Thousands of trade union members have gathered in Prague to demonstrate against the government's planned public finance reforms. At least 15,000 people from across the country gathered on Prague's Letna plain on Saturday morning, before marching towards the city centre. Demonstrators carrying banners and shouting slogans marched past the government headquarters. Union leaders say the reforms - which include plans to cut sickness benefit and pensions - will hit the poorest members of society. The government insists the reforms must go ahead, saying budget cuts are necessary to prepare the Czech economy for eventual adoption of the euro.
The government-proposed package of public finance reforms is in the focus of attention again. While economists and businessmen say the reforms are not radical enough and will do little to boost the economy, trade unionists say the measures will affect the country's poorest. And that's why members of the country's two largest trade union associations will converge on Prague on Saturday to stage a massive protest against the reforms.
One face features on the front pages of all the Czech papers today, Sweden's murdered Foreign Minister Anna Lindh. Mrs Lindh's killing has provoked questions about security for politicians not only in Sweden, but throughout Europe. Also making headlines today - the Pope's visit to Slovakia, and a rebellion in the upper house in parliament over the government's public finance reforms.
Trade Unions have been stepping up their protests against fiscal reforms planned by the government. Central Bank governor has encouraged the cabinet to go ahead with the reforms. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Finance said the Czech Republic will show the biggest fiscal deficit in its history this year. The dominant Czech telephone operator, Czech Telecom, will lay off 1,800 workers by the end of the year. The Czech foreign trade balance fell into a higher than expected deficit in July. Every tenth Czech household defaults on its loans.
The price of natural gas is to go down from October, the Czech Energy Regulation Office announced on Wednesday. Gas will be 3.1 percent cheaper for households and an average of 3.6 percent cheaper for other customers. The cuts are a result of the favourable exchange rate of the Czech crown to the US dollar, which makes importing natural gas cheaper.
A nation-wide civil servants' strike - including tax-revenue officers and other state employees - especially teachers - has become an almost one-hundred percent certainty for September 1st. The reason for the strike: to send a message to the government, currently hammering out complex public finance reforms, that more money is needed for end-of-the-year bonuses for state employees. They expect an additional six billion crowns to somehow be found in an already tight state budget.
Prague blue-chips hit a three-year high earlier this week. Meanwhile, the Czech crown fell to its lowest in over a year and a half against the euro. The Czech central bank will most likely change its inflation targeting policy. New Telecommunications Act forces former monopoly Czech Telecom to rent last mile to competitors. Czech Telecom to sell off some assets. The largest Czech coal-burning power station out of operation. Power Utility CEZ eying mulls eastward expansion. Sixteen buildings in Prague's Wenceslas Square are up for sale again.
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