A wave of statistics released Thursday represented mixed economic news for Czechs. November’s unemployment rose to 8.2% from October’s 7.7% with the jobless total now hovering just under 600,000. Using previous methods of calculation, the latest figures could represent the high ever jobless figure in recent Czech history at 10.3%. Higher food prices helped push up inflation to 1.4% in December from November’s 1.1%. On the brighter side, industrial production surged ahead with a 6.2% spurt in November. That is almost twice the rise of the previous month.
The outgoing Czech government on Wednesday rejected a civil service bill
put forth by the Social Democrats. Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok said the
draft legislation could not be implemented as some of its provisions were
likely in contradiction to the Constitution. In a reaction, Social Democrat
chairman Bohuslav Sobotka said the bill was carefully designed, and
expressed hope the legislation would be approved by the lower house.
The adoption of a civil service act might be crucial for the appointment of the new government as it would allow leader of one of the coalition parties, Andrej Babiš, hold a ministerial position despite being listed as a collaborator of the communist secret police.
Labour Ministry officials and representatives of the firm Fujitsu Technology Solutions are to meet on Monday to debate the legal implications of the decision to shut down the welfare payments system which the company had provided since 2012. The company won a contract on running the system but the Czech anti-monopoly regulator last year cancelled the tender over breach of rules. Labour offices are now struggling to deliver payments using a previous, now-outdated system and the Labour Ministry says Fujitsu had no reason to act rashly since its system could have remained in operation on the grounds of an addendum to the contract signed. The Labour Ministry has warned that thousands of people could get their welfare contributions late.
Former prime minister and European labour commissioner Vladimír Špidla is to become chief advisor to the country’s likely next prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka. Mr. Spidla, who was considered to be a hot candidate for the post of labour minister in the emerging government, confirmed having accepted the offer on Friday. The post of labour minister in the new government will thus most likely go to Social Democrat Petr Krčál, a councilor in the Vysočina region. The list of ministerial nominees, which Bohuslav Sobotka submitted to the president on Friday evening, is to be made public on Monday after the three parties of the emerging centre-right coalition – the Social Democrats, ANO and the Christian Democrats - sign a coalition agreement.
Labour offices are struggling to deliver welfare payments to people after the system which had been in operation since 2012 was unexpectedly shut down late last month. The software provider, the firm Fujistsu Technology Solutions, won a contract on running the system two years ago but the Czech anti-monopoly regulator last year cancelled the tender over breach of rules. Labour offices have now returned to a payment system used previously, but they are having to fill in a vast amount of missing data and many employees have not been schooled in how to use it. The Labour Ministry has warned that thousands of people could get their welfare contributions late.
An increasing number of Czechs say they have trouble meeting their basic needs on their monthly salary, the internet news site novinky.cz reports. Over 100,000 people admit to moonlighting but according to unofficial estimates the number of people making extra money on the side is well over one million. This is often undeclared income from helping out with various jobs in people’s homes or assisting with building work at private homes and cottages. One hundred and fifty thousand pensioners have retained their jobs even after reaching retirement age.
The High State Attorney in Prague has charged 12 people over contracts awarded by the Czech government during the country’s EU presidency in 2009, state attorney Tomáš Černý said. The prosecutors say that contracts for audiovisual services, awarded to the firm Promopro during the six-month period, were overpriced by 338 million crowns. Among those charged with manipulating public tenders and abuse of office are three former close associates of Alexandr Vondra, who was deputy prime minister for European affairs when the alleged offences took place. Mr. Vondra himself has not been charged.
Speculation that President Miloš Zeman may reject some of the proposed ministers in the new cabinet has been fuelled by a report that the President’s Office asked the Czech Academy of Sciences to produce a legal study regarding his rights within the boundaries set by the Constitution. According to the internet news site lidovky.cz the study produced by the Academy’s Institute for State and Law claims that the president is not a passive player in the process of establishing a new government and would be acting within his rights were he to reject any of the PMs nominees for ministerial posts. President Zeman has already made it clear that he would not accept Social Democrat Lubomír Zaorálek as foreign minister or Martin Stropnický of ANO as defence minister. Some political analysts suggest that Mr. Zeman is not only breaking with tradition but overstepping his powers by meddling in the line-up of the next cabinet.
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