Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek held meetings with Health Minister Milada Emmerova and the head of the Czech Medical Chamber David Rath on Thursday to discuss the financial state of the health sector. According to Mr Paroubek the health ministry's most recent plans to solve the financial crisis look promising and could save billions of Czech crowns in the ailing public health-insurance system. The ministry's proposal is to be discussed by the coalition parties within the next two weeks.
The Czech President, Vaclav Klaus, signed a bill into law on Thursday that requires all cash register activities of small businesses to be recorded and monitored. The lower house of Parliament proposed to monitor cash registers in order to help the government fight against the grey economy. Small retailers and restaurants will be obliged to use the registers as of January 2007. Those who would fail to comply could be fined up to half a million Czech crowns.
Also on Thursday, the President has refused to sign bills into law with which the government hoped to simplify the work inspection system.
Hungary's Foreign Ministry has made a formal complaint to the Czech Republic against the recent unveiling of a new statue of the former Czechoslovak president Edvard Benes. At the end of the Second World War, president Benes issued the Benes decrees, which sanctioned the confiscation of property and expulsion of some half a million ethnic Hungarians as many of them supported Hitler's occupation of Czechoslovakia. The statue of Edvard Benes was unveiled in front of the Foreign Ministry in Prague on Monday.
The government of New Zealand has decided to increase the number of Czechs permitted to work in the country. Under a bilateral agreement on work stays, which took effect in March, one hundred Czechs between the ages of 18 and 30 were to be granted short-term work permits of up to one year in New Zealand. That number is to be raised to one thousand as of July.
The Czech government has earmarked 200 million crowns or 6.6 million euros for a public information campaign on the EU Constitution. According to the head of the government's department for European affairs, Petra Masinova, the campaign will be explicitly informational in its first stage and will reflect different opinions. The government of Prime Minister Paroubek has not yet decided how the treaty will be ratified, although the Prime Minister has indicated that he favours a referendum.
The Cabinet-approved changes in the sick-leave insurance system, may not affect smaller enterprises. Under the new sick-leave bill, employers would have to cover their employees' sickness benefits in the first two weeks of sick leave. On the other hand they would pay lower sickness insurance for the respective employee. After talks with the Czech Economics Chamber on Thursday, the Labour and Social Affairs Minister Zdenek Skromach said that businesses employing up to 25 people may be given the choice of leaving the coverage of their employees' sickness benefits up to the state.
The Cabinet also set the upper limits of the income base from which sickness and health insurance payments are calculated. The bill has yet to be approved by both houses of Parliament.
The next few days should remain pleasant and day-time temperatures are expected to rise steadily to reach 27 degrees Celsius by the end of the week.
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