Prices barely rose at all in the Czech Republic during January according to figures released by the national statistics office. Year-on-Year inflation dropped to 0.2 percent from December’s 1.4 percent. That is the lowest level since October 2009. Prices climbed just 0.1 percent between January and December, a level that has not been seen since 1993, the office added. One-off factors such as sharp drop in electricity and gas prices, were among the reasons for the weak price rises. Some analysts say that the figures are clear justification of the Czech National Bank’s November move to boost the economy through currency interventions to weaken the crown. The central bank says it is waiting for more representative figures for February to give it a better idea of inflation trends.
The centre-left coalition government should approve its programme priorities at a special evening session of the Cabinet on Wednesday. A last minute rewrite of the document is taking place to include some of the points raised in a meeting with employers and trades unions on Tuesday. Radical changes from the existing coalition deal between the three parties are not expected. Some of the main themes of the programme are promises to boost the creation of new jobs, make the state apparatus more efficient, improve education, and foster social cohesion. Leaks of the programme suggest that the government will also pledge to meet all the conditions for adopting the single currency euro.
The police have charged former prime minister Petr Necaš with bribery in connection with a jobs for the boys scandal that led to his downfall last June. Three MPs in his party, the Civic Democrats, who threatened to bring down the government over tax legislation later received lucrative posts at semi-state enterprises. They were remanded in custody on bribe-taking charges but later released under parliamentary immunity. Mr. Necaš denies any wrongdoing and says he has been charged in retaliation for a complaint he took against the head of the police’s unit to combat organized crime.
The Czech Republic has advanced three places to be ranked the 13th best country for media freedom in an annual survey carried out by the NGO Reporters Without Frontiers. Austria is ahead of the Czech Republic in 12th place with Germany following in 14th. Finland, the Netherlands, and Norway are unchanged as the best placed of the 180 countries surveyed with Turkmenistan, North Korea, and Eritrea at the bottom of the ranking.
Growing maize in the Czech Republic for bio fuels is causing serious erosion of the soil because the crop is so demanding and fails to retain rainwater, the Mladá Fronta Dnes daily reported on Wednesday. Some farmers have taken to dub the crop ‘the syphilis of Czech fields,’ because of the damage. The problem is at its worst in South Moravia and the Vysočina region according to a state agency dealing with soil quality. One problem is that many Czech farmers rent land for cultivation and have no long term interest in preserving its fertility.
People in Need have called on President Milos Zeman to cancel an invitation to the president of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, to visit Prague. In a statement, the NGO said Mr. Karimov represented a repressive regime that did not hesitate to use its own citizens as slave labour. Mr. Zeman responded by saying the invitation had been extended by his predecessor and that he wished People in Need “more information and less hypocrisy”.The president has also come in for criticism recently over a visit by the president of Armenia, Serzh Sargsyan, and an invitation to Ukraine’s head of state, Viktor Yanukovych.
Czech police say they have charged 15 people, including two Czechs, of being part of an organized ring which helped dozens, and perhaps, hundreds of Vietnamese and Ukrainians falsely gain permanent resident’s permits for the Czech Republic. One of the Czechs detained in custody was a former member of a local council near Karviná, in the far east of the country, who also ran a language school. Czech language tests are one of the elements required for residency permits.
The Ministry of Defense has announced the cancellation of a tender to sell a large disused army barracks complex near the centre of Prague. Minister Martin Stropnický said there were suspicions that two of the three companies that took part in the final stage of bidding had ownership connections. The Griva Art company, headed by Ivana Tykačová, the wife of Czech billionaire businessman Pavel Tykač, made the highest, 600 million crown, bid for the Karlín barracks complex. Stropnický said he would like to hold a new tender. The main building of the barracks was completed in 1845. Griva Art said that it had plans to turn the complex in a new university campus.
The Czech campaign in the Olympic men’s ice hockey opening group starts Wednesday evening with a tough match against Sweden. Sweden are on paper the strongest team the Czechs will face in a group that also includes Switzerland and Latvia. The Czechs have only won three out of their last 11 major competition confrontations against the Swedes. Czech coach Alois Hadamczik has refused to divulge his selection ahead of the match. In spite of that, Jakub Kovár is widely tipped to be the first choice goalie for the encounter.
Heavy snow in the east of the Czech Republic blocked roads and caused accidents on Wednesday. The worst affected areas were the Moravia- Silesia and the Zlín regions. Weather forecasters have warned of a further 10 centimeters of snow and up to 25 centimeters on high ground and say that icy conditions will persist until at least Thursday.