15-09-2003

Photos of trade union members at Saturday's demonstration against the government's public finance reform plan are featured on all the front pages today, with all dailies looking into how much the government is willing to react to their demands. Internationally, it is Sweden's referendum on the adoption of the Euro - 56% voted against the single European currency, and the released photo of the possible murderer of Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh that also make the headlines.

Demonstration against the government's public finance reform, photo: CTKDemonstration against the government's public finance reform, photo: CTK While all the papers point out that the government plans to do little in reaction to Saturday's demonstration, Hospodarske Noviny looks at the problem from a different angle. The unions' claims that the state will force them to "tighten their belts" and reduce their standard of living is unfounded, the paper writes. Only a few can expect a lower salary, while figures from the Czech Statistical Office show that wages have been rising steadily, by some five percent a year, since 1997. The paper features a graph showing how wages in different sectors have risen since 1998.

If doctors are to rest more, who will treat their patients?, asks Lidove Noviny, referring to a recent European Court ruling saying that doctors should have shorter shifts and more time to rest. This could be a ticking time bomb for Czech hospitals, which could explode in two directions, the paper warns. The health sectors in countries such as Germany have already noted that they will soon be in need of doctors and there is nothing more attractive for a Czech physician than to work in Germany for 3,000 Euros - a salary that may not be much in neighbouring Germany but higher than average in the Czech Republic.

Furthermore, once the Czech Republic becomes an EU member, the European Court ruling will also have to be respected by Czech hospitals, where doctors often work a week-end long shift that begins on Saturday mornings and ends on Monday evenings. A doctor at Prague's Motol hospital tells the paper that, in this respect, the law is regarded as nothing more than an unimportant piece of paper, as the health sector could not survive without the long shifts.

Mlada Fronta Dnes features the results of a public opinion poll on corruption and comes to the conclusion that half of the Czech population has bribed someone for a service. Admission to a university programme costs around 18,000 Czech crowns, faster medical treatment some 10,000 crowns and if you want a clerk to issue you a construction permit fast, you have to be ready to cough up six thousand crowns, the paper writes. The SC&C agency, which was commissioned to do the poll for the daily surveyed 310 people. Most corrupt are the traffic police and hospitals, it says. One of the people polled is quoted as saying that instead of a year he only had to wait a week for an artificial joint at a hospital in southern Moravia after bribing the doctor with 5,000 Czech crowns.

Pravo writes that it was a black weekend on Czech roads where at least twenty people died in traffic accidents. The most tragic, it says, were two bus accidents in which both drivers died and some forty passengers were left injured. A car accident close to the town of Prostejov took four young lives and two people died when their car collided with a train close to the town of Pilsen.

Former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright has written her memoirs, writes Lidove Noviny, and the book is due to hit US bookshelves on Tuesday. The respected Czech-born veteran politician writes about her experiences as the daughter of a Czechoslovak diplomat, her family's emigration to the United States, her painful divorce, and her work as secretary of state alongside former US president Bill Clinton. The Czech translation should be out next month, the paper concludes.

15-09-2003