Interior Minister Jan Kubice plans to save half a billion crowns on policemen’s wages next year. The plan will reportedly be made next month in a proposal to the government on changes to organisation and the number of police officers. According to a comparative analysis that the ministry released on Wednesday, the Czech Republic leads Eastern European countries in numbers of officers and there are more officers handling the same workload compared with neighbouring countries. Mr Kubice indicated that the reorganisation of the force would primarily involve higher managerial positions with higher salaries.
The government has approved a proposal introducing new rules for appointments to state companies. The aim of the legislation, put forward by Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek, is to increase the transparency of appointments to state and city businesses, where politicians often sit on supervisory boards and boards of directors. According to deputy prime minister Karolína Peake, the addition to the state’s anti-corruption strategy will mean that party affiliation will no longer be the main criterion for such appointments. Instead, the bill requires nominees to have greater expertise and sets rules for publishing their assessments. The opposition Social Democrats also support the bill, which they expect to clearly cover remuneration for such appointees as well.
The prime minister has praised the new justice minister’s plan to hold competitions for state attorneys’ posts. Regarding Justice Minister Blažek’s reluctance to appoint popular prosecutor Lenka Bradáčová to the post of Prague High State Attorney, Prime Minister Nečas said Wednesday that the competition will be good for the Czech judiciary. There has been abundant speculation in the last month that the former justice minister was fired because he planned to appoint Bradáčová, who is considered a strong anti-corruption prosecutor. The prime minister also praised Blažek for withstanding media pressure to follow through with the appointment.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas says Sweden is being “surprisingly unaccommodating” in negotiations regarding the renewal of a Defence Ministry contract for the rental of 14 Gripen fighter jets. The Czech Republic currently has the Jas-39 fighters on a 10-year lease for 19.6 billion crowns. Sweden is now insisting on two billion crowns a year, which Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra has rejected. The Czech Republic will be in exclusive negotiations with Sweden until November at which time it may hold an open tender for other providers.
The government has agreed to increase Czech reserves of oil products from 90 to 100 days over the next two years in line with new EU directives. The decision will cost the state 4.4 to 4.7 billion crowns, according to the proposal. The increase is reportedly necessary due to changes in the method of calculating reserves, which puts current oil product reserves at less than the legally required 90 days.
Overall confidence in the Czech economy fell again in July, according to the Czech Statistical Office. The statisticians also reported a decrease in the composite confidence indicator of 1.6 points compared to June while the consumer confidence indicator was up. Among entrepreneurs, confidence increased in trade and in construction. In selected services and in industry it declined. In industry in July, the assessment of the current overall economic situation went down while that of current total demand remained unchanged and foreign demand also decreased. The most important obstacle for production remains insufficient demand, as stated by more than half of respondents.
A total of 4.64 million passenger cars were in the register of road vehicles in the Czech Republic in the first half of this year and the average age of the car fleet increased to almost fourteen years, the Automotive Industry Association announced this week. Since 2000, 1.2 million passenger cars have been added to the register. The share of vehicles older than ten years continues to grow and at the end of reached 60.6% in the first half of 2012. The share of vehicles aged over fifteen years is higher than 32%, while only 7.1%ˇof cars are younger than two years, according to SAP data.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas has given Transport Minister Petr Dobeš until Friday to repair ongoing issues with the country’s vehicle registration system - or resign. The PM called the situation unacceptable as the two men met to discuss the debacle on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Karolína Peake also expressed frustration with Dobeš over the new computerized vehicle registration system launched a fortnight ago, calling a meeting with the minister on Tuesday and telling the media that she was disappointed that Dobeš did not carry out a recent threat to revert to the old pre-upgrade registration system if problems were not repaired within two days. That deadline came and went as the Central Vehicle Database (CRV) continued to malfunction across the country on Monday, with reports coming in of security guards and police having to restrain upset visitors to the CRV offices in the city of Brno. The Transport Ministry is undertaking crisis meetings over the affair. The latest reports suggest the database could take years to fully fix, while the company behind the work, ATS Telcom must still be paid a promised 37 million crowns for the faulty system.
Municipal authorities in the Prague 7 district are considering taking DNA samples of dog poop not cleared up by irresponsible owners in an effort to identify offenders. Though the district is collecting 1.7 million crowns annually in fines from dog owners, it is spending 8 million crowns on cleaning up the mess. Frustrated officials have had enough and say that since all efforts have failed to engender a sense of public responsibility in dog owners, they are seriously considering resorting to the extraordinary measure of asking them to voluntarily submit samples at a cost of 600 crowns, which would then create a central database against which offending samples could be checked. Last year, Prague 7 authorities undertook a high publicity advertising campaign targeted at dog owners. Feedback is currently being solicited from locals on the DNA plan via a newly launched website.
The funeral of Antonín Holý, a Czech scientist who pioneered the development of retroviral drugs used in the treatment of HIV and Hepatitis B, took place in Prague on Tuesday. The ceremony was attended by around three hundred people, and included dignitaries such as Prime Minister Petr Nečas and Jiří Drahoš, head of the Czech Academy of Sciences. Holý died on July 16th after battling with illness. He was 75 years old.