Deputy prime minister and minister of trade, Karel Havlíček has indicated that the Czech government is working to resolve the present lack of respirators for the home market once and for all. He says there is a project in the pipeline for respirators to be produced in the town of Olomouc, which would fully cover the country’s future needs.
The Czech government needs to invest hundreds of billions of crowns to shore up the economy, with the crucial auto industry particularly vulnerable. Measures being taken now will alleviate the unemployment that will inevitably follow the coronavirus crisis. And the weak crown is of no benefit to exporters if they aren’t producing anything. So says the vice president of the Czech Confederation of Industry, Radek Špicar, who I spoke to late last week.
Farmers markets began popping up on Czech town squares a decade ago, much to the delight of locals in search of seasonal produce, freshly baked goods, free-range eggs, craft beer – you name it. Along with other ‘non-essential’ businesses, they were ordered to close on March 10 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Farmers’ Market Association says its plea to reopen under strict hygienic conditions has been met with a stony silence, while bankruptcy looms for small, family-run businesses.
The travel ban instituted due to the ongoing coronavirus epidemic has had an effect on the prices of rent within Prague, with some owners of Airbnb properties offering their flats for long-term rent instead. A wider impact on property prices is also possible, some experts say. In order to stimulate the housing market, the finance minister has proposed the cancellation of the real estate transfer tax.
To counter the economic impact of the coronavirus, the Czech National Bank has twice this month cut interest rates, which now stand at 1 percent. But it has balked at quantitative easing – even though central bank governor Jiří Rusnok says the most pessimistic economic forecasts are the most realistic.
The economy should be put in neutral gear and people should take a break. That is the key recommendation of Czech economist Tomáš Sedláček for the coming weeks. He is the author of the much-celebrated bestseller Economics of Good and Evil, was the youngest advisor to the former Czech President Václav Havel and is a member of several prestigious international institutions. (Tomáš Sedláček spoke to Vít Pohanka about the impact the crisis has already had on our use of digital technology):
Among the many coronavirus measures introduced by the Czech government is a “kurzarbeit”, or short-time working, programme. Under the scheme the state will make up some of the income lost by employees whose work is reduced by factory outages, helping firms avoid redundancies. The idea has received widespread backing, including from the Czech Confederation of Trade Unions, headed by Josef Středula. I discussed it – and the outlook in general – with the unions chief.