A Czech delegation joined world leaders and Holocaust survivors gathered in the Polish town of Auschwitz on Thursday to pay homage to the memory of millions of Holocaust victims on Holocaust Memorial Day. In the Czech Republic, among other special events, a plaque dedicated to people who helped save Czechoslovak Jews from the death camps has been unveiled at Prague's Pinkas Synagogue. It bears the names of the 160 people who saved around 200 Jewish children during the war. Some 80,000 Czechoslovak Jews perished in the Holocaust.
The Czech Finance Minister, Social Democrat Bohuslav Sobotka, has issued a more optimistic forecast for the country's economy in 2005, predicting growth of 3.8 percent over earlier forecasts of 3.6 percent. A cut in taxes paid by lower and middle-earning groups planned by the ruling Social Democrat party should drive the economy's growth, Mr Sobotka told journalists. The central bank, Czech National Bank, predicts that the Czech economy will grow by 3.2 to 4.4 percent.
The central bank has unexpectedly cut interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point, with the key repo rate down at 2.25 percent as of Friday. According to analysts, the reason for the decision was a new inflation forecast revised downwards and a stricter monetary policy due to the strong crown. The crown reaction came immediately, with a fall by 20 hellers to the euro to 30.25 crowns to the euro. Tied to the repo rate of the central bank are interest rates on bank deposits and loans.
The mobile phone operator T-Mobile attracted the highest number of new clients last year, while Oskar Mobil saw the lowest increase in client numbers, the companies said. T-Mobile raised the number by 410,000, Eurotel by 380,000 and Oskar by 280,000 users. At the end of last year, there were 10.78 million active mobile phones on the Czech market. In the last quarter alone, when operators launched massive pre-Christmas campaigns, the operators lured some half a million new clients. At the end of last year, there were nearly 106 mobile phones per 100 people. Experts say that despite that, there is quite a large group of people without a mobile phone. Some 15 to 20 percent of users have more mobile phones than just one.
Czech citizen Ladislav Ottinger has been sentenced to eight years in prison in Mongolia for embezzling an equivalent of almost 6 million Czech crowns from about one hundred young Mongolian families whom he promised to provide with cheap housing. Mr Ottinger failed to meet his commitments and he never returned the money. A district court in Mongolia gave him the highest possible sentence for this crime and sent him to a high security prison, the Mongolian daily UB Post said on Thursday. Mr Ottinger was the owner of a construction company which worked for the Mongolian Youth Federation that entrusted it with building cheap flats for young couples within a project announced in 2001. The state provided cheap loans for this purpose which made it possible for the families to co-finance the construction.
We can expect some sunshine in the coming days as well as heavy snowfalls to continue to cause trouble especially in mountainous areas. Daytime temperatures should remain around minus five degrees Celsius.
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