The lower house of Parliament on Friday approved an anti-crisis package that includes a scrap incentive to boost car sales, faster tax write-offs and more generous unemployment and child benefits. The car scrap incentive would be either 30,000 or 60,000 crowns for a vehicle older than ten years depending on whether the owner acquired an ordinary car or an environmentally friendly vehicle. The bill is a compromise agreement between the two strongest parties in Parliament, the Civic and Social Democrats, and should have no problems passing through the Senate.
Former Czech president Vaclav Havel has urged UN chief Ban Ki-moon to use his authority to secure the release of pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi. In an open letter published by the ctk news agency on Friday, Mr. Havel called on the UN chief to personally intervene in the matter in order to prevent a show trial. The 72-year-old playwright, dissident and hero of the 1989 Velvet Revolution, said many people in Myanmar were in need of help since the junta had imprisoned more than 2,100 political detainees.
Aung San Suu Kyi, 63, is facing five years in jail on charges of breaching the terms of her house arrest after a bizarre incident in which a US man swam to her off-limits lakeside house in the capital Yangon.
President Klaus has rejected allegations that he had contributed to the fall of former prime minister Topolánek’s centre right government, which was toppled in a vote of no-confidence in mid-March. In an interview for Friday’s Lidové noviny Mr. Klaus said that the main reason for the government’s fall was infighting within all three ruling parties which weakened the government in the lower house. He said it had been folly on the part of Green Party leader Martin Bursík to expel two deputies from the party at a time when the governing coalition no longer had a majority in the lower house. Shortly after his government was toppled, the former prime minister Mirek Topolánek accused President Klaus, Prague mayor Pavel Bem and rivals within his own Civic Democratic Party of having orchestrated the fall.
A Czech town has come under fire for planning to set up a special class for Romany first graders after the summer holidays. The town of Valašské Meziříčí says this is an educational experiment on the grounds that Roma children have a lot to catch up on when they start school, including Czech language skills. The minister for human rights and minorities, Michael Kocáb, says this is plain racial segregation and is absolutely unacceptable in the present-day world. Sociologists and the Czech Education Ministry have joined in the criticism.
The mayor of Chomutov, Ivana Řápkova, has filed a libel suit against the minister for minorities and human rights Michael Kocáb. The mayor claims that the minister is damaging her reputation by blaming her for the town’s problems with the Romany minority. According to an analysis which the minister commissioned, the town hall should have dealt with Romany rent-defaulters systematically instead of cracking down on them with full force earlier this year and ordering bailiffs to confiscate their welfare and child support subsidies. The mayor says that her decision was not-racially motivated and that the town hall had been struggling to reach agreement with these particular rent-defaulters for years.
Opposition parties in the lower house on Friday won support for a bill which would cancel the controversial health fees introduced by the former centre-right government. Since the bill’s chances of passing though the Senate are meager, the opposition Social Democrats also put forward an amendment under which socially disadvantaged people and under-18s would be exempted from paying the fees. This proposal also received approval. Both amendments have come under fire from Health Minister Dana Juráskova, who said that restricting or scrapping health fees at a time of economic crisis would have an impact on the quality of health care.
A GDP estimate for the first quarter shows a 3.4 percent drop in economic output, the biggest quarterly year-on-year decline in the country’s modern history. Prime Minister Jan Fischer said in response to the news that it would be extremely difficult to keep the 2008 state deficit within the projected 150 billion crown limit, since the state budget had been drafted on the basis of a predicted 2 percent drop in GDP in the first quarter. According to a Finance Ministry forecast the economy is to fall by 2.3 percent this year, but in 2010 it should recover slightly and grow by 0.8 percent. The unemployment rate grew to 7.9 percent in April from 7.7 percent in March and is expected to reach 10 percent by the end of this year.
The Czech crown weakened after the release of the quarterly GDP drop figures on Friday morning, trading at around 26.96 crowns to the euro and 19.87 crowns to the US dollar shortly before 11 am Friday, the news web site Patria Online reported. A major weakening was prevented by the ongoing growth on the main share markets.
A smaller copy of the controversial artwork Entropa, created by Czech artist David Černý for the Czech EU presidency, will be purchased by a Slovak art dealer for 85,000 euros, the Czech daily Hospodarské noviny wrote on Friday. The two-by-two metres copy was made by one of the artists who participated in the creation of the original alongside its main author Černý and was exhibited at the Vienna art fair that ended last Sunday. The dealer who acquired it is establishing a large collection of modern art in Slovakia, the paper said.
The next few days should be partly cloudy with day temperatures between 19 and 23 degrees Celsius.