are most concerned about those which will have a direct impact on their wallets. 2006 is going to bring an increase in a number of social benefits and also a reduction in taxes for low and medium incomes. But as of January, Czechs will pay more for utilities - which is expected to bring further
Deadline approaching on land-swap deal at proposed $1.2bn Hyundai car plant site; Hourly wages in Czech Republic among the lowest in the OECD; If 'old' EU members keep controls, Czech Republic also will consider labour restrictions against states joining in 2007; Survey shows Czech firms are among Europe's most chronically late payers; Cabinet expected to decide on funding for new Brno medical-research centre this month; Former president Havel weighs in against extending territorial limits on coal mining
European Union leaders meet in Brussels on Friday for a summit dominated by the EU's budget. Indeed talks on the EU's finances are expected to be so tough there will be no room for anything else - certainly there will be little time for negotiations on the transition periods that prevent new members from free access to the EU's labour markets. But the free movement of labour remains uppermost in the new members' minds.
The Interior Ministry has announced plans to reform its network of information offices in foreign countries, as part of the government's attempts to fight on illegal immigration. Existing offices will concentrate on explaining on how migrants can work legally in the Czech Republic. Rob Cameron has more.
The Labour and Social Affairs Minister, Zdenek Skromach, has said that around 300,000 to 400,000 employees will be lacking on the Czech labour market in 20 to 30 years and people should therefore work longer and retire later. Mr Skromach said that many companies in the Czech Republic are not interested in employing older workers, force them to retire earlier or to leave their jobs immediately after they reach the age of retirement. The agreement on the pension reform that has been recently drafted by the chairmen of the five parties in parliament envisages the extension of the age of retirement to 65. Last year, people over 65 made up about 14 percent of Czech society. According to Mr Skromach, this figure may reach 23 percent in 2030 and 31.3 percent in 2060.
Health and social care workers unions have warned against arbitrary closure of hospitals and called on the government to prevent this happening. The unions said that the new health minister David Rath was using the forced administration he imposed on the largest Czech health insurance company VZP to cut the revenues of some hospitals. They implied that the decision was not made on the grounds of their performance but on the basis of his personal view of it. The unions said that although they understand that changes to the health system are necessary they should be carried out in a transparent way.
In Business News: the Czech crown reached a record high against the euro this week; the average gross monthly wage grew to almost 19,000 crowns in the third quarter; the anti-monopoly office has imposed a fine of over 8 million dollars on Cesky Telecom for abusing its market dominance; and the prices of gas, electricity and heating are set to rise from the start of next year.
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