Industrial production figures met with disappointment; President Klaus expected to rename Tuma as CNB governor; Securities commission places Sati brokerage under forced administration; Kiekert of Germany to invest $26m in auto plant; Ranks of the unemployed swell, number of entrepreneurs down; Czech Rep shows world's fourth-highest growth in high-speed Internet connections.
The ranks of the unemployed in the Czech Republic grew by 24,000 people last month; data released this week showed that as of December, nearly some 542,000 people were out of work, or 9.5 percent of the working age population. That is the highest monthly rate of unemployment in six months. In related news, the number of people running small private businesses, including medical clinics and farms, dropped by 53,000 last year; analysts say a change in the tax code requiring advance payment of a set rate of taxes had led to the decline in entrepreneurship.
Of the country's population of ten million, 541,675 were out of work in December 2004. In the last month of the year, the unemployment rate shot up to 9.5 percent from 8.9 percent in November. But while this development has made front page headlines, economists say there is no cause for concern and expect the rate to continue to rise and peak in February. Seasonal factors - the lack of seasonal jobs in agriculture or construction for example - cause unemployment to increase every winter. But, as the chief economist at Next Finance, Marketa Sichtarova,
Nine companies interested in Cesky Telecom; Czech budget deficit sharply lower than expected in 2004; Czech Republic posts first November trade surplus in 10 years; Deadlock in collective bargaining at Ceske Drahy; Scottish IT firm to build repair centre in Prague; One million fewer people work in industry, agriculture than in 1989
The multinational concern Lasselsberger has been given the go-ahead to build a cement works in Stramberk, north Moravia, creating 130 new jobs in a region with a high unemployment rate. Construction is expected to begin in the first half of 2005. The project had been on the table for about three years but protests from several environmentalist groups delayed decision on the project. Earlier, an appeal was rejected by the Environment Ministry. As it stands the he new cement plant could start operations in 2006, reaching full capacity in 2007.
Finance minister Bohuslav Sobotka has called for an emergency session of Parliament which would freeze the salaries of deputies, senators and ministers in the coming year. The Lower House recently approved a law which postpones a planned increase in the salaries of policemen, firemen and other emergency services but which at the same time raises the salaries of deputies, senators, cabinet ministers and state attorneys as of January 1st of 2005. Coming at a time of cuts in public spending, the news evoked plenty of criticism. Minister Sobotka said that with goodwill from both houses of Parliament there was still time to reverse this decision.
Senior state officials, judges and prosecutors are unlikely to receive a 14th month's salary this year, after a government vote on Tuesday overturned a decision of the Senate, which had approved the bonus. Labour Minister Zdenek Skromach said he did not regard the 14th month's salary as just in terms of the state administration as a whole. The Czech Union of Judges has said some of its members may sue the state over the matter.
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