On Wednesday the Czech government unanimously approved the state budget
for 2006 allowing for a 74.4 billion crown deficit. The first version
of the budget - discussed in July - proposed revenues and expenditures
of some 38 billion crowns less. Some in the banking sector have
questioned whether the government will be able to collect as much in
taxes next year, saying that further growth in tax revenues - up by 17
percent year-on-year in January to August in 2005 - may be unrealistic
The budget deficit should not exceed 4.6 percent of the GDP if the Czech Republic is to meet conditions under the EU convergence programme paving the way for the country to eventually adopt the euro, the monetary unit of the European Union.
The budget must still be approved by Parliament.
The Czech government has approved sending 25 million crowns in
humanitarian aid to parts of the U.S. stricken by Hurricane Katrina. Along
with the funds - the equivalent of more than one million U.S. dollars -
Czech Republic has offered the U.S. the use of a field hospital, an
anti-chemical crew, and water treatment facilities. The Chief of Staff
Pavel Stefka has said that the mobile hospital could be of most use now.
On Monday the Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek met with the American ambassador to Prague to promise help: a decision on the final form of additional aid will be made this week.
The Czech national side defeated Armenia 4:1 on Wednesday to get back
on track in qualifying for the football World Cup in Germany next year.
At the weekend the Czechs fell 0:2 to Romania. The match saw a
lacklustre and scoreless first half but the Czechs got off to a better
start in the 2nd. Marek Heinz opened the scoring in the 47th minute,
and over ten minutes Jan Polak added two, Milan Baros, one.
Armenia then got a late goal back in the 87th minute.
Despite the win the Czech national side has been playing far below its potential, suffering from a number of injuries including that of playmaker Tomas Rosicky. His absence, as well as that of seasoned players like team captain Tomas Galasek, has had a noticeable impact.
Top three in Group 1: Netherlands 25 points, Czech Republic 24, Romania 22.
If a new proposal by the cabinet receives Parliamentary backing, the Czech Republic may soon end sanctions against Libya. On Wednesday the cabinet passed a proposal put forward by the Foreign Ministry to nullify legislation from eight years ago, regulating relations with that country. In the 1980s sanctions and an economic embargo were first introduced by the U.S. - followed by the EU - against Libya for connections with international terrorism. The embargo was then backed by the UN Security Council in 1992 and by the Czech Republic a year later. It was written into Czech law in 1997.
The Finance Ministry has asked the Polish concern PKN Orlen for permission to publicly release details from a contract between the Czech state and PKN Orlen in the sale of the Czech Unipetrol oil and petrochemicals company earlier this year. PKN Orlen bought the Czech state's share in Unipetrol in May for more than 13 billion crowns, or 553 million U.S. dollars. The Finance Ministry's move follows a recent bribery scandal - so far unproven - that cast doubt on the transparency of the sale. The finance minister has maintained from the start that the sale of Unipetrol was above board.
The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by Franz Ullrich Kinsky, of
the aristocratic Kinsky family, to review a legal case he lost laying
claim to Prague's Kinsky Palace, now owned by the state. Judge Martina
Skodova said on Wednesday that the Supreme Court found Kinsky's appeal
was unsubstantiated, allowing the verdict to stand.
Mr Kinsky has lodged a total of 157 lawsuits against the Czech Republic to try and regain property seized by the state following World War II. His family was accused of collaboration with the Nazis. The value of the property Mr Kinsky has been suing for has been estimated by some at 40 billion crowns, the equivalent of a little less than 2 billion U.S. dollars.
In related news the Foreign Ministry has reported that two Czechs remain unaccounted for in coastal areas hit by Hurricane Katrina a week ago. One of the missing has lived in the U.S. for some time and has not been in contact. His family has been in touch with the Czech embassy in Washington which is now seeking information.
In the future surviving relatives of murder victims in the Czech
Republic may be entitled to receiving higher compensation under a
newly-proposed government bill. Until now surviving relatives could
receive only 150, 000 crowns (about 6,000 U.S. dollars), and were only
eligible if they had been financially dependent on the deceased. The
new legislation proposes raising the amount to up to 450, 000 crowns.
It also proposes widening the range of those eligible. In the case of a
murdered child, for example, both parents would receive funds.
Last year the Justice Ministry processed 83 applications for compensation funds, paying out 2.5 million crowns in 43 cases that were approved.
The governing coalition has postponed a meeting of party leaders on amendments to the labour code. A spokeswoman for the Labour Ministry has said the proposals under consideration would bring the biggest change to the labour law system since 1990. The Cabinet meeting, which was to take place on Wednesday, has been pushed by back two weeks so that an inter-party working committee can address some of the sticking points. These include proposals on workers rights that some employers' associations say give unions too much power and would make it far too difficult to sack redundant or unproductive employees. The Finance Ministry has also objected to a proposal that would have the Social Security administration responsible for on-the-job accident insurance, which is now handled by commercial insurers.
The Czech Republic said on Tuesday it was ready to release some 9,800 barrels of crude oil every day to help eliminate possible market shortages caused by Hurricane Katrina, the Associated Press reported. The state-run Administration of the State Material Reserves said it had not yet received any such request. The agency said in a statement that it was ready to pump extra crude oil to the local market for 30 days.
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