The Czech government on Wednesday approved a plan to increase funds for state-covered health insurance, PM Jiří Rusnok said. The cabinet plants to increase payments for children, retired people and other groups whose health care insurance is covered by the state from the current 723 crowns a month to 773 crowns. That would mean an extra 4.7 billion crowns for the system. Health Minister Martin Holcát had earlier proposed an increase by 7.2 billion. At a time when the lower house of Parliament is dissolved, the caretaker cabinet is planning to ask the Senate to approve the respective legislation.
Czech Finance Minister Jan Fischer has proposed a draft state budget for 2014 with the deficit of 112 billion crowns. Mr Fischer told a news conference on Wednesday he had originally planned a deficit of 110 billion crowns but that he now expected an extra 4 or 5 billion in tax revenues. The minister said the target of 3 percent of GDP would not be exceeded. The government will discuss details of the draft budget with employers and trade unions on Friday, and is set to vote on the proposal next week.
The European Commission has approved a major dust control project for two steelworks in northern Moravia, a spokeswoman for the commission said. Two projects worth some 1.2 billion crowns should lower the volume of dust emitted by Třinecké železárny and the Ostrava plant of ArcelorMittal by around 230 tonnes each year, significantly reducing air pollution in the area. Třinecké železárny is planning to start work on dust reduction immediately. A spokeswoman for ArcelorMittal said dust filters should be installed in 2016.
Czech households’ electricity bills will be lower next year as the country’s dominant electricity producer ČEZ has announced it will slash its prices, and its rivals are expected to follow suit. ČEZ said that its most popular tariff will be 15 percent cheaper, and it has also offered its clients a two-year fixed tariff at an even lower price.
The Czech Republic’s biggest power company CEZ says it will cut electricity prices for its most commonly used tariff by 15 percent from the start of next year. Customers who sign long-term contracts can receive a reduction of 20 percent. Tuesday’s announcement follows reports that other large power suppliers are also planning to lower their prices. The head of CEZ, Daniel Beneš, told reporters that households that use electricity for heating would save around CZK 5,000 a year.
Hundreds of angry miners took to the streets of Ostrava on Tuesday to protest against planned wage cuts and growing job insecurity in the region. After a year of negotiations employers and trade union representatives are nowhere near reaching a deal on the 2014 to 2018 collective agreement, and there is a growing fear of layoffs in a region that already has over 100,000 unemployed.
Next year's state budget deficit could reach 112 billion crowns outgoing Finance Minister Jan Fischer said Sunday on public broadcaster Czech TV. Originally, the interim government had counted on a deficit of two billion less. The finance minister stressed that essential for him was that the number did not exceed three percent of GDP. The government is still to debate the budget proposal; the tripartite, with union, government, and business representatives will also meet to discuss the budget on September 20.
The Czech Republic’s state debt rose by 10.5 billion crowns in the first half of 2013, reaching an overall total of more than 1.6 trillion. Broken down, the share of the debt per citizen comes to almost 160 thousand, the Finance Ministry confirmed. According to ministry forecasts, the state debt will rise to 1.8 trillion by the end of next year and 1.9 trillion by the end of 2015.
The labour ministry has exhausted four-fifths of its budget for people or families in emergencies or crisis this year: 7.5 billion crowns in the first seven months – 1.7 billion more than the same period in 2012. More individuals and families have signed for social benefits or welfare, and unemployment did not improve, the Labour Office’s report notes. This year, more funds went to the unemployed and the handicapped.
In Business News this week: Czech public debt reaches new high; unemployment remains at 7.5 percent in August; Senate curbs subsidies for renewable energy sources; tighter rules are introduced for liquor retailers; prices of potatoes and dairy products jump; and record number of dollar millionaires recorded in Czech Republic.
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