An estimated 80 percent of all public contracts handed out by the Czech government between 2006 and 2010 were non-transparent, according to a study by students at Charles University’s Institute of Economic Studies released on Monday. The total value of the contracts, that were awarded in closed tenders or with no tenders at all, reached 276 billion crowns, or more than 15.5 billion US dollars. The study says the Justice Ministry was the worst, with only 3 percent of its contracts awarded publicly, followed by the ministries of defence and regional development. The study also showed that 14 percent of contracts were handed out in tenders with only one contender taking part.
Two out of Prague’s six maternity wards will have to close down if no deal is reached between the government and dissatisfied doctors, Prague mayor Bohuslav Svoboda said on Wednesday. The remaining wards would be unable to care for expectant mothers, Mr Svoboda said.
More than 3,800 Czech hospital physicians have handed in resignations in a campaign for higher salaries. The government has refused to increase their wages immediately, and only promised higher salaries as part of a broader health care reform. The resignations will take effect in March.
In related news, around 9,000 Czechs have signed a petition asking the government to “constructively” negotiate with doctors’ trades unions. They believe the government should find a balance between investments into hospital equipment, and funds for doctors’ and nurses’ salaries. However, a recent poll by the Médea Research agency suggested that while the majority of Czechs agree that doctors are underpaid, some 59 percent of those polled disapprove of the doctors’ protests.
The Czech government has set a timetable for the adoption of reform legislation, Prime Minister Petr Nečas told reporters on Wednesday. Next month, the Interior Ministry will come up with a new election code introducing direct presidential elections. By March, the government would like to present a concept of the pension reform, and by June, the cabinet hopes to complete bills necessary for the reform of the country’s pension, health care and welfare system. The government would also like to form a special body that will oversee the impact of the reforms on the state budget.
The number of violent crimes in the Czech Republic rose by 7 percent in 2010, the Czech police said on Wednesday. Despite a slight drop in the number of murders, which decreased by eight to 165, there were more cases of teenagers or young adults murdering their parents. There was also an increase in cases of manslaughter, negligent manslaughter, and stalking. The sharpest, 22-percent increase was registered in rape cases. The head of the criminal police unit, Jan Noga, said that alarmingly, 70 percent of rape victims were under the age of 18. Mr Noga said the murder clearance rate was 90 percent.
The Czech Office for Personal Data Protection has given Prague City Hall another six months to offer public transport passes without collecting personal data, the office’s head Igor Němec told reporters on Wednesday. The city’s public transport company, which is owned by Prague City Hall, replaced regular transport passes with Opencard, a new card that requires people to provide personal data. Those who do not want their data to be processed can buy an anonymous Opencard which is more expensive; however, Mr Němec said the anonymous pass should cost the same as a regular Opencard.
The carmaker Hyundai’s plant in Nošovice, in the north-east of the Czech Republic, on Wednesday posted a profit of 1.55 billion crowns, or 86 million US dollars, for the first nine months of 2010. Over the same period in the previous year, the firm registered a loss of 1.35 billion crowns. The revenues of Hyundai’s Czech plant rose by 70 percent between January and September; in the whole of last year, the company made over 200,000 cars at its Czech hub.
The oldest Czech, Marie Smejkalová, died at the age of 107 in her home in Kroměříž, eastern Moravia, on Wednesday, the Czech news agency ČTK reported. Ms Smejkalová, who celebrated her 107th birthday in September, was active despite her age, and even cast her vote in November’s regional elections. She is the fourth oldest Czech who died at the age of 107.
Three German nationals were killed and one was severely injured in a road accident near Františkovy Lázně, in western Bohemia, on Tuesday night after their car crashed with a truck. Three German citizens, aged 20, 21 and 22 died on the spot while the 27-year-old driver was taken to a hospital in Plzeň. Police say they are investigating the cause of the accident; according to witnesses, the truck was overtaking the Germans’ car when it suddenly began turning left.
In the upcoming leg of the Euro 2112 qualification, Spain will play the Czech Republic on March 25 in the city of Granada, in the south of the country, the Spanish football association announced on Wednesday. Czech fans are entitled to 5 percent of the capacity of the stadium which seats 16,200. A secretary of the Czech football association said the quota was not sufficient, and would try to get more seats for supporters of the Czech team. The venue is where the Czech Republic’s under-21 national team lost to the hosts 2:1 in the European Championship’s knock-out stage.
The last Czech in Australian Open singles, Petra Kvitová has dropped out of the quarter finals. She lost to Russian Vera Zvonareva 2:6, 4:6. Kvitová said she had little to offer against the second seed. Nonetheless, at one point in the second set Kvitová came back with two breaks to stand at 4:3, but she went on to lose the next games. The loss ends a winning run of nine matches which included a triumph in the preparatory Brisbane Open. Earlier, Tomáš Berdych lost to third seeded Serbian Novak Djokovic in the men’s quarterfinals.
Petra Kvitová will lead the Czech Republic in the Fed Cup first round tie against Slovakia in Bratislava on February 5 and 6, Czech captain Petr Pála said on Tuesday. Kvitová, the world number 28, will team up with Lucie Šafárová, Barbora Záhlavová-Strýcová and Květa Peschkeová, number five in the WTA doubles ranking. The Czechs were thrashed 0-5 by Italy in the Fed Cup semifinals last year.
The next few days should see overcast skies with snow. Daytime highs should range between -3 and +1 degrees Celsius.