The person most likely to become the Czech Republic’s next finance minister has set off a debate about the country’s foreign policy priorities. Speaking at an economic forum, Jan Mládek of the Social Democrats said criticism of Russia and China could cost thousands of Czech jobs. Critics say human rights have to come before exports.
One of the front-runners in the upcoming Czech lower house elections is the newly-formed grouping ANO which polls suggest might take as much as 14 percent of the vote. Founded by the Slovak food magnate Andrej Babiš, the group only revealed its detailed policies rather late in the race. In this edition of Marketplace, I discuss ANO’s economic programme with Ivan Pilný, the party’s economic expert and former Microsoft CEO for the Czech Republic and Slovakia. I began by asking him if he agreed with Andrej Babiš’ view that the Czech Republic needs
Trade unions in the country’s largest coal mining company OKD have gone on strike alert in protest against the conditions of a proposed collective agreement for 2014-2018. The proposed agreement was put forward by a government mediator after year-long negotiations between trade unions and employers failed to produce results. The head of trade unions at the Paskov mine, which is slated for closure next year, said the strike alert would remain in place until an agreement is reached.
In the last two months, the prices of potatoes in the Czech Republic have gone up by two-thirds and more, compared to the same period last year. According to a report released by the Czech Statistics Office on Monday, prices will remain high this year due to a record low harvest. The total potato harvest this season will be 20.2 percent less than last year’s, while compared to the 10-year average, it will most likely be a third lower. For the first time in Czech history (since 1993), the total harvest will be lower than 600 thousand tones. A Czech resident on average eats 70 kilograms of potatoes a year. Adverse weather conditions have also resulted in lower potato harvests in neighboring Poland and Germany.
In this week's Business News: the Czech national debt is down for first time since the 1990s; inflation levels continue a downward trend; the new Prague metro "D" line is approved; unemployment levels are up in September; Budvar declares victory over rival in Italy and former PM Vladimír Špidla says rosy Czech poverty data is misleading.
A Swiss court handed down prison sentences to five Czechs on Thursday for asset stripping, fraud, money-laundering and breach of trust, in a case surrounding the privatization of the Czech Republic’s second largest coal mining company, Mostecká Uhelna. The former managers, who received between 16 and 52 months in prison, used the company’s own assets to buy a majority stake in the firm, diverting some of the money into Swiss bank accounts. The Swiss authorities launched an investigation into the matter in 2011. Two of the defendants – Petr Kraus and Antonín Koláček – were detained in court, though the others were not present at the sentencing. The sixth defendant in the case, the 86-year-old Belgian citizen Jacques de Groote, will have to pay a fine for his involvement. Charges are still pending against the Czech former managers in the Czech Republic, though they may have to be dropped given the Swiss court’s decision.
The Czech Republic’s state dept has decreased by more than 14 billion crowns in September since the beginning of the year, according to information released by the Finance Ministry on Thursday. This is the first decrease in state dept since the 1990’s. Currently, the debt is 1.654 trillion, which amounts to more than 157,000 crowns per person in the Czech Republic.
Finance Minister Jan Fischer has accused his predecessor Miroslav Kalousek of tolerating violations of the labour code at the ministry while in office. Minister Fischer said that an internal investigation had revealed serious malpractices in the past including violations in work ethics and attendance where favoured employees had had month-long work absences covered by non-existent business trips. Others had been subjected to mobbing at the workplace which their superiors turned a blind eye on. Mr. Fisher said he believed his predecessor could not have been unaware of what was going on.
The Finance Ministry has broadened a criminal complaint it has taken in connection with the privatisation of the coal-mining company Mostecká uhelná společnost, it said in a statement said on Tuesday. The ministry asserts that the defendants in a case surrounding the selloff had control of the firm over a year before they said they had. That information influenced the price paid to the state for its stake and also influenced the government’s decision to sell, the ministry said. A number of former managers and owners are facing charges of insider trading and fraud over their part of the privatisation in 1999. They are alleged to have swindled the state out of CZK 1.6 billion.
The Czech Republic will fail to draw 30 to 70 billion crowns from EU funds in the 2007 to 2013 period. Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok said on Monday this was due to the somewhat complicated EU mechanism of fund drawing and the inability of many Czech public officials to present long-term projects and goals. The prime minister said he ascribed this failure to all post-2007 governments which had underestimated the task of drawing EU funds and closed their eyes to weaknesses in strategic planning.
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New debate erupts over use of -ová suffix in Czech female surnames
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