The Czech economy grew annually by 2.4 percent in the second quarter of this year, according to preliminary figures by the Czech Statistical Office released on Tuesday. Compared to the previous quarter, the country’s gross domestic product grew by 0.2 percent. Analysts say exports were the major force behind the growth which was however hindered by a drop in consumption. The Czech economy is expected to grow at a slower pace for the rest of the year; some analysts believe there might even be a drop in the GDP growth in the third or fourth quarter of 2011.
Government ministers, trade unions leaders and employers have agreed on raising the minimum salary. After Tuesday’s meeting of what’s is known as tripartite, Social and Labour Affairs Minister Jaromír Drábek said the minimum salary should increase to around 8,500 crowns, or just over 500 US dollars, by January next year. The tripartite also agreed on early retirement of people working in physically demanding professions; however, the meeting failed to produce an agreement on the planned tax reform which should, among other things, remove tax breaks on some employees’ benefits such as lunch vouchers.
Several dozen express train connections will be cancelled next year as the Transportation Ministry will no longer subsidize them, Czech TV reported on Tuesday. The ministry has a longer term contract with state-own Czech Railways and it annually spends around four billion crowns on subsidies for long-distance express train connections. However, in 2012 the ministry plans to decrease the support by some 200 million crowns. The public broadcaster said the ministry refused to specify which express train connections will be scrapped.
President Václav Klaus on Tuesday signed into law a bill imposing stricter rules on defence and army procurement. The act allows the Czech military to buy weapons and other equipment without having to go through intermediaries, which has been seen as a major factor behind several overpriced weapons contracts. The act should limit the number of army purchases awarded without public tenders, and it also requires those in charge of procurement worth over 300 million crowns to have security clearing.
Several Czech doctors, patients and scientists on Tuesday launched a petition demanding the legalization of medicinal marihuana. The organizers believe the ban on using marihuana in treating MS, Parkinson’s, cancer, AIDS and other diseases restricts patients’ right to determine their treatment. The Czech Health Ministry said that a cannabis-based drug, Sativex, is already available on prescriptions; however, legalizing medicinal marihuana would require a wide public debate. One of the organizers, a leading Czech drug expert, Tomáš Zábranský from Charles University’s medicine faculty, said they did not want to legalize marihuana as a recreational drug. Surveys show that around 78 percent of Czechs support the legalization of medicinal cannabis, Mr Zábranský added.
Czech farmers are increasingly dependent on subsidies, Agriculture Minister Ivan Fuka told a news conference on Tuesday. Subsidies represent some 70 percent of net added value in agriculture, which lowers farmers’ competitiveness. Despite a series of austerity measures adopted by the Czech government, subsidies for farmers last year rose by 600 million crowns to 38.5 billion. EU subsidies amount to 68 percent of the overall support famers receive.
The Czech power producer ČEZ, whose disappointing second-quarter results were leaked a day early on Monday, blames the leaks on poor internet security. The Reuters news agency released the ČEZ results on Monday after its reporters gained access to a section of the company’s website where the results had been posted; however, the company had not then officially released the respective link. The largest Czech energy producer posted a net profit of 6.72 billion crowns for the second quarter of this year, a drop by nearly 40 percent year-on.-year.
The National Technical Museum in Prague on Tuesday opened the last package of frozen archive documents damaged by the flood that hit the city in 2002. Over the past nine years, the museum recovered some 200 cubic metres of photographs, books, newspapers, plans and other documents which cost over 50 million crowns. The recovery process will be documented in an exhibition at the National Technical Museum which opens on August 17.
The football club Baník Ostrava signed on Tuesday a five-year contract with their former striker Václav Svěrkoš. The 27-year-footballer returns to Ostrava after a stint with the French club Socheax and Greece’s Panathinaikos. Václav Svěrkoš said he chose Baník despite having been offered contracts from other clubs because he felt at home there.
Deputy Prime Minister Karolina Peake, of Public Affairs, who is to spearhead the government’s anti-corruption drive has announced the members of her new anti-corruption team. The committee, which is to coordinate the fight against corruption and assess proposed legislation with regard to possible loopholes and corruption risks will be made up of eight cabinet ministers –including the justice, interior and finance ministers - and Mrs Peake’s own deputy Robert Vacek. The committee is to meet once a month and will be able to propose legislation, establish working commissions and employ advisors from different fields.
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