A leading business lobby has come out against government moves to introduce a single rate of Value Added Tax at the current higher rate of 20 percent. The Chamber of Commerce said the move will have a negative impact on business. The chamber added that a uniform rate of 17 percent would be sufficient to finance the government’s planned reform of the pension system. The criticism means that both business and labour unions have lined up against the government’s proposal. Prime Minister Petr Nečas has said he has no intention of changing the main line of the VAT and pension reform.
The country’s main banking and financial watchdog, the Czech National Bank, has said that the country’s banks are strong enough to weather a downturn in the economy. The assessment was given in the latest results of so-called stress tests carried out by the central bank. It said that the high capital ratios of local banks compared with their loan exposure was one of the main reasons for their ability to ride an economic downturn. A previous assessment of the banks was released at the end of November.
The government’s economic think tank, NERV, has reportedly recommended that the only foreign language made obligatory in schools is English. Emphasis on pushing other languages is a waste of energy, it adds. The think tank argues that students with a firm grasp of English will get ahead. It adds that time allocated for another language could be better used for more practical studies such as information technology. The advice has been interpreted as a blow to German, often chosen as a second choice language after English.
The condition of a 30-year-old snake breeder from northern Moravia who was bitten by a Black Mamba, one of the world’s deadliest snakes, has improved, the spokeswoman for Prague’s General Teaching Hospital said. Last Friday the man drove himself to a hospital in Moravia immediately after being bitten – alerting rescue services of his condition while en route. After that he was transferred to Prague by helicopter, and kept in an induced coma on artificial respiration. The hospital has declined to reveal additional details at the request of the man’s family, but snake specialists suggest the man was extremely lucky to have survived, saying he had probably not received a ‘full dose’ of the snake’s poison. The Black Mamba can inject 10 to 40 times the venom required to kill a human being and is lethal in almost 100% of cases.
The Ministry of Agriculture is seeking to double the EU funds that can be channelled into commercial fish farming between 2014 and 2020 according to the business paper E15. The current six year support programme until 2013 offers around 900 million crowns, of which EU funding accounts for around three-quarters of the total. A spokeswoman for the ministry said the extra funds could be used to put disused ponds back into production and also limit the population of cormorants which eat the fish. Joint lobbying for extra funds is planned together with other landlocked countries such as Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, and Luxembourg.
The head of the Czech archaeological mission in Egypt, Miroslav Bárta, was due on Monday to return to Cairo for talks with officials responsible for national monuments. Mr. Bárta is hoping to be able to visit the site of Czech excavations at Abusir outside Cairo to assess damage done during recent disturbances. The site, where Czech archaeologists have worked for around 50 years, is currently under military guard. Spring excavations at the site have already been delayed.
March 1st marks the 90th anniversary of the original publication of the first part of Jaroslav Hašek’s satirical masterpiece The Good Soldier Švejk and His Fortunes in the World War. The four-part book made its author famous and found a permanent place in world literature. Since its original publication, the adventures of Hašek’s good-humoured main character have been translated into 54 languages, including Chinese and Arabic. ‘Švejk’ to this day also remains popular among Czech readers: Czech Radio reported on Tuesday that Prague’s Municipal Library had more than 130 copies on loan to readers.
Friends, politicians and writers paid their respects to Czech writer Arnošt Lustig on Tuesday at Prague’s new Jewish cemetery. The 84-year-old writer died on Saturday after a long illness. Present at Tuesday’s ceremony were Culture Minister Jiří Besser and the former head of the Senate, Přemysl Sobotka. A wreath was sent by former president Václav Havel. Lustig was marked by his experiences in WWII when, as a Jew, he was sent to various Nazi concentration camps before being transported to the death camp of Auschwitz. He later wrote books to retell what he had seen as fiction because people refused to believe it as reality. A private ceremony at the cemetery for family was held on Monday.
Czech cross country skier Lukáš Bauer failed to triumph in his favourite 15-kilometre event in the world championships being staged in Oslo. Bauer came in seventh, trailing the leader, Finn Matti Heikkinen by 55 seconds. He had got off to a good start at one stage being in third place but as the race went on he fell away from the lead.
In football, Sparta Prague returned to action for their first match after the winter break. The team won 2:0 away at Baník Ostrava, breaking a five year run where they had failed to beat Ostrava on home ground. Both goals were scored by Cameroon player Kweuke. The win leaves Sparta trailing league leader Plzeň by four points.