The Labour and Social Affairs Minister and deputy head of the Social Democrats Zdenek Skromach has said that support for separating the posts of Social Democrat chairman and prime minister is growing within his party. Mr Skromach is running against Prime Minister Stanislav Gross for the post of Social Democrat leader at the party's national conference at the end of March. According to speculation, other possible candidates could be the chairman of the lower house Lubomir Zaoralek, Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, Education Minister Petra Buzkova and Local Development Minister Jiri Paroubek.
The Czech Social Security Administration has said that 250 Czech citizens were born one hundred years ago, in 1905. 280 Czech Republic's citizens are over one hundred years old, the oldest was born in 1897. The population of the Czech Republic is around 10,200,000. In 2002, the average life span for men was 72.1 year and 78.7 for women. Experts estimate that in fifty years' time, the average Czech man should live 78.9 years and the average Czech woman should live 84.5 years.
The head of the government Christian Democrats Miroslav Kalousek has stepped down as the head of parliament's budget committee due to a political row over his wife's finances. Mr Kalousek told a news conference that his wife, accused of failing to pay proper taxes in a family real estate deal, had done nothing illegal but that it was his responsibility to hold himself at least partially accountable as a public official. The Christian Democrats have been pressuring Prime Minister Stanislav Gross to step down amid a row over his personal finances that threatened to tear apart the coalition government. The step by Mr Kalousek is likely to increase the pressure on Mr Gross ahead of a congress of his Social Democrats at the end of the month.
The consultancy Ernst&Young has said that taxes paid by Czech companies are among the highest in Central and Eastern Europe. Malta is the only country among the ten new EU members where companies pay even more. The situation is expected to change in the foreseeable future. Since 2003, corporate taxes in the Czech Republic have fallen by 3 percentage points, and another cut can be expected soon. Czech companies pay some 28 percent of profit in taxes, but the real tax is lower owing to deductibles and tax reliefs. Real taxes stand at some 24 percent.
The Czech National Library has outbid all competitors and purchased a 14th-century manuscript of a Latin translation of the "Chronicle of Dalimil" - the oldest Czech language chronicle in verse and one of the fundamental documents of Czech historiography. The library bought the 24-page illuminated fragment for 300,000 euros in a Paris auction room on Thursday. The Czech state was prepared to pay up to 340,000 euros for the manuscript.
The Association for Health Care Insurance Consumers has released figures showing the country's health services spent more than one quarter of their funds on patients' medication last year. According to the association, expenses for medication have risen six-fold since 1992, with consumption rising two-fold. Last year some 52 billion crowns - around 2.3 billion U.S., from expenses of around 200 billion crowns, were spent on medication.
A poll released by the STEM agency has shown that voter preferences for the ruling Social Democratic Party have continued to fall. The poll suggests the party would place 3rd if elections were held today, garnering a little over 13 percent of the vote, behind the Communist Party at 2nd, with 18 percent, and the opposition Civic Democrats at 1st, with around 35 percent of the vote.
An Irish investment and development company, Markland, has bought Kotva - the popular Prague department store built under Communism in 1975. Markland is estimated to have paid more than 67 million US dollars for the store, located in central Prague. Company representatives told journalists on Wednesday that they were confident they could raise consumer interest to pre-1989 levels, when Kotva was Czechoslovakia's most visited shopping centre.