The Finance Ministry expects the country's economy to grow by 6.2 percent this year. Its projection is up from previous estimates of 5.6 percent. The positive projection is based on external trade and an expected increase in household spending and investments. The ministry says economic growth will slow down next year to reach 5 percent.
A high-ranking official at the Czech Consolidation Agency has been charged with large-scale corruption. Executive board member Radka Kafkova was arrested in the middle of the night after she made a money exchange, Czech Television reports. The police have been investigating the case, which involves tens of millions of crowns, for three years. One of the Consolidation Agency's main tasks is to bail state-owned companies out of problematic loans.
Meanwhile, the centre-right coalition put forward its own candidate for the post of speaker of the lower house of Parliament on Wednesday. Christian Democrat Jan Kasal will face the Social Democrats' Lubomir Zaoralek in the election on Friday. The coalition says Mr Kasal will only pull out of the race if the Social Democrats agree to tolerate the coalition's proposed platform.
The Czech electricity grid, which suffered an overload on Tuesday, has called off a state of emergency. The network CEPS balances electricity generation with consumption in the Czech Republic and battled its biggest blackout in thirty years. All large companies are still advised to minimise their energy consumption.
The Czech Railway company is planning to buy more Pendolino trains to cover destinations to neighbouring Slovakia and Austria. There are already seven Pendolino trains travelling between Prague and Ostrava and on the Prague-Brno-Breclav line. Seven more are expected to cover the Prague-Bratislava and Prague-Vienna lines as of December. A trip on the Pendolino, known for speed and comfort, is expected to cut travelling time by up to thirty minutes.
Outgoing prime minister and Social Democrat leader Jiri Paroubek says the centre-right coalition has rejected a generous compromise solution that would have put an end to the political deadlock. The three-party coalition of the Civic Democrats, the Christian Democrats, and the Greens has been trying to form a government but is one vote short of a majority in the lower house of Parliament. On Wednesday, the Social Democrats proposed to name a candidate other than Lubomir Zaoralek for the post of lower house speaker and give up control of a parliamentary commission. The coalition has rejected the offer.
Lebanese children, who are in need of medical care and cannot get it at home because of the ongoing Israeli-Lebanese conflict, may be offered treatment in the Czech Republic. On Wednesday, Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan proposed to increase the budget of the government's Medevac project by ten million crowns (an estimated 445,000 US dollars) to include Lebanon. The project makes it possible for children from war-torn countries to get medical attention in the Czech Republic.
The Civic Democrats, the Christian Democrats, and the Greens, who have
been trying to form a coalition government, have offered to base their
policy programme on the pre-election manifesto of the Social Democrats.
The centre-right coalition is one vote short of a majority in the lower
house of Parliament and has been negotiating with the Social Democrats
to gain their vote of confidence.
Even though the coalition says it would copy the ten-point manifesto word for word, the Social Democrats have rejected the offer and called it a joke. Social Democrat leader and outgoing Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek accused the coalition parties of using the offer as a "marketing trick". Talks will continue on Wednesday to find other ways out of the political deadlock.
The European Commission has proposed to allow 17 EU member states, including the Czech Republic, to lower VAT for services that demand hard labour. In the Czech Republic, this would mean that services like construction work, window cleaning, and home care would be taxed at five percent until 2010. The proposal has yet to be approved by the Council.
Police are looking for a person who has been shooting an airgun at random in the Bohemian town of Ceske Budejovice. At least four people, among them one child, have been shot since Thursday. None of them were seriously injured. The residents of the Maj residential area are scared to leave their homes as the shots are believed to be fired from a window.