Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek has said that the deficit in public finances in 2010 will not exceed 5.3 percent of GDP. Speaking on Czech Television the minister said that the projected deficit of 163 billion crowns, which amounts to 5.3 percent of GDP, would not be exceeded and that optimistic estimates put the gap in public finances at 5.1 percent of GDP. The target for 2011 is a deficit amounting to 4.8 percent of GDP. The government is aiming for a balanced budget in 2016.
The Czech Medical Chamber has expressed support for Health Minister Leoš Heger amidst speculation that he is to be replaced for dragging his feet on reforms. In a statement issued at the close of its two day conference the chamber said the minister’s dismissal would not resolve the health sector’s problems and would be perceived as an attempt by the government to impose its own solution to them. The Medical Chamber said it was ready to cooperate more closely on the planned reforms. The planned overhaul of the health sector aims to make it more efficient in the use of funds while maintaining a high level of care. Patients will also be expected to contribute more to the cost of treatment.
German President Christian Wulff is expected to arrive in Prague on Monday for a day of talks with Czech top officials. He will be received at Prague Castle by President Vaclav Klaus and attend a ceremonial dinner given in his honour. His talks with the Czech president and prime minister are expected to focus on bilateral relations, EU matters and the outcome of the recent NATO summit in Lisbon. Two problem issues that have been highlighted by the Czech side are the restriction of the German job market for Czechs, which is to expire in May 2011, and the often humiliating road checks which Czech drivers are subjected to in Bavaria.
The government has quashed another attempt by the Social Democrats to push a bill on progressive tax through Parliament. On its web page the government describes the proposal as poorly constructed, unsystematic and running counter its own policy programme. An official statement is expected on Wednesday, but pundits say that in view of the government’s comfortable majority in the lower house the opposition’s chances of seeing it implemented are virtually non-existent. At present there is a single 15 percent tax in place.
Two thirds of Czechs say they are in favour of bringing back the death penalty, but claim the Czech judicial system is not ready for such a move. A survey conducted by the SANEP polling agency indicates that the majority of Czechs think the present penal code does not present a sufficient deterrent to serious crimes. Over 81 percent of those polled said that there were disparities in the system and said they would support much tougher punishment for contract murders, sexually-motivated crimes and acts of terrorism.
The interior minister, Radek John, has come under fire for introducing a code of ethics that critics say is pointless. The minister introduced the four-page codex as basic guidelines for his employees with the aim of countering corruption in all its forms. He has asked for other ministries to adopt the document as well as a preventative measure. Critics say the codex states the obvious and merely urges ministry employees to abide by the law. The minister, who is a former journalist, helped his newly-founded Public Affairs Party win 10percent of the vote in May’s general elections mainly on an anti-corruption agenda, but since taking office he has come under increasing criticism and his credit rating has plummeted.
Used car imports to the Czech Republic dropped by 13 percent between January and October of this year to approximately 108 000 cars, the Association of Car Importers said in its latest report. The highest number of used cars is imported from neighbouring Germany. The fall in imports is being attributed to reduced prices of new cars and the strength of the crown. The sale of new cars is reported to have grown by five percent over the same period.
A young man who tried to stop his neighbor from driving in a state of extreme intoxication paid a high price for his efforts. The drunken neighbor knocked him to the ground and held a knife at his throat as passers-by rushed over to help. Although they managed the pull the drunk off the young man, he lunged at him once again, inflicting a deep leg wound. The attacker could face up to three years in jail.
An eleven-year-old boy who claims he had acid thrown in his face may have accidentally injured himself, police concluded on Sunday. The story of the injured boy shocked the nation, with the child claiming an unknown boy in the street had thrown some kind of liquid in his face. Further investigation revealed that he had been playing in the backyard with a friend and may have thrown a lit match into a can of paint thinner. Doctors say there is no damage to his eyesight and if all goes well he should not be scarred for life.
This year’s Christmas tree for Prague has been felled and preparations are underway for its transport to the Czech capital. The 20-metre tall spruce tree will grace Prague’s Old Town Square and will be officially lit on the first advent weekend – on November 27th. Old Town Square traditionally hosts Prague’s biggest Christmas market.