The Czech centre-right government has lost its majority in the lower house of Parliament after an MP for the senior coalition Civic Democrats quit the party on Wednesday. Civic Democrat deputy Radim Fiala, who along with five of his fellow Civic Democrat deputies refused to back government legislation increasing VAT rates, said he quit over disputes with the party leadership; he will however retain his seat in the lower house. The government now has 99 MPs in the 200-seat Chamber of Deputies. Prime Minister Petr Nečas said Mr Fiala was “running away” from his responsibility.
Labour and Social Affairs Minister Jaromír Drábek, of the TOP 09 party, officially quit the government when President Klaus on Wednesday accepted his resignation. Mr Drábek announced his resignation earlier this month in the wake of scandal surrounding his deputy whom the police charged with corruption. The TOP 09 party has proposed former senator Ludmila Müllerová for the post of labour and social affairs minister, a choice yet to be confirmed by the prime minister.
The Czech Finance Ministry on Wednesday worsened its forecast for the country’s GDP. According to the revised prediction, gross national product should this year contract by 1.0 percent, down by 0.5 percent from the previous prediction in July. Next year, the ministry expects the Czech GDP to grow by 0.7 percent, down by 0.3 percent from the previous forecast. The ministry said an expected decline in household consumption was behind the worsened outlook.
Czech households’ debts in September increased by 1.9 billion crowns, or around one billion US dollars, to reach the total of 1 trillion and 145 billion crowns, according to figures by the Czech National Bank released on Wednesday. The debts of Czech companies in September rose by 16.6 billion crowns, and amount to the total of 964.3 billion crowns. Analysts say that despite the increase, the debts of both Czech households and companies are among the lowest in Europe.
Some 2,000 trade union members from a leading Czech mining company, Czech Coal, staged a protest outside the government building in Prague on Wednesday against a bill that will ban the expropriation of land for mining. The draft legislation has already been passed by Parliament and is to be signed into law by the president. The protesters said that the bill would lead to a decline in mining and to a loss of jobs, particularly in the depressed region of northern Bohemia. The environmental group Greenpeace however accused the protesters of promoting the interests of Czech Coal management as they did not react to massive layoffs by the firm in the past.
Health Minister Leoš Heger on Wednesday revealed a new health insurance directive for 2013 which will cap the salaries of doctors and health workers in that year. Mr Heger expressed regret over the plan but said the system was running in a deficit which had to be removed. The directive also limits health care expenses and obliges individual health insurance companies to spend only the amount they levy on health insurance payments. The move is in breach of last year’s agreement between the ministry and doctors’ unions according to which the salaries were to grow by 10 percent next year.
The government has approved the nomination of Justice Jan Bureš for chairman of the Prague High Court, minister Schwarzenberg said on Wednesday. Mr Bureš, who served twice as justice minister and is now deputy chair of the court, was nominated by Justice Minister Pavel Blažek. However, the final decision rests with President Václav Klaus.
The Social Democrats, the Communists and the left-wing Citizens Rights’ Party on Wednesday signed a deal on forming a coalition government in the eastern Zlín region. The region has become the fifth district where the Communist party will be directly involved in government, following their strong showing in last month’s regional elections.
The supervisory board of Prague’s Public Transport Company on Wednesday nominated a former sales manager of T-Mobile, Milan Křístek, for the post of the company's CEO. The nomination is to be approved by the company's board. Mr Křístek beat former transportation minister Radek Šmerda and head of the České Budějovice transport authority for the job. The company has been led by an interim director since August when its former boss Vladimír Lich was dismissed.
The Japanese company Panasonic announced on Wednesday it will close its plant in Žatec, in northern Bohemia, and lay off some 590 workers. The firm, which launched the production of LCD panels in the plant in 2007, quoted strategic considerations as the reason. The decision to close the plant in Žatec will reportedly not affect another Panasonic operation in Plzeň.