Prague, a place for dialogue
World financiers and critics of the IMF and World Bank met at Prague Castle on Saturday with Czech president Vaclav Havel. The panel discussion called "Prague - dialogi locus" or "Prague, a place for dialogue", focused on the issue of growing poverty in the world and was attended by prominent figures like the well-known philanthropist George Soros and UN high commissionaire for human rights, Mary Robinson. In an emotional debate, representatives of several environmental organizations accused the IMF and the World Bank of fostering poverty instead of curbing it. World Bank president James Wolfensohn contradicted them, explaining that the number of people living under the poverty line has been increasing slower than the number of inhabitants of the planet Earth.
The relatively largest demonstration took place in Namesti Miru square, near the city centre. Several hundred anarchists from the Czech Republic and abroad gathered for a demonstration called up by the radical Initiative Against Economic Globalisation or INPEG. There were many police in heavy riot gear prepared to suppress what was expected to be the first large protest action. Many of the demonstrators wore black hoods to hide their faces. Speakers condemned the policies of the IMF and World Bank and also spoke against nationalist ideology. The demonstrators waved red and black flags and banners promoting anarchism and communism. After the demonstration they set on to march through downtown Prague, chanting anti-fascist and anti-globalisation slogans. On their way, they had a minor clash with right-wing extremists but the police said no-one reported any incident.
Some 200 members of Czech right-wing extremist organisations gathered on Letna plain in Prague 7, near the Prague Castle, to express their discontent with the policies of IMF and World Bank. They also criticised capitalism, communism as well as democracy as such, migration and multi-cultural society. Some of them called for a "national and social revolution". The head of the National Alliance, Vladimir Skoupy, also criticised Czech president Vaclav Havel for excluding the right-wing extremists from the discussions about the IMF and World Bank. Skoupy is notorious for his racist views and was prosecuted recently for publicly denouncing the Holocaust. The demonstration ended peacefully under heavy police assistance.
Several hundred Communists met in Prague Tesnov. These were mainly young people, joined by a handful of pensioners. They carried red flags and banners with communist symbols - a hammer and a sickle. The event was organised by the Union of Communist Youth and was attended also by the leader of the parliamentary Communist Party, Miroslav Grebenicek as well as some foreign comrades.
Finance ministers of the G5 group, which includes the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Slovinia and Estonia, agreed in Prague on Saturday that their countries have made a significant progress towards meeting the Maastricht criteria for joining the European Union. The ministers are convinced that the group will be ready for EU membership within 3 to 5 years.
Former chief economist of the World Bank, Joseph Stiglitz, who is now of the fiercest opponents of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, said that IMF's recommendations to the transition economies were often ineffective and lead to a deeper economic decline.
And finally, the weather forecast. It should be mostly clear, the highest daytime temperatures should reach from 13 to 17 degrees Celsius. Night-time lows should drop to around zero. The weather is due to continue the same on Monday, but Tuesday should see a rather cloudy weather with occasional showers.
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