Thousands of people in the stricken regions remain without gas and electricity supplies, the main suppliers RWE and ČEZ confirmed on Monday, saying it could take days to restore heat and power to all households, depending on the extent of damage in different areas. Several of the worst hit areas where electricity poles came down, will require putting up new electricity lines. Emergency generators are in place where possible.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas has said that the clean-up of the devastation will change budget priorities, stressing that the government has funds in budget reserves which could be allocated to repair damages. The government will hold a special meeting on Monday to assess the situation; the prime minister has not yet said how much funding could be released but expects that an assessment of the costs will be ready within a few days. The prime minister, like the Czech President Václav Kláus, is also heading for the Liberec region to see the impact up close; the president visited on Sunday afternoon.
The Minister for Labour and Social Affairs Jaromír Drábek has said that immediate financial help for families and individuals who lost property or a place to stay in the floods will be possible within the next few days. Speaking on Czech TV on Sunday, the minister made clear that people could receive up to 47,000 crowns, depending on their material and financial situations. Those requiring help will be able to apply at their local town hall, depending on place of residence. Under existing legislation, additional funds are also available to those who can not afford even basic items or accessories.
The giant power utility ČEZ on Saturday declared a state of calamity in three areas: Liberec, Ústí nad Labem, and nearby Děčín. More than 2,000 sites are now without electricity. Company crews are working to try and restore power but are facing complications from the rain, floodwaters and fallen trees across power lines. A company spokeswoman said there had been some success citing three villages – Srní, Provodín and Lázně Libverda – where electricity had been restored.
In Business News this week: The Czech National Bank raises its estimate of Czech economic growth in 2010, the central bank leaves interest rates unchanged and amidst planned lay-offs in the public sector, Škoda Auto makes the single biggest recruitment of employees since the beginning of the crisis.
Czech trade unions on Friday criticized the government’s policy statement which they see as the strongest attack on employees’ rights since the fall of communism. The unions warn that the policies of the right-of centre coalition will not improve the state of public finances but will irreversibly damage the Czech welfare state. Representatives of the unions said they were ready to talk, but promised a ‘hot autumn’ should the government not listen.
The Czech government has set up a revamped economic advisory board, or NERV. The board, which was first set up in 2009 to deal with the economic crisis, will now focus on areas such as public budgets, pension reform and anti-corruption measures, among others. Radio Prague spoke to economist Tomáš Sedláček, who was also on the previous board, about the shift in focus.
The recently installed Czech government approved its policy programme on Wednesday. The 46-page document is based on the coalition deal agreed between the three parties in the centre-right government, the Civic Democrats, TOP 09 and Public Affairs. Its most eye-catching provision is a pledge to balance the state budget.
The boom in transport construction is over, at least for the near future: that is the message new Transport Minister Vít Bárta sent on Tuesday after meeting with representatives of construction companies. Mr Bárta, like fellow ministers, is under pressure to introduce major cost-cutting measures in line with the government’s plan to slash the planned deficit in 2011 by more than 58 billion crowns. As a result, the Transport Ministry reportedly wants to freeze up to around 50 construction projects, including the completion of part of the D3 highway
The deficit of the state budget decreased to 69 billion crowns, or more than 3.6 billion US dollars, by the end of July, the Czech Finance Ministry said on Monday. The deficit dropped from 75.7 billion crowns registered in June. Last July, the deficit reached 76.2 billion crowns. The state budget for the whole of 2010 has been approved with a deficit of 162.9 billion crowns. The ministry said lower capital expenditures of the state in 2010 were a major factor behind the decrease.
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