The Finance Ministry has put forward a new draft of the 2013 state budget, being discussed by the cabinet on Monday, accounting for a drop in revenues and cuts in spending next year by 41 billion crowns. The budget deficit is to remain at 100 billion crowns, the same as in the previous draft. The cuts proposed are to affect science and research, transport infrastructure, teachers’ salaries and programmes co-financed by EU funds. The government must submit the draft budget to the Chamber of Deputies by November 23. The revised version of the budget bill, the ministry revealed, is taking into account current economic forecasts as well as the failure by the government so far to push through a tax package raising both VAT rates by 1 percentage point. The government has tied a vote on the bill this Wednesday to a vote of confidence.
In related news, The Czech Academy of Science has criticised the new 2013
budget proposal submitted by the Finance Ministry. According to the
budget bill, research and science spending will be cut by 2.7 billion
crowns in 2013 and by 2.5 billion in 2014 and 2015. The Academy of
will also see its budget lowered by 6.5 percent. The Education Ministry,
comparison, will receive half-a-billion crowns less. This includes funds
originally earmarked for teacher salary hikes.
Additionally, under the 2013 revised budget bill, the Interior Ministry is to save an additional 1.1 million crowns mostly in operation costs, spending on construction and national programmes controlled by the Transport Ministry is to decrease by1.5 billion crowns, and the State Transport Infrastructure Fund is to receive 5 billion less in subsidies. The financial and customs general directorates will get nearly half a billion less in 2013; the Culture Ministry will get about 300 million crowns less for reconstruction of cultural heritage sites and cuts in the Environment Ministry budget will amount to 200 million crowns.
The Education Ministry responded to the proposed budget for 2013 on
Monday saying that cuts being put forward within were “impossible” and
would have to impact teachers’ salaries. The ministry’s spokesman was
reacting to cuts affecting not only next year but 2014 and
2015, amounting to a total of more than five billion crowns, ČTK
reported. School unions and academics have already slammed the bill
any suggestion that salaries would be lowered. The school
unions’ leader František Dobšík called the bill “a provocation”,
stressing that the unions had expected policies of growth or stabilisation
- not uncertainty. The unions have made clear they intend to organise
The opposition is also criticising the draft budget for 2013: Social Democrat senator and education specialist Marcel Chládek expressed the view that a government making cuts in science and research, regional education and teachers’ pay deserved “no mercy”.
Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has expressed strong support for Serbian accession to the EU, saying Serbia could always count on Czech backing when it came to EU expansion. Mr Schwarzenberg made the statement on Monday after meeting in Prague with his Serbian counterpart Ivan Mrkic. The Balkans joining the EU is one of the priorities of Czech foreign policy. Kosovo, a former province in Serbia which declared independence four years ago remains a point of contention but Mr Mrkic said Serbia was open to discussion and said the matter would be discussed by the prime ministers. The European Commission has made clear that Serbia will be able to move ahead with accession talks if it takes clear steps towards improving relations.
Former Euro MP Jana Bobošíková is one of three who filed their candidacy papers with the Interior Ministry on Monday to run in the country’s first-ever direct presidential election. Mrs Bobošíková collected around 55,000 signatures – some 5,000 more than needed. The other two to file on Monday were newly-elected Senator Tomio Okamura, a businessman and former tourist association spokesman, and composer and artist Vladimír Franz. The number of official candidates is now 10. The seven others who registered earlier are Social Democrat deputy chairman Jiří Dienstbier, former finance minister Vladimír Dlouhý, former interim prime minister Jan Fischer, MEP Zuzana Roithová, Senate deputy chairman Přemysl Sobotka, Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg and former prime minister Miloš Zeman. The Czechs will vote on January 11-12. The two most successful candidates will meet in a second round to be held two weeks later.
Public broadcaster Czech TV has revealed it will air debates involving all presidential candidates ahead of the country’s presidential election, and two debates between two final candidates if voting goes to a second round. A spokeswoman for the broadcaster said on Monday that candidates would also be profiled by reporters in other programmes. Station head Petr Dvořák said Czech TV wanted to provide proper coverage ahead of the vote, the first direct presidential election in the country’s history. As of Monday, 10 candidates had officially registered. The final deadline is 4 pm on Tuesday.
Retail sales in the country slid by 3.3 percent in September year-on-year, while in August they declined by 0.8 percent, the Czech Statistical Office has revealed. Consumers saved primarily on food, home items, medicine and cosmetics products the bureau reported. By contrast, spending was not curbed in the areas of clothing and footwear. Several surveys have suggested a drop in consumer spending related to fears over the economy and the government’s austerity measures including VAT hikes.
Police in Plzeň have revealed they arrested a man last week on the suspicion he was trying to sell 170 grams of plastic explosive known as semtex. A police spokeswoman made the statement on Monday with elaborating further. The suspect was arrested on November 1 and has been remanded in custody; if found guilty, he faces a sentence of up to five years in prison. The Czech news agency ČTK reported that while 170 grams was not a large amount, it was more than enough to do considerable damage, pointing out that in 1988 400 grams of the explosive was used in the Lockerbie bombing that brought down a Boeing 747: 270 people lost their lives in the tragedy.
Fire fighters evacuated 17 people from an eight-story pre-fab apartment building in Plzeň-Doubrava on Monday after a fire broke out. Six people were taken to hospital for treatment; the additional ten were treated on site. The fire broke out on the first floor and spread quickly through the ventilation system, according to reports. The damage is expected to rise to several million crowns.
Police investigators uncovered marijuana-growing facilities in two private homes in Hradec Králové: two foreign nationals were arrested in one of the homes, who – if found guilty – could face up to 12 years in jail. The two suspects are of Vietnamese nationality, aged 25 and 26. The officers who made the arrests found a total of 384 plants on site; meanwhile, the owner of the homes uncovered that those renting and growing marijuana were illegally siphoning off electricity.