Prime Minister Petr Necas said on Tuesday he was prepared to stake his
government's future on winning parliamentary approval for controversial tax
hikes aimed at reducing the gap in public spending. The proposed bill
includes a 1 percent hike in the lower and basic VAT rates to 15 and 21
percent respectively in 2013 and a “solidarity tax for the rich”
pertaining to people earning more than 100,000 crowns a month for a period
of three years. The bill, earlier rejected by the Senate, has divided the
lower house with some members of the prime minister’s own Civic Democrats
refusing to support it on the grounds that it would strangle the economy.
The governing coalition which now has 100 deputies in the lower house would
need to muster 101 votes to overturn the Senate’s veto. However six Civic
Democrat deputies have indicated they will not support the bill.
At a meeting of his party’s deputies club on Tuesday Prime Minister Petr Nečas said he was prepared to link the fate of the government to the said bill in a repeat vote should it be rejected. He said the ruling coalition would have no reason to remain in office if it were unable to fulfill its primary goal –fulfilling its fiscal consolidation plan.
The ongoing session of the lower house, which is also set to debate a controversial bill on church restitutions, was badly disrupted on Tuesday by a bout of filibustering by the opposition Public Affairs. The party announced its intention to obstruct debate on the bills in question in view of getting the lower chamber to discuss last week’s sacking of the police president which party leader Radek John described as an unprecedented attack on democracy. He accused the government of trying to sabotage the work of the police in investigating corruption in high places and said the present administration had completely lost its legitimacy.
Police on Tuesday raided the offices of the Usti regional administration arresting six people. Among those detained was the governor’s deputy Pavel Kouda. According to Czech Television the arrests are linked to suspicious financial activities in the North-West operation program. Its current head Pavel Markvart is being questioned by the police. In July of this year the program’s former head Petr Kusnierz was sentenced to 7 years in jail for accepting millions of crowns in bribes and manipulating EU grants. Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka said in response to the news that Pavel Kouda would be taken off the party’s list of candidates for the autumn regional elections.
Government officials, cultural figures and war veterans gathered at Prague’s Vítkov memorial on Tuesday to pay their last respects to WWII veteran general Tomas Sedláček who died last week at the age of 94. The general fought with the Allies in France, Britain and later with the Soviet army helping to liberate Czechoslovakia. After the communist take-over he was arrested convicted of anti-communist activities and jailed for life. He was released in 1960 and exonerated by the Czech Velvet Revolution in 1989. President Vaclav Klaus, who awarded him the Order of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, described him as „a true soldier“. A private funeral ceremony for family and friends only was held in the late afternoon.
The Agricultural Workers Union is trying to drum up support for a two-hour general strike against government policy to take place on September 27th. The protest is aimed against the government’s austerity package which the union says will impact primarily lower income groups, families with children, pensioners and the disabled. Relations between the government and trade unions have been strained since trade unions walked out of a tripartite meeting in June. An attempt to resume talks is to be made on September 24th –just three days ahead of the planned protest.
The Czech Republic stands to lose the equivalent of 4-5 billion crowns due to problems in drawing money from EU funds, according to Education Minister Petr Fiala. Minister Fiala said it was now almost certain the available funds would not be drawn by the end of the year due to poorly prepared projects and delays on the Czech side. Efforts are now being made to minimize the impact of this fall out on the state budget. There are fears that the problems with drawing of EU funds could seriously impact the government’s consolidation strategy.
A military police investigation has concluded that a Czech soldier found dead at the military army base in Libava committed suicide. The 38-year-old soldier is believed to have shot himself in the head outside army barracks. A spokesman for the military police said an autopsy had confirmed the suicide theory. It is the second suicide at the Libava military base in the last 12 months.
An as yet unspecified pollutant contaminated a 20 kilometre stretch of the Hana river near the town of Nezamyslice in the early hours of Tuesday doing considerable damage to local water species. Dozens of fish are reported to have been killed despite the fact that fire brigades from three regions fought to contain the pollutant. Experts have taken samples of the dead fish to try and ascertain what killed them and who may have been responsible.
Twenty-seven German hospitals have announced they will take part in the fourth international job fair in Prague in November of this year. In addition to head hunters the hospitals are sending Czech specialists already working in Germany to provide references with regard to work conditions and pay. In 2011 over 500 highly qualified Czech specialists sought and found work abroad getting four times the salary they receive in the Czech Republic.
Czech tennis player Tomáš Berdych on Monday defeated 11th seed Nicolas Almagro of Spain 7:6, 6:4, 6:1 to reach the quarterfinals of the US Open where he will play world number one Roger Federer. The sixth seeded Czech said he would have to put in more than 100 percent performance to rout Federer in Wednesday's game.
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