The Bank Board of the Czech National Bank voted unanimously on Thursday to decrease the base interest rate to its lowest point ever, with a quarter-point cut to 1.25%. Economists hope commercial banks will react in kind, decreasing interest on loans for businesses; market rates in recent times however have shown little response to the development of the central bank’s rates. The bank’s governor Zdeněk Tůma, indicated that even at this historic low rate there is still leeway, with rock bottom for interest rates always being zero. The central banks of other countries have also reviewed interest rates in recent days, with Hungary bringing its main rate down to 8.5% and Poland setting its own record low at 3.5.
The central bank also worsened its economic outlook for the year. Speaking at a press conference on Thursday the ČNB governor stated their new prognosis expects a 3.8% fall in GDP, as opposed to the 2.4% decline previously anticipated. The growth outlook for 2010 is also more conservative, now at 0.7%.
In other economic news, the Czech Credit Bureau has released bankruptcy reports for July that show the worst month for businesses since January of 2008 when the current insolvency act was passed. 129 entrepreneurial entities declared bankruptcy over the last month, while recent growth in personal bankruptcies decreased slightly. One fifth of the bankrupt firms were in Prague. Compared to the same month in 2008, entrepreneurial bankruptcies have doubled while personal bankruptcies have increased threefold.
The Ministry of Health announced Thursday that vaccines against the swine flu virus would first be available at the end of November, and that the Czech Republic will sign a contract Friday for a supply for 2.5 million people. Health Minister Dana Jurásková said that the contract would hold the manufacturer responsible for the vaccine and any potential side effects, and that the country would thus avoid having to use unapproved medicaments as occurred in the US and UK. The first batch of the vaccine is intended for distribution among those providing basic services – healthcare workers, police, firemen and so on – and for 2 million in higher risk categories. With 27 new cases announced Thursday the number of A/H1N1 diagnoses in the Czech Republic is currently 162, and health officials have warned that autumn could bring a tremendous rise in the number of infections.
The railway company České dráhy is preparing for the visit of Pope Benedict XVI in September by readying 10 additional trains to service the towns of Stará Boleslav and Brno, where the pope will be serving mass. Special timetables are also being made, all in an effort to cope with the 30,000 visitors expected in the Bohemian town of Stará Boleslav and up to 120,000 in the Moravian city of Brno. Transport has been one of the main concerns as officials prepare for the visit. Recently it was announced that a part of the country’s main east-west motorway would have to be closed for 24 hours to provide parking space for the 2000 buses anticipated. Pope Benedict’s stay in the Czech Republic will take place from September 26 to 28.
The Czech Statistical Office has announced a large jump in the results of foreign trade for June compared with the same period last year. The surplus of 20.4 billion crowns (ca. 786 million EUR) was the second largest in the country’s history. While foreign trade continued to shrink in June, the pace was slower than in previous months as both exports and imports fell by less than 20 percent. Exports fell by 15.1% and imports shed 19.3% against June 2008 after tumbling by over 20 points each month so far this year. On a monthly basis, exports even rose by 1.6% while imports fell by 1.5 in June.
Doctors in the Moravian town of Olomouc have saved a man whose heart was punctured by a large splinter ejected from a saw. The survival of the 27-year-old carpenter was reportedly aided by the presence of a blood clot in his heart the size of a fist which blocked the wound to the heart chamber. The man is currently in good condition and does not recall the incident.
A young African pelican that went missing from a zoo in Austrian Salzburg has been found living in Northern Moravia. Ornithologists who found the bird in a natural reserve near Litovel originally believed it was from the Danube Delta and had gotten lost. As the bird became tamer and began visiting fishermen for fish however, its true identity was betrayed by its bracelet. The pelican is currently being cared for in the Zoo at Dvůr Králové.
An airliner owned by the company Travel Service slid off the runway apron at Brno airport on Thursday into a patch of grass. No passengers were aboard and no one was injured. According to Travel Service’s spokeswoman the Airbus A 320 was preparing for a technical flight and the mishap occurred as it was to begin taxiing. The cause is as yet unknown and is being investigated.
The video showing former Civic Democrat leader Mirek Topolánek meeting with Czech lobbyists and entrepreneurs during his recent holiday in Tuscany was allegedly made by former intelligence officer Petr Bakeš, according to the daily Mladá fronta Dnes. The Italian video, along with other pictures and recordings made during Mr. Topolánek’s Italian holiday were leaked to the paper by Mr. Bakes’ former superior, one-time-head of the civilian intelligence service Karel Randák. Mr. Bakes has refused to comment but the paper says his former colleagues recognized his voice on the video recording. The Civic Democrats have accused the Social Democrats of using former intelligence officers to try to discredit them ahead of October’s early general elections.