Prime Minister Fischer told journalists on Monday that the government could not be held responsible for the lack of cooperation between parties in the lower house. Mr. Fischer added that the government would do everything it could to keep the state budget deficit below the 5.3 percent threshold. He also pointed out that the Czech Republic will most likely face harsh criticism from Brussels. The state budget deficit was expected to be 163 billion Czech crowns but MPs voted against proposed cuts in social services, state employees’ salaries and the agriculture sector, bringing it up to 5.7 percent of the Gross Domestic Product. To keep the state budget deficit below the 5.3 percent threshold, the government will cut spending of several ministries by three to five percent.
Following a meeting with Prime Minister Jan Fischer on Monday, Finance Minister Eduard Janota announced that he would not after all resign from his post. Last week, Mr. Janota said he was seriously considering stepping down over changes made to the 2010 state budget by left-wing parties in the lower house that left none of his original austerity measures in place.
On Monday, the government announced its decision on limits for the amount of drugs that Czechs can legally own for personal use. At last week’s lower house session, a decision was made on the number of certain psychedelic plants that are legally permissible. This week, MPs discussed synthetic and hard drugs. Drug users can own up to 1.5 grams of heroin or one gram of cocaine without facing legal consequences. Justice Minister Daniela Kovářová told reporters that cultivators of exotic cacti that happen to contain psychoactive substances can ask for a permit to grow more than the legally allowed amount.
The Ministry of Health announced on Monday that it was considering a change in its distribution strategy for the swine flu vaccine. Since every second patient eligible to receive the vaccine has reportedly refused it, the ministry may leave it up to doctors and vaccination centers to determine who can receive the shot, so that a wider segment of the population can have access to it. The daily newspaper Mladá fronta Dnes reported on Monday that the reason for this change is the fact that so far, the supply, which cost a total of 220 million crowns, isn’t being used. Another delivery of the vaccine is expected to reach the Czech Republic in a few days.
According to data published by the Czech Statistical Office on Monday, the baby boom in the Czech Republic is on the decline. In the first three quarters of this year, close to 90,000 babies were born, 1700 less than during the same period in 2008, when the country saw the arrival of a record 119,600 babies, the highest number of births per year since 1993. The newly published data further reveal that the total population of the Czech Republic has increased by about 34,000 and that there has been a downward trend in weddings, divorces and abortions.
Close to 300,000 Czechs will be spending Christmas abroad, according to a December survey conducted by the company Stem/Mark. The survey also showed that 50 percent of all Czechs could imagine spending Christmas outside of the Czech Republic, and one in eight Czechs dreams of spending Christmas on the beach. A drop in prices for package holidays and a rise in the living standard are cited as the main reasons for the trend.
Customs police in Southern Moravia confiscated counterfeit products that would have damaged trademark holders to the tune of seven million Czech crowns, a police spokeswoman told journalists on Monday. Friday’s raid on a Vietnamese market in Brno was part of a routine procedure. Police had gotten suspicious when one of the market’s salesmen ran away after seeing them approach. In August, police found counterfeit goods worth 50 million crowns at the same marketplace.
A court in the Moravian town of Olomouc today upheld a twenty- month sentence given to a 42-year-old Romany man from Ostrava who was found guilty of attacking a member of the Olomouc Roma community. The perpetrator and four of his friends stormed the victim’s apartment and shot him in the stomach during an attack in 2007. The perpetrator was charged with trespassing because there is not enough evidence that he fired the gun at the man who his ex-wife had left him for. The attack was motivated by the fact that his family wanted the dowry back.
Police in Brno discovered a five-year-old girl who had been living in a makeshift hut with her homeless mother and the mother’s partner. A warrant had been issued for the three of them several months ago, since the mother had been neglecting to take the child to legally prescribed medical check-ups. The girl was in a healthy but neglected state, and was taken away from her 44-year-old mother to be put into state care.
A survey by the Czech online shopping search engine Heureka.cz and the auction webpage Aukro.cz shows that 95 percent of Czechs shop online for at least part of their Christmas presents. For 46 percent of the customers, lower prices are what make online shops attractive. Convenience was cited as an appeal for 27 percent of online shoppers and 12 percent said that there was more variety of goods to choose from online. Internet shopping has been rising steadily and this year is expected to account for revenue of about 27 billion Czech crowns.