Heroine or villain? The high profile but sometimes quixotic head of the Czech independent energy regulator Alena Vitásková could be cast either way by the role she has occupied since becoming chairwoman of the office in mid-2011. On Tuesday, she emerged again above the parapet again to fend off attacks on her person and the Energy Regulatory Authority (ERÚ).
Attracting foreign investment has become a much debated issue in recent months with the government working on a new strategy to promote the country’s business interests in far-flung destinations. Now the north Bohemian town of Žatec is reported to be close to signing a 20-billion crown investment deal that could provide over two thousand jobs is a region suffering from high unemployment.
Despite projections of economic growth, fear of the future and high unemployment is making Czechs increasingly cautious when it comes to spending. Polls indicate that in 2013 two thirds of Czechs significantly cut back on their expenditures, forking out less on clothes, entertainment, holidays but also food and in some cases even medical care. Restaurants around the country are feeling the pinch and hundreds of them are literally fighting for survival.
Producer prices are one of the parameters that the central bank watches closely to get a feel of what final inflation figures it and consumers will soon face. And the bank feels it is on safe ground after negative figures from January and the promise of low price rises at factory gates for the rest of the year.
Exports rose to record levels in 2013, largely thanks to a surge in the second half of the year. But some surprising countries feature in the list of biggest sales increases and Czech exporters appear to have had mixed success in expanding markets in countries targeted as top priority by the Ministry of Industry and Trade.
The Czech Republic has signalled it will take steps to sign up to tough rules on public deficits and overall state debt designed with the main aim of forcing euro zone government to get their public finances in order. For prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka the move is a low cost, symbolic, step which will mainly shackle the next government rather than this one.
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