In Business News this week: Lower house seeks up to 44 billion crowns for 2016 budget; Electricity prices to remain unchanged in 2016; Farmers and local councils threatened by refusal to pay power support says ministry; Country’s largest insurer agrees on 2016 plan; Electronic motorway payments to be phased in within three years: ministry.
Members of the lower house of parliament proposed additional spending in the 2016 budget totalling up to 44 billion crowns on Wednesday as they debated next year’s spending package. Most of the extra spending was focused on the army, border protection, education, and social services. Finance Minister Andrej Babiš said he would address the new demands in the final third reading. He added though that many ministries are currently now able to spend all the funds they are already allocated. The Ministry of Defence has been earmarked 50 billion crowns this year but appears on course to spend just 34 billion, he added.
The price of electricity for end clients will stay roughly the same in 2016 as this year, while the price of gas will drop by one to two percent, the Energy Regulatory Office announced on Thursday. The office raised the regulated part of the electricity price, which is comprised mainly of the fee for transmission and distribution and a contribution to renewable energy sources, but said the growth would be compensated for by a drop in electricity prices on the market. The regulated part accounts for over 50 percent of the end price of electricity; the price of baseload electricity is set by the suppliers. The regulated part of gas price currently accounts for one quarter of the final price, but its size is expected to drop by some 3 to 5 percent next year.
The Czech Ministry of Industry and Trade warned Monday that farmers and local councils could be hard hit if a stand-off with the country’s energy regulator over support payments for 2016 continues. The ministry pointed out that around a third of the state support which threatens to be blocked is earmarked for bio-gas facilities which have been constructed by farmers and many local Czech councils. Since loans were taken out on many of the projects, the situation is even graver, the ministry added. The energy regulator is refusing to sign off on around 40 billion crowns of support for 2016 because it says the aid has not been cleared by the European Commission.
The executive council of the country’s largest insurance company VZP agreed on its health insurance plan for 2016, the board’s chairman Jiři Běhounek announced on Monday. The insurer, he said, would provide 152.8 billion crowns for health care in 2016, a rise of four percent year-on-year, for almost six million clients. For the second straight year the company fill reserve funds; the insurer is also counting on rising costs in treatment. The firm will now send the proposal to the Health Ministry. It will have to be approved by the government and later in Parliament.
The Ministry of Transport says that it will make the transition from paper to electronic motorway tolls within three years. A similar electronic system will already be up and running in Slovakia next year. The ministry says that the new system will allow it to clamp down on counterfeit motorway stickers, a problem that was particularly evident at the start of 2015. Prices for year-long stickers will be the same next year as this at 1500 crowns.