Czech transportation workers are considering going on a day-long nationwide strike on Monday against the government’s reform plans, particularly the planned overhaul of the pension system. Trade unions said they would announce their final decision on Friday; however, following a meeting on Thursday with Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek which produced no results, a trade union leader said the strike was “99 percent certain”. The strike could paralyze public transport in Prague and Brno as well as railway transport across the country. The trade unions are also planning to stage blockades on the D1 motorway between Prague and the eastern city of Ostrava.
The Czech economy grew at an annual rate of 2.8 percent in the first three months of the year, according to figures by the Czech Statistical Office released on Thursday. The growth was 0.3 percent higher than expected, the office said, adding that it was mainly fuelled by foreign trade with Germany, the Czech Republic’s largest export market. However, some analysts note that the economies of all neighbouring countries grew faster than that of the Czech Republic both in the first quarter of 2011 and the whole of 2010, as lower government spending and household consumption slowed down the Czech growth rate.
In related news, Czech inflation sped up to 2.0 percent in May, compared to 1.6 percent registered in the previous month, government figures revealed on Thursday. Inflation growth, primarily driven by rising consumer prices; the total consumer price index without rents increased annually by over 102 percent, the Czech Statistical Office said. The actual inflation growth was 0.3 percent higher than a previous estimate by the Czech central bank.
The Czech Republic is considering steps to establish contacts with the Libyan rebel council, Prime Minister Petr Nečas told the lower house of Parliament on Thursday. Mr Nečas said his government had not yet made a decision to recognize the anti-Kaddafi National Transitional Council; however, the Czech Republic could join humanitarian efforts to help rebel-held regions of Libya. The Czech prime minister reiterated the country would not take party in NATO-led military operation against Muammar Kaddafi’s regime. The head of the Czech lower house’ foreign committee, David Vodrážka, is set to meet with Mohammed Al-Allagi, the council’s minister of justice and human rights, in Prague next week.
Leaders of the Czech government coalition are to continue negotiations focusing on personnel issues within the cabinet on Thursday, after the end of the lower house session. On Tuesday, the junior party Public Affairs announced that it would shelve its decision on whether or not to leave the cabinet, conditioning the move on a new set of demands to be met by its coalition partners. Public Affairs, which has accused its partners in government of trying to marginalize its position, said it would leave the cabinet at the end of the month if its demands were not met and if the government failed to push its key reform bills through the lower house by that date. Public Affairs lost two of its four ministers in the centre-right government following a corruption scandal that broke out within the party earlier this year.
The opposition-controlled Senate on Thursday rejected the government’s convergence programme aimed at balancing the country’s public finances by the year 2016. The opposition Social Democrats, who enjoy a majority in the upper house of Parliament, said that the reforms planned by the centre-right government would not ensure meeting that goal; they would instead lead to economic stagnation, according to the major opposition party. The speaker of the house, Social Democrat Milan Štěch, said he would notify the European Commission of the vote. Members of the coalition parties said the result of the vote merely expressed the position of one political party.
The Czech Finance Ministry cancelled on Thursday a public tender for the sale of land in the Prague district of Dejvice, following a news report questioning the deal. The daily Lidový noviny reported on Thursday that the ministry put up a plot of land for sale, declared as green or no-development zone, at the asking price of 1.7 million crowns, or more than 100,000 US dollars. However, the land in question is registered as a building lot in a new urban zoning plan which means its price could be up to 15 times higher. A ministry spokesman said that Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek had not been aware of the planned sale, and immediately ordered the cancellation of the tender.
Former CEO of the lottery firm Sazka, Aleš Hušák, who still holds the position of chairman of firm’s board of directors, appealed in Thursday against last week’s decision of a Prague court to declare bankruptcy on Sazka. Mr Hušák was fired as Sazka CEO by the company’s trustee-in-bankruptcy on Tuesday. The company, which got into problems over the construction of a multi-purpose arena in the capital; last week, the firm’s board of creditors approved a loan of 500 million crowns to pay for the company’s operations. The news agency ČTK reported on Thursday that this week, Sazka’s revenues rose by 24 percent compared to the previous week.
Some 30 percent of Czech CEOs believe the government is serious about its anti-corruption efforts, according to a new poll by the consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers among the country’s 70 top managers released on Thursday. More than half of the top managers polled said they trusted the government’s plan to make the country’s labour market more flexible. Some 20 percent of the CEOs that took part in the survey said their firms expected lower revenues as a result of the reduced government spending. A partner of PwC Czech Republic said the poll showed that most managers had a rather indifferent view of the centre-right government’s reform efforts.
A 46-year-old teacher and a 13-year-old boy drowned during a rafting trip on the Morava river in Olomouc on Thursday while a 24-year-old rafting instructor is in hospital in critical condition. The accident occurred when rafts with schoolchildren landed on the bank of the river near a weir on the outskirts of Olomouc, in eastern Moravia. The boy reportedly jumped in the water, the police said. In an attempt to save him, the teacher and the instructor also jumped in.
Police seized 1,630 doses of synthetic substitutes of cocaine and marihuana in a shop in the eastern city of Brno on Thursday. A police officer told the news agency ČTK the drugs, sold as souvenirs, were worth around 200,000 crowns. They were seized in one of the so-called Amsterdam shops that appeared in parts of the Czech Republic several moths ago. Czech lawmakers have since approved new legislation that added around 30 substances to the list of illicit drugs.
The end of the week should see overcast skies with occasional rain. Daytime highs should range between 19 and 23 degrees Celsius.