The centre-right Czech government has approved a draft budget for next
year that limits the public finance deficit to 4.6 percent of gross
domestic product. This year the country’s public deficit is expected to
rise to 5.3 percent of GDP. The planned deficit for 2011 is CZK 135
billion, down from this year’s ceiling of CZK 163 billion, which is the
highest ever. The budget is
due to be passed in the lower house in early December.
The government of Prime Minister Petr Nečas has announced a raft of cost-cutting measures, along with reform of the pension, health care and tertiary education systems. The cabinet has pledged to balance the budget by 2016.
The Czech National Bank has decided to keep its benchmark interest rate at a record low level of 0.75 percent. In the last two year’s the country’s central bank cut the rate by 3.0 percent as the country went through its worst recession ever. Thursday’s announcement had been widely expected by analysts, with most predicting a rise in interest rates next year.
The Czech Republic is planning to send an additional 200 soldiers to Afghanistan next year, bringing the total number to around 730, the Czech News Agency reported on Thursday citing the country’s defence minister, Alexandr Vondra. Around half of the increase would concern elite soldiers, while the government also wants to send more military police officers to the war-torn state. The majority of the 530 Czech troops currently in Afghanistan are operating in a provincial reconstruction team in the province of Logar.
Officials from the Ministry of Finance have begun carrying out extensive checks of the assets of business people closely linked to Czech politicians, the news website aktualne.cz reported on Thursday. A spokesperson for the ministry said controls were only being carried out in cases where money laundering and other crimes are suspected. It is not clear whether the investigation also concerns former politicians.
The Czech president, Václav Klaus, has slammed European integration, which he said had weakened democracy and hamstrung member states through excessive financial regulation. Mr Klaus, who is well known for his eurosceptic views, made the comments during a speech at John Hopkins University in Washington on Wednesday. The president is in the US on a five-day visit that will also see him lead a Czech delegation at the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly.
A new opinion poll suggests the Social Democrats would again come first if fresh elections to the Chamber of Deputies were held now. The survey by the STEM agency indicates that 22.7 percent of Czechs would vote for the Social Democrats, less than one percent more than cast their ballots for the party in June. Support for all three parties in the coalition government is now lower than it was when votes were cast three months ago, the poll suggests. In terms of mandates in the 200-seat lower house, the coalition would lose 10 to the left-wing opposition parties but would still enjoy a majority.
One of the biggest sports events of the year in the Czech Republic got underway on Thursday evening, with the opening game of the women’s basketball world championships. The hosts faced Argentina in the curtain raiser in Brno, while other matches will also take place in Ostrava and Karlovy Vary. There are 16 teams competing in the women’s basketball world championship, with the final due to take place on Sunday week.
One of the Czech Republic’s leading literary awards, the Jaroslav Seifert Prize, has been won by Jáchym Topol for his 2009 novel Chladnou zemí (which translates as through a cold land). Jury member František Janouch said that Topol was a key figure in Czech literature; he said he respected him not only as a novelist but also for his editing work and journalism, which prior to 1989 was linked to underground circles and samizdat publishing. The Jaroslav Seifert Prize is presented by the Charter 77 Foundation and comes with a cash prize of CZK 250,000.
The second annual International Cinematographers’ Film Festival gets underway in the north-eastern city of Ostrava on Thursday. The festival includes outdoor screenings at abandoned sites in the former industrial centre, while other highlights include of a screening of a new film by the great Czech filmmaker Jan Švankmajer. It runs until October 3.
The English musician Sting performed with an orchestra to an audience of around 10,000 at Prague’s O2 Arena on Wednesday night. The former leader of the Police performed hits such as Every Breath You Take and more recent songs accompanied by four rock musicians and the Royal Phiharmonic Concert Orchestra. Wednesday’s show was his sixth in the Czech Republic.