General Secretary of the OECD Ángel Gurría says that the Czech government’s reforms are going in the right direction, but still have much to surmount. Mr Gurría visited Prague on Friday and offered the government a list of recommendations for improving the economic situation in the country, among them a number of health care proposals. The OECD recommends decreasing ‘excess capacities’ in hospitals, spending less on medicines and digitalizing medical documentation. The General Secretary also praised the effect of the new Labour Code on the labour market, consumption taxation and the government’s cooperation with its economic council, NERV.
The Chamber of Czech Doctors says that its cooperation with the Ministry of Health is not working. Speaking at the start of a conference of the chamber in Brno on Saturday, its president, Milan Kubek, criticised Health Minister Leoš Heger for reneging on an agreement to raise the salaries of health care workers by ten percent. Health care report is the main topic of discussion at the weekend conference, which is being attended by 46,000 doctors from across the country. Minister Heger will also be holding discussions with the doctors.
Mr Kubek also told the doctors’ conference that the chamber had learned of at least 30 cases where young physicians were working under conditions of “slavery” in Czech healthcare facilities. He said that the need to accumulate experience after their studies leads young doctors to work long hours for inadequate remuneration that is impermissible under the law. The Ministry of Labour has apparently inspected the situation but has not yet published its results.
Hundreds of people – among them musicians and government officials – gathered in the South Bohemian village of Kostelní Vydří on Saturday to pay their last respects to dissident poet Ivan Martin Jirous, who died last week. A prayer was read by Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg. Defense Minister and former dissident Alexandr Vondra, also in attendance, called Jirous a very important person without whom a tough period would have been even tougher. Ivan Jirous (nicknamed Magor, or ‘Maniac’) is perhaps best-known as the artistic manager and spiritual leader of the underground rock band The Plastic People of the Universe. His battles with the communist regime resulted in eight and a half years behind bars. He was 67 years old.
The Ministry of Education is planning to pay out 100,000 crowns to students who were expelled for political reasons during the later communist era. Around 1,400 people are estimated to have been expelled as a result of political persecution between 1956 and 1989, often because of views expressed by family members. Nearly a thousand students thus disadvantaged during the major years of repression, 1948 to 1956, have already been compensated with a total 90.5 million.
TOP 09 parliamentary club chairman Petr Gazdík says that higher taxes for the richest citizens is a possibility, given the current economic situation. In an interview for Saturday’s edition of the newspaper Právo, Mr Gazdík said that in a worst-case scenario where pensions or families’ standards of living were reduced, he could not imagine that taxes would not be raised for the wealthiest. In the event of a crisis that would heavily decrease the effectiveness of the economy, he said, then ideological issues such as not raising direct taxes would not apply.
Over a hundred people participated in a walk through Prague on Saturday to raise awareness of child abuse. The event was organized by the Our Children foundation to draw attention to the increasing number of abused and otherwise mistreated children each year. The foundation says that the number of such cases grew between 2009 and 2010 by more than a thousand to 5787 reports.
President Václav Klaus has vetoed a bill introducing criminal liability for companies. The Czech centre-right government considers the bill an important tool in curbing corruption. However, Mr Klaus maintains that the legislation ignores the link between a crime and its perpetrators, and is an example of shirking responsibility, adding that the bill was part of a fashionable trend to criminalize corporations. Justice Minister Jiří Pospíšil rejected Mr Klaus’ claims, and said he hoped coalition MPs will overturn the presidential veto when the bill returns to Parliament. The Czech Republic is the only EU member state without such legislation.
An Austrian appeals court has rejected a motion to retain confiscated artwork belonging to the Czech state that was seized due to legal disputes with the company Diag Human. The decision overturns a Viennese district court verdict from May of this year, based upon which several paintings and sculptures that were on loan to an Austrian gallery were seized because of the blood-plasma company’s multimillion damages claim against the Czech state, which it says upset its business activities in the 1990s. The artworks should now be returned to the Czech Republic.
The Czech Republic has claimed 12 billion crowns from the privatisation of the coalmining company Mostecká uhelná which have been frozen on Swiss bank accounts due to suspected fraud and money-laundering. The country recently missed a deadline to confirm participation in Swiss judicial proceedings regarding the money. Prime Minister Petr Nečas told reporters on Friday that there are several possible ways of claiming the money, which will be analysed by the state prosecutor; the state will meanwhile be hiring legal representation in Switzerland. Switzerland began a probe into the case in 2005 on suspicion that the company’s directors were embezzling huge sums of money, some of which were allegedly being transferred to Swiss accounts within an extensive money-laundering scheme.