The Czech government may increase the minimum income, pensions and child benefits to offset the planned VAT hike, Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Jaromír Drábek said on Sunday. The government may also lower some indirect labour costs, such as social security payments made by employers that should decrease by 1.8 percent. The government is planning to introduce a single 20-percent VAT on most goods, except several basic foodstuffs, by the end of the year. The revenues are earmarked to pay for an overhaul of the pension system.
In related news, the coalition Public Affairs party will not back the government’s pension reform if the planned raise in the VAT is not fully justified, Public Affairs MP Michal Babák told Czech TV on Sunday. Mr Babák said coalition partners, the Civic Democrat and TOP 09 parties, have yet to explain to the public why it is necessary to increase the VAT so that a private pension scheme can be added to the system. Mr Babák said he agreed with President Václav Klaus who earlier this week criticized the planned reform over a lack of debate and political consensus. Prime Minister Petr Nečas, of the Civic Democrats, and Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek, from TOP 09, rejected the criticism and said it was time to act rather than talk.
The political thriller Pouta, or Walking Too Fast, converted five out of
13 nominations for the annual Czech Lion film awards, including those for
best film, director, cinematography, screenplay and best male actor, at an
awards ceremony in Prague on Saturday. The low-budget film, directed by
Radim Špaček, landed 13 nominations. It received little attention when
premiered in February 2010. Set in 1980s Czechoslovakia, it’s about a
communist secret police agent who snaps.
The film Kooky by Jan Svěrák landed three Czech Lions in technical categories, while Zuzana Bydžovská was given the award for best female actor for her role in the film Mamas and Papas. Katka by Helena Třeštíková got the award for best documentary, while actor and writer Zdeněk Svěrák was honoured for his exceptional contribution to Czech cinema.
A music club in the eastern town of Zlín was deliberately set on fire on Sunday morning, a police spokeswoman said. The fire occurred around 6 AM; no one was inside the building at the time. The police said the perpetrators broke inside the club and set the building on fire. The damage is estimated at 500,000 crowns.
The Czech men’s tennis team is tied 2:2 with Kazachstan in the first round of the Davis Cup after Czech Tomáš Berdych lost to Andrei Golubev 5:7, 7:5, 4:6 and 2:6 in the northern city of Ostrava on Sunday. World number seven Berdych failed to score the decisive third point for the Czechs; he put up little resistance to the Kazakh, ranked 43rd, who showed great tennis throughout the match. In the final singles rubber, Czech Republic’s Jan Hájek faces Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan for a spot in the Davis Cup quarterfinals.
The Czech police said on Sunday that cash, computers and other valuables were stolen from the rooms at the Clarion Congress Hotel in Ostrava where members of the Kazakh tennis team were staying. The theft occurred on Saturday afternoon when the team members were out at the Davis Cup game. The police estimated the damages at 415,000 crowns, or nearly 24,000 US dollars. Hotel management said they would compensate the team members for the loss.
Roman Šebrle finished third in heptathlon at the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Paris on Sunday. The 36-year-old former Olympic champion ranked second before the final 1,000 metre race but was beaten by Nadir el Fassi from France. The bronze is Šebrle’s sixth medal from the European indoor championships in a row; in the past, he took two gold medals and another bronze from the previous championship two years ago.
Hundreds of gathered in the centre of Prague on Saturday in protest against the government’s planned pension reform. The overhaul of the Czech pension system is set to raise the VAT on majority of goods. The protesters also objected to plans to introduce tuition fees at Czech universities. The rally, organized by the opposition group ProAlt, was addressed by the head of the Czech unions’ federation before moving on to a march through city centre. Estimates of the number of participants vary between 200 and 1,000.
Two men, aged 63 and 71, died after a fire broke out in their apartment in a high-rise building in Lovosice, in northern Bohemia, on Saturday. The three-storey buildings had to be evacuated. Firefighters said the likely cause of the fire was that one of the men lit a cigarette in bed and fell asleep. It took about an hour to put out the fire, a spokesman for the firefighters said.
The annual Czech Lions film awards will be handed out in Prague on Saturday. The low-budget political thriller Walking Too Fast, set in the 1970s, landed 13 nominations, a record for the Lions. On Friday, the Czech TV and Film Academy announced that actor and writer Zdeněk Svěrák won the Czech Lion award for exceptional contribution to Czech cinema. Mr Svěrák wrote the screenplays for three films nominated for the US Academy Awards, including Kolya that won the Oscar in 1997.
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