Czech annual inflation remains unchanged at 1.7 percent, which is in line with market expectations and slightly below the forecast of the Czech National Bank (1.8 percent). Consumer prices rose by 0.1 on the month in April, driven by the higher prices of clothing, footwear, alcohol and tobacco products. On the other hand, the price of foodstuffs, primarily pastry and dairy products, decreased slightly. Separate data released by the Czech Labour Ministry on Friday showed the April jobless rate at 7.7 percent down from 8.0 percent.
In this week’s Business News: The grey economy in the Czech Republic is estimated to be 16% of the GDP; Average fuel prices have gone done for the fifth week in a row; The Czech energy company Enrgo-Pro has been fined by the Bulgarian anti-monopoly agency; Unemployment sees a small decline to 7.7% in April, due to more seasonal positions; A group of international solar energy investors have filed an arbitration suit against the Czech Republic; Czech and Poles want to oppose planned EU legislation curbing cigarette sales.
Former labour and social affairs minister Jaromír Drábek (TOP 09) said on the Sunday television talk show Partie on Prima Family channel that those who want to discontinue the current S-Card social benefits payment scheme should pay for the loses this will cost the state. Mr Drábek, who introduced the new system last year, said it will save the state up to three billion crowns in the next 12 years, which is the duration of the current contract between the ministry and the Česká spořitelna bank that is administering distribution of welfare payments through the S-Card. Prime Minister Petr Nečas called on the current Labour Minister Ludmilla Mullerová (TOP 09) to terminate the highly criticized scheme last week, and the cabinet rejected a proposal to maintain the S-Card system on Thursday.
A new survey released by the STEM polling agency suggests that Czechs, in troubled economic times, largely blame foreigners for the loss of jobs. According to the poll, two-thirds stated there were ‘too many foreigners in the country’ (there are an estimated 438,000) while 45 percent said they were against foreigners being hired. Are jobs actually at threat or is the sentiment xenophobia plain and simple?
This week in Business News: The construction sector in the Czech Republic is expected to restart growth in 2014; Škoda Yeti was voted the most popular car by British car owners; ČEZ has asked two remaining contenders in the Temelín expansion deal to submit better offers; Economic confidence is down in April, after two straight months of improvement; The Federation of Food and Drink Industries wants to introduce stricter rules on product labeling; Trade unions and employers reach no agreement on minimum wage increase.
Trade unions and employers on Thursday failed to agree on a planned minimum wage increase in 2014, leaving the decision in the hands of the government. While trade unions demanded a 600 crown raise, employers would not go higher than 400. Social Affairs Minister Ludmilla Mullerová said she would present both options to the cabinet for a final decision. The minimum wage is currently 8,000 crowns before tax and has not been raised since 2007.
President Miloš Zeman on Friday met for the second time at Prague Castle with the head of the trade union’s umbrella organisation ČMKOS, Jaroslav Zavadil. During the meeting, issues discussed included the boosting of the economy, with Mr Zeman outlining he would sit in on a future tripartite session of the government, trade unions and business representatives. As president, Mr Zeman has promised to take a more hands-on approach than his predecessor; the next tripartite meeting is on April 25 and is scheduled to tackle issues of economic growth and the minimum wage; but the president is only expected to make the session after that, held in late June.
Czech Justice Minister Pavel Blažek has backed Prague’s high attorney, Lenka Bradáčová, in her dispute with the head of the anti-corruption police, Martin Červíček. Ms Bradáčová accused Mr Červíček of fabricating a case against her in relation to her role in prosecuting an overpriced IT contract at the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry. Minister Blažek told the news agency ČTK on Wednesday that Ms Bradáčová came with an exceptionally serious claim; the minister also described the police practices as similar to those used by the communist police in the 1950s. The head of the anti-corruption police Martin Červíček has denied any wrongdoing.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas released a public statement calling on the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry to make public information about all the production and related expenses of the embattled social welfare S-Card. The Premier has distanced himself from the S-Card project in the past week and has asked the Labor Minister Ludmila Müllerová to discontinue the new system. Ms Müllerová and the coalition partner TOP 09 are defending the project.
In the Business News this week: Korean Air completes deal for 44-percent stake in CŠA; jobless rate falls for first time in nine months, but only slightly; labour costs in Czech Republic are below half EU average; car production slows; mobile operators are offering new low monthly prices for unlimited calls; and forest owners want state compensation for recreational use of land.
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