Lower house - budget
The lower house of Czech parliament, the House of Deputies, heard on Tuesday a report by Finance minister Ivo Svoboda dealing with the impact of economic predictions on this year's state budget. These predictions, which were referred to when drawing up the 1999 state budget, proved to be wrong. Economic analysts currently say that the budget deficit may amount to 60 billion crowns, instead of the 31 billion deficit approved by the deputies. Minister Svoboda admitted, that the budget deficit this year would be higher by some 8 billion crowns, according to new predictions elaborated by his ministry.
President Vaclav Havel has met with chairmen of all the deputies' and senatorial clubs, except for the Communists, since Havel maintains that the communists have made no effort to change their stance since the Velvet revolution. The talks between the president and legislators were the first since last year's general and senatorial elections. President Havel stressed the necessity of informing each other about activities pursued by the parliament, and showed interest in how individual clubs collaborate when approving new laws. After the talks with parliamentarians, president Havel has invited leaders of all parties, represented in parliament, except for the communists, to meet at Prague Castle, at the end of February or the beginning of March.
The Social democratic party would welcome if the Communists and the Civic democrats were taking part in a meeting of parliamentary parties' leaders, iniciated by the president as the opposition Civic democratic party of ex-premier Vaclav Klaus had indicated they might not attend the meeting. After the talks with the president, chairman of the Social democrat deputy and senatorial clubs, Stanislav Gross and Zdenek Vojir said that it would be useful if individual parties dropped the partisan nature of their policies and devoted themselves to nation-wide problems, such as fighting unemployment which has been on the rise.
President Havel will receive on Wednesday Prague Mayor Jan Kasal from the Civic democratic party. At their first meeting since last year's local elections, the two men will discuss the situation at the Prague townhall and talk about their visions for Prague's further development. Havel and Kasl will also take up issues related to the project Prague - European cultural capital 2000. At the Prague townhall, the Civic democrats have made a pact with the Social democratic party and have seven and 4 representatives there respectively.
Cooperation between the Czech and the Slovak armies will top the agenda of talks between Czech army Chief of Staff Jiri Sedivy and his Slovak counterpart Milan Cerovsky in the spa-town of Piestany in Slovakia. During Mr.Sedivy's one-day visit to Slovakia, the two army officers will iform each other about the present situation in both countries' armies. Although Czech and Slovak Chiefs of staffs have always been holding regular meeting, Sedivy and Cerovsky are meeting for the first time. Unlike the Czech Republic, which is to enter NATO next month, Slovakia is not in among the countries, which will be admitted to the Alliance in the first wave.
Most Czech citizens - 61 percent - opine that president Vaclav Havel is performing his presidential duties in a much worse way than he was two years ago. The Sofres Factum polling agency has also revealed that while last September some 13 percent of people thought the president should step down and watch his health, in January 1999 some 20 percent of respondents - mostly supporters of the Communist party of Bohemia and Moravia - think the president should resign regardless of his state of health. Those who endorse the idea that Havel should stay in office are mostly entrepreneurs, students and apprentices. Although most respondents were convinced that Vaclav Havel is not the only suitable presidential candidate, only a few were able to name his successor. The only person whom more than 10 percent of those polled would like to see at Prague Castle is speaker of parliament Vaclav Klaus.
If a referendum were organized only a few weeks before the Czech Republic expected entry into NATO, only 46 percent of respondents would support this move, and less than 57 percent would be in favour of our country joining the European Union. According to the Sofres Factum polling agency it is clearly that Czech citizens' support for NATO and EU membership has been steadily declining. Experts say that imports of subsidised pork from the EU countries, which caused problems for Czech farmers, had negatively influenced those who had been undecided.
The Czech crown has fallen again - to 38.3 crowns per euro, which is about 19.6 crowns per deutschmark. Erste Bank Sparkassen dealer Jiri Matousek informed CTK on Tuesday that a "black mood" has hit the Czech market. The crown has been weakening for the past few days due to foreign investors pulling out from their long-term positions in order to prevent further losses.
Now a word about the weather: a low pressure area has been moving to the Czech Republic from the West, and so we can expect partially cloudy skies and daytime highs between minus 6 and minus 2 degrees Celsius.
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