The country’s health minister, Leoš Heger, has said he will order state hospitals to raise wages in January by 6.25 percent instead of an earlier promised 10 percent. Speaking to journalists on Friday, he stressed that the remaining 3.75 percent could be added midway through the year, if revenues are collected by the insurance companies allowed. The minister stressed the decision was a compromise in light of gloomy economic predictions for the Czech economy for 2012 - not expected to grow more than – at best - one percent. The unions had been asking for all 10 percent as of January and are expected to respond to the minister’s decision on Monday. Despite the poor economic outlook, the minister has promised that he will do his utmost to make sure patient care remains unaffected; if anything new investment will need to be curbed to meet current financial difficulties.
Government ministers have conceded the possibility that planned tax and pension reforms may have to be postponed by a year i.e. from the beginning of 2013 to 2014. At a press conference in Prague on Thursday Prime Minister Petr Nečas rejected speculation that a postponement was being considered as a concession to the opposition which had been obstructing a vote on reform bills in the lower house for more than three days. He said the matter was being considered for purely legislative and technical reasons. The opposition, which argues that in view of the current economic situation the government should put some of its planned reforms on hold, has welcomed the news, arguing that the next general elections, scheduled for 2014, could serve as a referendum on the proposed reforms.
The country’s Supreme Audit Office has found shortcomings in the manner in which the Justice Ministry satisfied damage claims between the years of 2007 and 2010. According to the office, common mistakes included delaying decisions on claims that were later paid but with considerable interest, or in some cases failing to appeal court decisions in time. Between 2007 and 2010, the Czech Republic paid 400 million crowns in just over 4,500 damage claim cases. In its review, the Supreme Audit Office examined 128 cases – worth 57.6 million crowns.
Legislators in the lower house are to debate the new Civil Code in a third reading on Friday in a special meeting of the lower house called to sidestep obstructive efforts by the opposition. The bill, which covers 3,000 paragraphs making it the most extensive modification of Czech legislation in 50 years, deals with questions of private and family law, property issues, contract law and inheritance. Justice Minister Jiŕí Pospíšil has strongly backed the bill, saying the country needed a civil code for the “21st century”. But critics, such as members of the opposition Social Democrats, charge the legislation will largely create legal confusion.
Czech MPs on Friday passed a bill tightening conditions in public tenders in the aim of making them more transparent. The amendment derails tenders being tailor-made for firms chosen in advance and requires bidders to provide information about major sub-suppliers as well as shareholders. The bill was put forward by Lenka Andrýsová of Public Affairs, the upstart party now in government that succeeded in the last general election when it ran on an anti-corruption platform.
Education Minister Pavel Dobeš has confirmed that a school inspection team will visit an elementary school in Prague 13, after one of its teachers suggested during a recent TV broadcast that sex education there was being taught in an inappropriate manner. The school’s principal, Pavel Petrnoušek, is a contributor to an Education Ministry-recognised guidebook for teachers on how to teach sex education courses. The manual dates back to 2009. According to the teacher, Arjana Shameti, some students at the school complained to her about the sex ed. course – expressing embarrassment over some topics discussed or the methods used. Principal Pavel Petrnoušek has reacted by filing a lawsuit against the teacher, saying she had breached her contract and damaged the good name of the school. The incident has raised questions over how sex education is taught in Czech classrooms.
A new poll conducted by the Factum Invenio agency suggests that if the general election were held today, six parties would make it into the Chamber of Deputies. According to the survey, the opposition Social Democrats would win with 28.5 percent of the vote, while traditional right-wing rivals, the Civic Democrats, would finish with 19.2. The Communist Party would finish third – with 15.9 percent, followed by TOP 09 with 13.7. Two parties, not currently represented in the lower house would, the survey suggests, make it back in: the Christian Democrats (5.9 percent) and the Greens (5.4). By contrast, current coalition member Public Affairs would finish well below the five percent threshold required: just 2.2 percent.
Unemployment dropped to 6.6 percent year-on-year in the Czech Republic in the 3Q, leaving 346,000 jobless – almost 30,000 people fewer than the same period last year. In the long-term it is the lowest unemployment the country has seen since the second quarter of 2009, the Czech Statistical Office reported. The office measures the unemployment rate based on the methodology of the International Labour Organisation. By contrast, the Ministry for Labour and Social Affairs uses a different system and ranks unemployment during the same period at around 8.1 percent.
The Senate on Friday awarded world-famous Czech scientist Antonín Holý an honorary medal for his contributions in scientific research and development. Mr Holý has spent a considerable part of his career in helping develop medicines to help patients with AIDS. The head of the Academy of Sciences Organic chemistry and biochemistry branch, Zdeněk Havlas, praised Professor Holý, saying he was an example of the dedication required in the sciences. Antonín Holý has received considerable recognition for his work including a nomination for the Nobel Prize for medicine.
Patrik Eliáš set up the tying goal in the third period and scored in the penalty shootout in NHL action on Thursday to help his New Jersey Devils down Philadelphia. The player was named the game’s 1st star. The final score was 4:3 for the Devils.
In other action, goalie Ondřej Pavelec, who plays for the Winnipeg Jets, allowed no goals in his team’s win over the New York Islanders – his first shutout of the season. The final score was 3:0.
The next few days should be overcast with some rain and day temperatures between 8 and 15 degrees Celsius.