The Czech government approved the Ministry of Finance’s proposal for 2011’s state budget on Wednesday. Prime Minister Petr Nečas told journalists that the goal for the 2011 budget was to curb government spending. Next year’s state budget deficit is to be limited to 135 billion Czech crowns, or 4.6 percent GDP. The lower chamber of parliament is set to discuss the budget proposal in October. For this year, a state budget deficit of 162.9 billion Czech crowns has been approved.
The new Czech coalition government won a vote of confidence in the Chamber of Deputies on Tuesday evening. Earlier, Prime Minister Petr Nečas had presented its programme to MPs; his party the Civic Democrats, TOP 09 and Public Affairs have pledged to balance the Czech Republic’s budget by 2016, reform the country’s pension, health care and university systems, and fight corruption. Mr Nečas told the lower house the reform programme would be pushed through in a manner that was “socially sensitive”, adding that his government would do its best to explain to the public why such changes were needed.
The Czech parliament and a number of other government institutions will face higher budget cuts than anticipated. The lower house’s budget committee decided on Wednesday that the chamber has to cut its expenses by over 29 million crowns, nearly twice as much as a figure previously suggested. The new proposal was backed mostly by members of the government coalition. The head of the budget committee, Pavel Suchánek of the Civic Democrats, said that while some institutions may find the new cuts difficult, not approving them would have sent the wrong signal to other bodies which have already seen their budgets reduced.
Around 120 Czech citizens are waiting to be evacuated from the Indian region of Ladakh, in the northern part of the country, which has been hit by flash floods. The Czech ambassador to India said on Wednesday that the evacuation will take several days to complete. Among the stranded Czechs are two groups of tourists with whom the Czech embassy has been unable to establish contact. So far, 165 people have been confirmed dead and 400 are missing in the wake of the flooding.
Czech President Václav Klaus awarded the left-leaning economist Valtr Komárek with the president’s golden plaque at Prague Castle on Wednesday. Mr Komárek’s, who is considered the country’s doyen of social democracy, received the honor on his 80th birthday. Both Mr Klaus and Mr Komárek were members of the first government after the fall of communism in 1989. Their views on how to transform the country’s economy, however, differed vastly. While Mr Klaus advocated a free market economy, Mr Komárek pleaded for a more leftist approach. Mr Komárek was a member of the Communist Party until 1990 and worked as an adviser to Che Guevara, who at the time was Cuba’s minister of industry, in the 1960s.
Rescue workers have found the body of a fifty-year-old woman who was killed in the floods that hit the northern part of the country on the weekend. The woman had fallen into the river Šmedá, near her hometown of Frýdlant, on Saturday. Rescue workers found her body a kilometer outside of the town, bringing the Frýdlant’s victim toll to three. Another three town residents are still missing. Across the country, a total of five people have died as a consequence of the weekend floods.
According to a poll published by the internet-based agency SANEP, almost forty percent of Prague residents surveyed would like to see former director of the Czech National Bank Zdeněk Tůma take the post of Prague mayor. Mr Tůma is running for the conservative TOP 09 party, which was founded less than a year ago, but in the last lower house elections won the most votes in the capital, which used to be a Civic Democrat bastion. Public Affairs’ candidate Markéta Reedová took the second place with 26.4 percent, while ten percent of survey participants said they were still undecided. The Civic Democrats have not yet presented their candidate for the office of Prague mayor and aren’t planning to do so until the end of September.
After a seven-month investigation, police have arrested a 32-year-old man on charges of raping two schoolchildren in the Moravian town of Orlová in January. A police spokesperson told the Czech News Agency on Wednesday that the man, who is currently in custody awaiting trial, could face a prison sentence of up to 12 years if found guilty. In recent months, police had questioned hundreds of men as part of their search for the rapist.
Czech Minister of Defense Alexandr Vondra said on Wednesday that a recent leak of names of several communist-era secret police agents, some of whom allegedly are still active, did not constitute a threat to the country’s military intelligence. Mr Vondra added that no current members were among the names of communist spies, which appeared on the website of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian regimes in April and remained online for several weeks. The daily Mladá fronta dnes reported last week that the list included names of agents still active abroad and alleged that they may face serious threats to their safety following the publication of their names.
After a number of foreign nationals were arrested on suspicion of looting in flood-affected areas, the minister of the interior, Radek John, said that Czech thieves were relatively honourable. Mr John told the Czech News Agency that Czech thieves showed solidarity with their fellow citizens and did not loot, unlike the foreigners who had been arrested. Three Poles and two Romanians were taken into custody on looting charges in north Bohemia on Monday night. Sentences for theft during and after natural disasters are stiffer than at other times, and the five could receive jail terms of up to eight years if found guilty. Three Czech Romanies were detained on suspicion of looting on Tuesday night, police said.