The Czech mortgage market grew by 23 percent last year, according to figures released by the Regional Development Ministry on Thursday. In 2013, banks in the Czech Republic provided 92,600 loans totalling a record 149.3 billion crowns, or over 7 billion US dollars. Analysts say that refinanced mortgages accounted for around one third of the volume; however, record-low interest rates also contributed to the growth.
President Miloš Zeman appointed a new centre-left government to office on
Wednesday. The new administration, led by Social Democrat prime minister
Bohuslav Sobotka is a coalition of his party, Andrej Babis’ ANO movement,
and the Christian Democrats. The new cabinet will have 17 members with the
Social Democrats controlling eight ministries, ANO six and the Christian
The new administration has pledged to stimulate economic growth, raise pensions and the minimum wage while keeping the budget deficit below 3 percent of GDP. The incoming finance minister claims improved tax collection will help provide the state with the extra funds needed. The government has 30 days to win a vote of confidence in the lower house of parliament but coalition leaders said they would seek a vote around February 18.
President Zeman called on party leaders of the incoming government to make the passing of a new civil service law its highest priority. The proposed new law was already approved at first reading in the lower house of parliament, a step which the head of state demanded for ANO leader Andrej Babis to become minister of finance. Zeman stressed that the Czech Republic is the last EU country to implement rules guaranteeing an independent and professional civil service. He said such a law was the only way to protect citizens against those who sought to traffic state power.
The Czech Republic’s third major car maker, joint venture TPCA, says it made a profit of 170 million crowns in 2013, a fall of 13% compared with the previous year. TPCA is the cooperation between Japan’s Toyota and France’s PSA Peugeot Citröen. Workers and management at the plant are currently in a face off over demands for a 12% wage hike with employers offers just 2.2%. A new collective deal should be agreed by the end of February.
The Bulgarian energy regulator has fined Czech energy distributor Energo-Pro 3.7 million crowns for allegedlz abusing its dominant position on the market. The company has not yet commented on the development. Energo-Pro received two fines on the same grounds last year. The Czech firms CEZ and Energo-Pro as well as Austria's EVN, which distribute electricity in Bulgaria, came under severe scrutiny last year following mass protests over high electricity bills. The Bulgarian energy watchdog launched an audit into pricing but failed to find grounds on which to revoke the company’s licenses.
The imminent change-of-guard in Prague naturally poses questions about the country’s EU role and eventual adoption of the flagship single currency, the euro. Unlike the cautious approach of former center-right governments, the incoming finance minister Andrej Babiš says he has no problem with euro adoption. However, the assurance comes from an astute business magnate who is quick to add that the country is not prepared to guarantee the liabilities of indebted euro users such as Greece or Spain.
A court of arbitration has ordered the construction firm Metrostav to resume work on the controversial Blanka tunnel complex in Prague. In a preliminary ruling, the court dismissed claims raised by Prague City Hall that its contracts with Metrostav on the Blanka construction were invalid. The dispute between Prague and building firm ended at a court of arbitration after Metrostav halted work on the tunnel in December, a move provoked by the City Hall’s decision not to pay some 2.1 billion crowns it owed the company.
Beijing ends agreement with Prague – but can spat harm Czech capital?
Czechs observe day of mourning for pop idol Karel Gott
Czechia now ahead of Spain in GDP per capita, but still below EU average
Thousands pay tribute to deceased national pop icon Karel Gott
In memoriam: Karel Gott, the ‘Bohemian nightingale’