Czech parliamentarians elected Jiří Oliva from the TOP 09 party as vice-chairman of the Chamber of Deputies in a secret vote on Wednesday. Mr Oliva will replace his fellow TOP 09 MP Vlasta Parkanová, who resigned from the post in July, after criminal charges were filed against her on suspicion of corruption. Since then, the lower house has had only one vice-chairman, Lubomír Zaorálek from the opposition Social Democratic Party. Mr Oliva, who is 60 years old, is currently a member of the parliamentary committees on agriculture and the environment, and was head of the state forestry company Lesy ČR, which he founded, for over ten years until 2003.
The lower house did not pass the controversial tax bill late on Wednesday,
with only 94 MPs voting for the government’s stabilisation package. The
coalition needed 101 votes, but six Civic Democratic deputies and one
deputy from the Public Affairs party voted against the bill together with
the opposition. The Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek had announced
earlier on Wednesday that he will resubmit the exact same proposal to the
government on Thursday if the bill is rejected, so it can be voted on
again. While Prime Minister Petr Nečas had previous announced on Tuesday
that he will link a vote of confidence for his government to the repeat
vote on the bill.
The rejected bill proposed a raise in VAT of one percentage point, as well as other measure including higher taxes for individuals making over 100 thousand crowns per month. This is one of the measures that was meant to help lower the deficit, which the current coalition government has set as one of its main goals. The bill was passed by the lower house once already, but was voted down in the Senate, after which it came back to the Chamber of Deputies.
There are 761 centenarians living in the Czech Republic, according to figures provided by the Czech Social Security Administration. 318 women and 65 men will or have turned 100 in 2012. At the same time last year there were 625 people living in the Czech Republic who were 100 or more years old. The oldest person living in the Czech Republic was born in 1904 and is currently residing in Moravia. The percentage of people above 65 in the Czech Republic is becoming greater with each year, as people are living longer. Analysts say this will create a significant strain on the social security system. By mid-century statisticians predict there will be over 10,000 centenarians in the country.
The international rating agency Standard & Poor's gave the city of Olomouc higher marks for financial stability this year. The financial outlook for the central Moravian city, according to the agency, went from stable last year, to positive. The rating agency’s analysts highlighted Olomouc’s solid budget efficiency, cautious debt management and overall prudent borrowing policies. Deputy mayor Ivo Vlach said that one of the reasons for the improved rating is the city’s growing operating surplus, that has more than doubled in 2010 and 2011 compared to the figures in 2009. The Olomouc budget had 2.36 billion crowns in earnings in the beginning of 2012, and expenses of 2.44 billion. The city plans to invest over 800 million crowns this year.
The lower house on Wednesday passed a bill which will slow down pension growth in the next three years. The amendment is part of a broader austerity package aimed at reducing the gap in public spending. According to the bill, that was rejected earlier by the Senate, pensions will be adjusted yearly by a third of the increase in prices and in real wages. The previous system had pensions adjusted by the full amount of price and wage increases. The opposition Social Democrats have adamantly opposed the bill saying it would place 100 thousand more pensioners below the poverty line. The ruling coalition argues that the move will save the Czech government 48 billion crowns over three years. The bill will now have to be signed by President Václav Klaus before coming into force.
Czech paralympic cyclist Jiří Ježek won the first gold medal for the Czech Republic at the London Paralympic games on Wednesday. This is the eleventh medal for Ježek, making him the most successful cyclist in paralympic history. His team member, Jiří Bouška, picked up a bronze medal in the same competition. The Czech paralympic team has so far won 10 medals in London.
The Brno state attorney Jan Petrásek rejected a complaint on Wednesday filed by Ronald Adams, the CEO of Czech truck maker Tatra, over an investigation into alleged corruption charges against him. Mr Adams was accused of offering a bribe in order to win a Defense Ministry tender in 2009. The charges were filed by the same state attorney in August. The 62-year-old American immediately filed a complaint against the investigation after a court decided he does not need to be remanded in custody for its duration. The main witnesses against Mr Adams are former Defense Minister Martin Barták and arms dealer Michal Smrž, who are also being investigated for corruption in a case where Mr Adams is one of the key witnesses.
Jaroslav Bartak, a prominent physician who faces seven criminal charges relating to sexual abuse, goes on trial in Prague on Wednesday. Bartak, who owns a private health clinic in Prague, was arrested and taken into custody earlier this year after one of his assistants accused him of having beaten her up, sexually abused her and held her against her will in his hotel room. Her testimony sparked similar confessions from six other former assistants resulting in charges of rape, sexual harassment, blackmail and damage to health. The physician is also suspected of using drugs to make his victims more compliant. If convicted he will face a sentence of up to twelve years.
The Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Parliament has postponed a vote on church restitution due to a government crisis over planned tax reforms. The motion to postpone the vote was put forward by opposition MPs and supported by the Civic Democrats and other coalition deputies. The LIDEM party, a coalition member, said that it would only support the restitution bill if the controversial tax hike aimed at cutting the gap in public finances won parliamentary approval.
A Brno regional court will hear on Wednesday the case of three-time national boxing champion and member of the Olympic team Ľudovít Plachetka, who is accused of raping his girlfriend’s 20-year-old sister. The boxer, who had already served a prison sentence for manslaughter, may face up to 12 years in prison. The verdict is expected on Friday.