Czech Finance Minister Andrej Babiš has expressed little enthusiasm for the results of last-minute talks held by representatives of all 19 eurozone countries, arriving unanimously at a decision to provide Greece with a third financial aid package. In response, Mr Babiš warned, Greece’s crisis would repeat a few years down the line. He said he considered Greece’s departure from the eurozone – and a writing-off of part of Greece’s debt – as better alternatives.
After a stormy six hour debate the lower house of Parliament on Friday approved a bill which would make compulsory electronic registers for cash payments and enable the Finance Ministry to monitor all transactions made at cash register terminals around the country via a central data base. The proposal is one of the government’s main tools in fighting tax evasion, but has come under fire from opposition parties who claim it will be time consuming and expensive and will put an unnecessary burden on the country’s entrepreneurs. The opposition parties have threatened to obstruct a future debate on the bill by whatever means possible.
The unemployment rate in June fell by 0.2 percentage points to 6.2 percent according to figures released Thursday by the Labour Office. The number of unemployed stands at just under 451,400, the lowest level since April 2009. The number of vacancies, at almost 97,000, is the highest level since December 2008. There are still, however, just under five would be candidates for every job and unemployment blackspots where the jobless rate is still over 11 percent.
The Czech annual inflation rate hit 0.8 percent in June compared with 0.7 percent in May, according to the latest figures from the Czech Statistical Office. One of the main factors were higher prices for food and drinks and a sharp hike in the price of cigarettes and other tobacco products. Costs of basic utilities such as gas and water also rose but electricity prices were lower year-on-year. The Czech National Bank has a target of 2.0 annual inflation.
An amendment proposing to raise excise tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products has passed through the lower house in its first reading. The first increase in excise tax is set to take place in January 2016, raising the price of a packet of cigarettes by three to four crowns. The price should rise further by one to two crowns in the following years. The amendment will be now assessed by the budget committee of the lower house.
On many issues a compromise can be found, but on a proposed new amendment aimed at curbing retailers’ possibilities to abuse their dominant position on the market against suppliers there appears to be no meeting of minds. Retailers want the proposed changes scrapped and warn of the likelihood of higher prices and foreign retailers quitting the country if this does not happen. The Czech competition office says the new rules are a vital part of its toolbox to counter the abusive behavior of the big retail chains.
The Czech crown strengthened to the euro briefly on the Greek “No” vote breaking through the 27 crown margin set by the central bank and selling at 26.80 to the euro. Within an hour it returned to its former level at 27.12 crowns per euro. The ctk news agency says it is not clear if the central bank intervened on foreign markets. The bank has been keeping the crown in check with forex interventions since 2013 and says the interventions will continue until 2016.
In Business News this week: the Czech economy grew by four percent year-on-year in first quarter of 2015; E15: MAFRA shows interest in acquiring Slevomat; Car sales in the Czech Republic went up by five percent in the first six months of this year; Czech cinemas charge an average 129 crowns for a seat.
The Czech government has approved an amendment to the audiovisual law that would provide stable funding for Czech cinematography and make the country more competitive in attracting foreign crews. The annual state subsidies should enable Czech filmmakers to launch more ambitious projects and co-productions and make better use of the potential of the Czech film industry.
The Czech economy grew by 4.0 percent year on year in the first quarter of 2015, according to a revised estimate released on Tuesday by the Czech Statistics Office. A previous estimate issued at the end of May put the expansion of gross domestic product in the period at 4.2 percent. The estimate of quarter-on-quarter growth was also revised downwards, from 3.1 percent to 2.5 percent.
Archaeologists unearth seven graves dating back to Great Moravian Empire
“Einstein in Bohemia” – Part II: how alienation in ‘half-barbaric’ Prague led him to a new theory of gravity, eventual love of a free Czechoslovakia
“Einstein in Bohemia” – part 1: how a Prague sojourn sparked his theory of general relativity, journey of self-discovery
Valentine’s Day 1945 - When the Americans bombed Prague
Film about tragic fate of great Czech actress highlights communist atrocities in the 1950s