The lower house of Parliament has passed a bill allowing the issuing of more than 72 billion crowns, (the equivalent of over 3 billion U.S. dollars), in bonds to help cover this year's state budget deficit. Bonds are likely to be issued on both domestic and foreign markets, while the remainder of the deficit, some 11 billion crowns, is to be covered by long-term loans from the European Investment Bank.
Also this week, deputies overwhelmingly rejected a proposal by the Civic Democrats to eliminate investment incentives and replace them with a 15 percent corporate tax. They also rejected a proposal that would have restricted shop hours at night and on holidays.
An independent London-based consultancy, the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), has said Prague tops its rankings at the most attractive place to do business in Europe. The CEBR index evaluated economic growth prospects for each of the 233 regions in Western and Eastern Europe, as defined by the EU. The index evaluated economic growth prospects for each region; the level of education of each region's population; and its market size. On the whole, Eastern European regions score well above the EU average in terms of growth prospects, the index said, and in offering investors a plentiful supply of highly skilled labour.
The first member of a post-Communist Czech government to be handed down a prison sentence failed to report to prison as scheduled this week. Ivo Svoboda, a former finance minister and member of the Social Democrat party, had been sentenced to a five-year term for embezzling funds from a company that makes baby prams. He and his former adviser, Barbora Snopkova, lost a final appeal in the case this autumn. Mr Svoboda did not turn up at prison because he is in hospital, his lawyer said. Barbora Snopkova arrived at a Prague prison as scheduled on Monday.
The Czech Anti-Monopoly Office has launched administrative proceedings against three of the country's biggest banks. Ceska Sporitelna, Komercni Banka, and CSOB are suspected of concluding a cartel agreement on bank charges. The three banks charge much higher fees than in most other EU member states. If the banks are proven guilty, they can face a fine of up to ten million Czech crowns (some 420,000 US dollars) or amounting to ten percent of profits recorded in 2004.
Railway workers unions have called off the possibility of a general strike for at least the next one hundred days as they allow new management at Czech Railways to consider their proposals. The unions have expressed concern - and threatened to strike - over the possibility of excessive lay-offs in line with Czech Railway's long-term business plans. An estimated 6,000 employees are expected to lose their jobs this year, the same number as in 2004. Overall, Czech Railways employs close to 70, 000 people.
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