The outgoing Czech interim government on Thursday approved the sale of 28 redundant L-159 combat planes to the US company Draken International, Defence Minister Vlastimil Picek told reporters. The deal is expected to fetch between 435 and 516 million crowns depending on the technical state of the aircraft. 24 of the planes should be operational while the additional four will be used for spare parts. The US firm Draken International will reportedly use the Czech-made planes in training programmes for US military pilots. Several Czech governments have been trying to sell the redundant aircraft ever since it became obvious that the Czech Air Force would only need a third of the 72 planes it acquired in 1997.
The average price of mobile calls in the Czech Republic dropped nearly 20 percent last year to 1.78 crowns, or 9 US cents per minute, according to figures released by the Czech telecommunications regulator. The decrease is ascribed to the introduction of unlimited tariffs by the three major Czech mobile phone operators, as well as to the arrival of virtual operators. Over the last five years, the average mobile call cost was cut by more than a half; in 2005, the average price per minute was 4.65 crowns.
The deficit of the Czech state budget last year reached 80.9 billion crowns, or just over 4 billion US dollars, Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok said on Thursday. The target deficit was projected at 100 billion. The decrease was owed to improved collection of VAT as well as EU funds, according to the outgoing prime minister. Last year’s budget deficit was the lowest since 2008; this year, the budget projects a gap of 112 billion crowns.
The outgoing Czech government on Thursday postponed a decision on prolonging a lease of Gripen fighter jets for the Czech Air Force, the Czech defence minister said. The decision will be made by the new cabinet in the coming months. The government was planning to lease 14 aircraft until the year 2027 for an annual fee of some 69 million US dollars. The Czech Republic first leased the Swedish-made fighter jets in 2005.
Electricity prices for households will drop by 10.9 percent on average as of January, while the regulated component in the price of gas will drop by 5.9 percent. ČEZ clients can expect the biggest price drop of around 12 percent, Pražská Energetika has announced a 9.5 percent drop while E.ON is effecting an 8.8 percent price reduction.
The Czech economy is expected to grow by over 2 percent next year following contraction over the past two years, analysts polled by the CTK news agency said. Global recovery and projected changes to the government´s budgetary policy are behind the favourable prediction. Analysts believe that, despite the central bank´s forex interventions to weaken the crown, inflation will stay low at the start of next year due above all to falling energy prices and unemployment will stay above 7 percent.
The Czech power giant ČEZ has said it will appeal the decision of the Bulgarian energy regulator to cut energy prices for consumers from January 2014. A spokesman for the company said ČEZ was now analyzing projected losses which are expected to be severe. The Bulgarian State Energy Commission this week announced a plan to reduce electricity prices for Bulgarian households by one per cent starting January, at the same time cutting the night-time rate by 10 per cent and electricity prices for industrial consumers by 1.5 per cent. Electricity prices have been a sensitive issue in Bulgaria this year, one of the major complaints behind massive anti-government protests and energy prices have already been reduced twice in 2013 to stave of growing public discontent.
An increasing number of Czechs say they have trouble meeting their basic needs on their monthly salary, the internet news site novinky.cz reports. Over 100,000 people admit to moonlighting but according to unofficial estimates the number of people making extra money on the side is well over one million. This is often undeclared income from helping out with various jobs in people’s homes or assisting with building work at private homes and cottages. One hundred and fifty thousand pensioners have retained their jobs even after reaching retirement age.
The Czech Republic’s external debt in Q3 decreased by 78.8 billion crowns to 1,946 billion, the Czech National Bank reports. This amounts to 50.6 percent of the GDP. The decrease in debt was aided chiefly by a decline in the corporate sector’s external liabilities. External liabilities with an original maturity of more than one year accounted for 76.6% of overall debt liabilities. External financial assets increased by 17.6 billion in Q3, reaching 2,775.2 billion. The year-on-year increase in assets was due to growth in the external assets of the banking sector and Czech direct investment abroad.
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