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Breakfast Brief – 28 May 2009

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Table of Contents

Chief govt auditor to face disciplinary commission
The Chamber of Deputies’ Committee on Budgetary Control yesterday referred Supreme Audit Office (NKÚ) President František Dohnal to the state disciplinary commission over alleged misuse of the agency’s budget. According to the committee Dohnal maintains two luxury flats in Prague’s centre, uses three cars and failed to issue a public tender for several past purchases. Dohnal denies any wrongdoing.
most Czech press

Campaigning Paroubek egged again
Social Democrat (ČSSD) leader Jiří Paroubek’s team was showered with hundreds of eggs at a rally yesterday in Prague. Paroubek completed his speech despite sustaining several hits. Many of the 1,000 listeners present appeared to be ČSSD opponents. President Václav Klaus denounced the attacks, calling them a threat to democracy.
most Czech press

Czech TV head: Politicians want to manipulate content
In an interview with Hospodářské noviny, Czech Television director Jiří Janeček said politicians are trying to manipulate the content of public broadcasting. Janeček claimed to know of agreements among politicians aiming to prevent his re-appointment when his mandate runs out in mid-July. According to HN, Janeček’s chances to retain the post suffered a blow after the station aired a recording of a top aide to then-PM Mirek Topolánek trying to convince a Czech TV reporter to drop a story about an opposition MP who was backing the government.
HN 1

Cancelled Prague tram crossings to be restored
The Transport Ministry has decided to restore zebra crossings removed at the start of May under new regulations. The former regulation, which required the removal of hundreds of crossings at tram tracks without traffic lights, was opposed by Prague town halls.
most Czech press

Kocáb wants quota for women in politics
Michael Kocáb, minister for minorities and human rights, has called for amending the Czech election law to require parties to make at least a third of their candidates women.

Another arson attack against Roma
A Romani household in Zdiby outside Prague was attacked by bottle bombs on Sunday, Czech Television reported yesterday. The family escaped unharmed.
LN 4, MfD A4

Fischer won’t push church restitutions
PM Jan Fischer said yesterday that his interim cabinet’s mandate is not strong enough to tackle church property restitutions and the issue will have to wait until after October’s general elections.

More people to be eligible for insulation subsidy
State environmental officials are considering several changes to the law on subsidies for home insulation. Petr Štěpánek of the State Environmental Fund said the amendments could include offering retroactive subsidies for prior reconstruction if the homeowners make new changes; in such cases the applicant could seek up to half his or her costs back. Some 250,000 people will be able to get the subsidy now, former Environment Minister Martin Bursík said.
HN 1, 6

ČSSD promises ’13th pension’
Social Democrat leader Jiří Paroubek said yesterday that the highlight of his party’s campaign for October’s general elections will be a promise to introduce a “13th pension” equal to the one-month salary bonus paid in some public jobs.

Rail travel disrupted by storms
Fierce storms closed about 10 rail lines on Tuesday night, with the worst damage sustained in south Bohemia. Most lines reopened yesterday morning.

Respekt named best magazine of 2008
The weekly Respekt was named the magazine of the year 2008 in the Časopis roku contest organised by the Czech Publishers Association.

Ex-Union banka managers face jail for risky loans
Police have asked prosecution to indict seven former managers at Union banka for providing high-risk loans. The bank lost some CZK 3 billion in these transactions and went bust in 2003.
most Czech press

ECM curtails Q1 losses
Prague-listed ECM Real Estate Investments lost EUR 900,000 in the first quarter of 2009, an improvement from the firm’s EUR 14.6 million Q1 loss last year.
HN 23, E15 12

State calls tenders amid road funding shortage
The Road and Motorway Directorate has launched six tenders for road construction and repairs worth CZK 4 billion, despite a lack of infrastructure funds. Václav Matyáš, head of the Czech Association of Building Entrepreneurs, called the move “foolish”, saying the state still owes builders money for previous motorway projects.

Janota queries final costs for state treasury tender
Finance Minister Eduard Janota said he will not approve last September’s successful bid by a consortium consisting of IT firms IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Logica and SAP for a contract to simplify the state treasury system until he knows the total expenses are final. The expenses were initially calculated at CZK 2.4 billion, but Janota said some project costs were not included. He will decide on the matter by the end of June.
HN 15

Bank sees mortgage market shrinking more
Hypoteční banka CEO Jan Sadil says mortgage lending this year is likely to drop more than previously thought. Total mortgage volume of CZK 90 billion would be “a very good result”, Sadil said. Last year Czechs drew mortgages worth CZK 114 billion.

PwC: Quarter of Czech firms cutting jobs
A fourth of Czech firms are laying off employees, half are getting rid of agency workers and 30% have frozen new hiring, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers survey.

Prague more than CZK 7bn in black last year
The city of Prague recorded a budget surplus of CZK 7.155 billion for last year. City officials earlier this year agreed to give the bulk of surplus funds to the Prague Public Transport Company. In 2006 and 2007, the city recorded surpluses of CZK 803 million and CZK 831 million, respectively.

New Budvar beer to debut in June
Brewery Budějovický Budvar announced the launch of its new 11-degree beer Pardál Echt. Retailers will start selling the new lager in June, brewery director Jiří Boček said.
HN 18, Právo 15

New energy firm about to hit market
The Energy and Industrial Holding Company (EPH), a new joint venture established by the PPF Group and Czech-Slovak investment group J&T, will start operations in June if approved by the antimonopoly office, EPH head Daniel Křetínský said Wednesday.
HN 15-17

Czech clothing sector sinks 16% in 2008
Total sales by the Czech textile and clothing industry dropped by 16.4% year-on-year in 2008 to CZK 46 billion, the worst result since 1997, according to trade magazine TextilŽurnál.

Dairy consumption falters after years of growth
Average annual consumption of dairy products in the Czech Republic last year dropped by 0.5% to 242.6 kg per person, the first decline since 1997, according to the Czech and Moravian dairy association.

Rum, vodka consumption on the rise in ČR
Consumption of vodka and rum in the Czech Republic has almost doubled since 2004, when demand for the spirits decreased due to higher excise tax, the Czech spirit producers union said Wednesday. Czech companies produced almost 65 million litres of spirits last year, up 21% from 2007.

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