The lower house of Czech Parliament returned the 2013 state budget bill to the government for reworking on Wednesday after the cabinet was unable to win support for a package of proposed tax hikes, forcing it to abandon the original draft proposal. Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek said he would resubmit the bill within a month based on lower revenues of approximately 22 billion crowns with respective cuts in expenditures in the public sector. The finance minister has vowed to maintain the deficit in public spending under 3 percent of the GDP in 2013 at any cost. According to some sources the finance ministry plans to make fresh cuts in infrastructure and research spending. Analyst have warned against cutting expenditures to stimulate growth.
Meanwhile talks with the six Civic Democrat rebels who are holding out against the government proposed tax-hikes have failed to produce any tangible progress. The prime minister’s compromise proposal to raise only the lower VAT rate by one percentage point, from 14 to 15 percent, while the higher VAT rate of 20% would stay the same, has been rejected by the rebels, as has the concession that a so called “solidarity tax “- an additional 7% tax for individuals earning more than 100 thousand crowns a month would only be in effect next year. The rebel MPs want both of the tax hikes to be taken out of the bill completely. A vote on the controversial tax package has been postponed until next Wednesday giving the two sides more time and space to reach agreement. Any deal reached with the rebels will have to be approved by the Civic Democratic Party’s coalition partners TOP 09 and LIDEM.
The Czech senate has passed a bill that would allow the auctioning of carbon emission permits on Wednesday. In the next seven years the Czech Republic is expected to have 645 million permits available. A total of 342 million permits will be put up for auction, and may bring hundreds of billion crowns to the state coffers. Three hundred and thee million permits are expected to be given out to Czech manufacturers for free. The Environment Ministry is hoping to use part of the auction profits to support the Green Investment funding scheme.
As part of the official state visit of the Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev to the Czech Republic, a number of Czech and Kazakh companies signed trade partnership and investment contracts worth 155 million Euros or about 3.8 billion crowns. Most of the companies are part of the pharmaceutical, healthcare, agriculture or food industries. The largest contract that was signed, worth 45 million Euros (or 1.1 billion crowns), was concerning the import of rape seed oil from Kazakhstan by the Czech company Impex. In the first eight months of this year saw exports to Kazakhstan grow by 40% to 215 million dollars, while imports from the Central Asian country are worth 649 million dollars a year.
On Tuesday, Rene Kujan, a Czech runner who doctors said might never walk again after a car crash, finished a 30-day run around Iceland aimed at inspiring people with disabilities. News of his quest spread fast and in the last stage of his run Kujan was accompanied by around 50 local runners who turned out to support his cause. The Czech runner said the idea of helping the disabled was born at a rehabilitation centre where he got to know many brave people whose fate was worse than his. Rene Kujan, whom the local papers nicknamed “the Czech Forrest Gump” covered 1,340 kilometers, running on average 5 hours a day.
The Czech Statistical Office has announced that overall confidence in the Czech economy is up by 0.5 percent in October, from what it was a month before. Among entrepreneurs, confidence in the industry and construction sectors are up, with consumer confidence also growing in the past month. Nevertheless, the statisticians warn that year-on-year confidence in the Czech economy has gone down.
The senate has approved an amendment on Wednesday that introduces changes to the format of the state secondary school leaving exams. The amendment, proposed by the Education Ministry, stipulates that there will be two instead of three required subject test – Czech language plus a foreign language or mathematics. Student will also have only two optional additional subject tests. In order for the changes to come into effect already in this school year, the president will have to sign the bill into force before November 15. These changes, according to Education Minister Petr Fiala, are only temporary until a more comprehensive overhaul of the new unified secondary school leaving exams, which have met with a lot of criticism, can be introduced.
Chinese consumers have recently been enticed to purchase electric bicycles by the Czech President Václav Klaus, who appeared on billboards in the Chinese city of Ningbo. The ad, spotted by a Czech reader of the news website iDnes.cz, shows the Czech president happily riding an electric bicycle. The picture was apparently taken two years ago when President Klaus was given an electric bike by the Czech branch of the Chinese producer and decided to try it out. The Czech president had sent a signed photograph of the test run to the Chinese company, which it used for its latest ad campaign. The office of the president said on Tuesday that he knew nothing about the billboards and was not asked for consent to use his picture.
An investigative report ‘The Casa Affair’ was awarded the Respekt prize for the best television or on-line report on Tuesday at the sixteenth annual International Documentary Film Festival in Jihlava. Aneta Snopová and Markéta Dobiášová prepared the report about the corruption scandal surrounding the purchase of Casa military planes by the Czech defense ministry for the Czech Television program Reporters. The documentary film festival ends on Sunday, October 28th.
Shortly after the Czech women’s tennis captain Petr Pála announced on Wednesday that Petra Kvitová will lead her teammates in the Fed Cup final next week, the sixth seed announced that she is dropping out of the WTA tournament in Istanbul due to illness. Kvitová was diagnosed with bronchitis, but her coach David Kotyza said she may still appear at Prague’s O2 arena next week for the Fed Cup final against the Serbian team. Pála said that in case Kvitová is unable to compete, Klára Zakopalová may step in and join teammates Lucie Šafářová, Andrea Hlaváčková and Lucie Hradecká. The Fed Cup final is scheduled to begin on Monday 29 October with an exhibition match between Petra Kvitová and the Russian Maria Sharapova.