Czech deputy foreign minister Helena Bambusová has suggested the country
should take an active part in the long-term renewal of earthquake-hit
Haiti. In an interview with the Czech News Agency she said rebuilding the
country would be a good opportunity for the Czech Republic to give further
aid if that is cleared by the government.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already pledged 5.0 million crowns as immediate emergency aid. It will be used by a United Nations programme aimed at restoring supplies of drinking water. The government should discuss further aid at its Monday meeting. Estimates put the number of dead caused by the earthquake at the start of this week at up to 200,000 with up to 300,000 homeless.
Saturday’s edition of the daily Lidové noviny reports that Minister of Finance Eduard Janota will undertake a far reaching audit of state-controlled companies ahead of elections in May. The audit aims to weed out incompetent political appointees at the head of companies. The report says it will also seek to make sure their pay and bonuses are in line with practices elsewhere, for example in neighbouring Germany. Companies lined up for the audit include power giant ČEZ, Czech Airlines, Czech Railways and the operator of Prague airport.
The caretaker government of Prime Jan Fischer is putting the finishing touches to plans aimed at curbing the country’s ballooning budget deficit. The so-called exit strategy includes the possibility of a higher 25% tax bracket for bigger earners, ending aid for home buyers and changes to index-linked increases in social payments. The target is to almost halve the current state deficit to under 3.0 percent of Gross Domestic Product by 2013. That is the level need for adoption of the euro. Prime Minister Fischer has said the measures, to be discussed next week with industrial leaders and unions, could plot the course for the next government following May elections.
The Czech-German film, Habermann’s Mill, scooped two awards at the Bavarian film awards on Friday. Slovak director Juraj Herz was awarded the director’s prize and Mark Waschke the prize for best actor. The film, which should be released in the Czech Republic in March, traces how the life of a rich Sudeten saw mill owner is transformed by the crisis of 1938 and then the war. The Bavarian film awards are recognised as the second most prestigious in Germany.
A survey suggests that most Czechs are unsatisfied with the clean up of pavements following heavy snowfalls this week. A change in the law last year appears to put the responsibility on local councils for such snow clearance. But the survey by the SANEP agency shows just over 70 percent of respondents are unhappy with their efforts so far. Just under half think that a better job was done when the responsibility fell on the owners of properties which had a frontage on the pavement. But only a third of those surveyed wanted a return to that previous system.
Commemorations for Czech student Jan Palach have taken place in Prague and at his birthplace near Mělník on Saturday. It was 41 years ago on January 16, 1969, that the 21-year-old student set fire to himself in the centre of Prague to protest against indifference following the crushing of the Prague Spring by Soviet-led Warsaw Pact in forces a year earlier. He died of his injuries three days later. His sacrifice stirred Czechs and focussed world attention on the country.
The venue for the opening World Group Davis Cup tie between the Czech Republic and Belgium has been announced. The venue for the confrontation between March 5-7 will be the small eastern Belgian town of Bree. The Czechs are favourites for the encounter following their run to the final of the Davis Cup last year when they lost against Spain. The Czechs hope to get to the final again this year but with a different result.
Czech cross country skier Lukáš Bauer won the 15-kilometre World Cup event at Otepää, Estonia, on Saturday. Bauer came in more than 16 seconds ahead of second placed Andrus Veerpalu. It is Bauer’s third straight win at this fixture in a row and reinforces his second place position in the overall World Cup standings. He will now return home for a few days to Boží Dar in West Bohemia before heading off to Canada to begin training for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
In tennis, Czech women’s doubles specialist Květa Peschkeová has won the Hobart, Australia, title with Taiwanese partner Chuang Chia-Jung. They beat the Romanian-Taiwanese pair, Monica Niculescu and Chan Yung-Jan 3:6, 6:3, 10:7. It is Peschkeová’s 14th doubles title and follows a half year away from the game following injury. The Hobart tournament is seen as a warm up for the Australian Open.
Czech voluntary rescue workers from the Liberec-based Hand for Help organisation are to leave for quake-struck Haiti only in a couple of weeks. The head of the organisation, Jaromír Dolansky, said on Friday that they planned to build a small field hospital in the country, which was devastated by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake this week. Tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands are thought to have died in the disaster. The Czech volunteers will fly to the neighbouring Dominican Republic and then travel 300 kilometres to Port-au-Prince. Originally, it was planned the Czechs would take sniffer dogs, but given the time frame, that idea was abandoned. On Thursday, the Czech government made clear it would reach a decision on financial aid to Haiti at its session on Monday.