The Czech economy will most likely contract by up to 2 percent in 2012, Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek told Czech Radio on Monday. This would mean the state budget would lose between 30 and 50 billion crowns; however, the budget’s deficit would still remain at 105 billion crowns, or 3.2 percent of the country’s GDP. Mr Kalousek said regardless of the possible contraction, the government would pursue its fiscal strategy aimed at gradually lowering the deficit of the state budget. By 2014, the deficit should drop to 1.9 percent of the GDP.
The system of issuing new electronic ID cards collapsed on Monday, the first day it was in operation, the news website idnes.cz reported. The Czech Interior Ministry said around 7,000 applications for the new card were sent in on Monday morning but the central system collapsed twice between 11 AM and 1 PM. The authorities informed however that people do not have to exchange their IDs as long as the original ones remain valid. The new, smaller ID cards fitted with chips were going to be first issued in July but had to be postponed due to technical problems with the databases.
The Czech police on Monday released a 63-year-old man who shot two people in the north Bohemian town of Tanvald on Sunday, killing one and wounding the other. A police spokeswoman said no charges had been yet pressed against the shooter pending further investigation. The victims, aged 22 and 24, respectively, were Romanies, according to media reports. His family is planning to stage a protest rally in the town.
Czech President Václav Klaus and Prime Minister Petr Nečas, accompanied by their wives, had the traditional New Year lunch at the presidential retreat in Lány on Monday. The officials discussed agenda for 2012, and coordinated their foreign trips. After the lunch, Mr Klaus and Mr Nečas told reporters the economic situation in Europe was serious but people should not give in to panic. The tradition of the New Year lunch with the president and the prime minister began in 2004. On Tuesday, Mr Klaus will have lunch with the speakers of the lower and upper houses of the Czech Parliament.
An appellate court in Olomouc on Monday ordered the release of a Polish citizen who was sentenced in November to two years in prison for selling illicit synthetic drugs. A judge at the court said the trial suffered from severe procedural flaws which is why the case was returned to a lower-instance court which would have to try the man again. The Polish citizen opened several shops in Olomouc and other town in central and northern Moravia which offered new synthetic drugs advertising them as collectors’ items. The man moved his business to the Czech Republic from Poland after the Polish police cracked down on his shops there.
No sharp increase has been registered in the prices of foodstuffs due to a higher VAT rate that came into force on January 1, the news agency ČTK reported on Monday. The lower VAT rate increased from 10 to 14 percent; however, most supermarket chains raised their prices gradually in the last weeks of 2011 to avoid a sharp increase in January. The head of the Czech Trade and Tourism Confederation said Czech retailers used a similar marketing strategy as their colleagues in Germany when the country adopted the euro.
A record number of 5.2 million people visited Prague in 2011, according to an analysis by the consultancy firm Mag Consulting released on Monday. Most visitors to the Czech capital – around 4.5 million – came from abroad. The number of visitors to Prague broke the previous record from 2010 when some 4.7 million people visited Prague, according to figures by the Czech Statistical Office. The Mag Consulting firm also registered a record number of 13.2 million hotel stays in Prague last year.
Up to 40 percent of Czech will live from pay day to pay day, creating no financial reserves from their salaries, suggests a new survey by the Ipsos Tambor agency released on Monday. Some 21 percent of people who took part in the poll said they considered their financial situation to be good, while 13 percent said they planned to save and invest. 8 percent of those polled said they would like to pay off their debts this year.
The Czech Office for the Protection of Personal Data on Monday again called for the adoption of new legislation regulating camera surveillance systems. The data privacy watchdog said that surveillance of public spaces should only allowed for the purposes of protecting property and people against crime; cameras should not be placed in sites where surveillance would offend people’s dignity such as dressing rooms and toilets. The new bill should also determine how long recordings of camera surveillance can be stored. The Czech government’s Human Rights Council was supposed to come up with the respective bill last year.
Flowers and wreaths from Václav Havel’s funeral were dropped into the Elbe River at Děčín on Monday, after a three-day boat trip from Prague. Some 1,500 people watched the late Václav Havel’s friends and colleagues unbind the wreaths and throw the flowers into the river below the Děčín chateau. Former Czech human rights minister and a friend of the late Czech president Michael Kocáb, who came up with the idea, said only organic material would be thrown into the water. A couple of dozen people accompanied the flowers on their way from Prague to Děčín; one of the passengers said people stopped to greet the boat on the banks throughout the journey.