The Czech Prime Minister, Jan Fischer, is scheduled to meet with members of the Czech scientific community on Monday for a new debate on science and research funding. The Czech Academy of Sciences has recently staged several protests against a planned 50 percent cut in funding over the next three years, while Czech universities said that any drop in state subsidies would dramatically decrease the quality of education. Monday’s round table will also be attended by Education Minister Miroslava Kopicová and the head of the Confederation of Czech Industry. Jaroslav Míl.
Prime Minister Jan Fischer met Thursday with Finance Minister Eduard Janota and the heads of the country’s two largest parties to familiarise them with Finance Ministry proposals for the 2010 state budget. Mr Janota has proposed increasing VAT rates, raising the tax on automobile fuels, and cutting budget spending. Speaking after the meeting, Social Democratic Party chairman Jíři Paroubek said he objects to the Finance Ministry’s recommendation that the measures be approved as a package. Mirek Topolánek of the Civic Democratic Party said that it would be up to the post-election government either to approve the caretaker government’s budget or to put forward its own plan. The Ministry of Finance has said that in the absence of the proposed changes, the budget deficit for 2010 could rise to 230 billion crowns.
Around 800 people gathered on Prague’s Palachovo náměstí on Tuesday to protest against proposed cuts in Czech science funding. The protestors organised the event in support of the Czech Academy of Sciences, which is set to have its budget halved gradually over the next three years. A group called ‘Věda žije!’ (Science Lives) organised the protest; according to news website Novinky.cz, three quarters of this organisation’s members are employees of the Academy of Sciences. At Tuesday’s protest, however, the majority of participants were reported to have been young people, invited to attend by the website Lide.cz.
The Christian Democrats have unveiled an election programme that promises
to improve the social standing of families with children. The manifesto
includes tax reforms which would introduce higher taxes for the rich and
steep tax deductions for families with one or more children. People with
three or four children would be exempted from paying taxes altogether. On
the other hand childless taxpayers would pay more within the principle of
The party, the second biggest in the last coalition government, has always advocated family values but has never gone so far in favouring families with children. Political analysts put it down to the party’s poor showing in popularity ratings ahead of October’s general elections.
One of the ways to contain the current economic crisis, it seems, might just be to work less, and a plan to that end is gaining currency in the Czech Republic. The four-day work week has stemmed the rise in unemployment elsewhere, and now it’s an idea that is getting support from all sides of the table.
A recent survey by the SANEP polling agency suggests most Czechs would like state financing of political parties to be reduced. Also, eighty-four percent of those polled believe that members of the Senate should not receive salaries as the post of a Senator should be honorary. Nine out of ten respondents believe that parties that do not make it to parliament should not be given any state money for votes received. Currently, all parties that pass a three-percent threshold in parliamentary elections are entitled to a state subsidy.
In view of the continuing economic crisis the Czech Republic’s two largest parties, and often bitter rivals, the Social Democrats and the Civic Democrats have expressed a willingness to cooperate on next year’s budget. Both indicated this week the need to find a consensus, after interim Finance Minister Eduard Janota announced that if strong measures weren’t taken to cut spending and raise revenues, the country would face a ballooning deficit of 230 billion crowns. Is this sudden show of goodwill for real and can it work?
Bad news travels fast and Czechs found it splashed all over the front pages of Monday’s papers. The country’s finances are in a worse state than previously thought with next year’s budget deficit threatening to reach 230 billion crowns (12.7 billion dollars). Among the emergency measures being considered are higher VAT rates, which means higher prices at a time when many people are already skimping and saving.
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