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Zeman praises economic growth’s effect on living standard

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Lany, Central Bohemia, Dec 26 (CTK) – President Milos Zeman praised the state of Czech economy and its effects such as the rising pensions and average wage or a low unemployment rate in his Christmas message on Monday, criticising low public investments, subsidies to renewable sources and certain welfare benefits.

In his annual message, broadcast by several TV and radio stations, Zeman said the economy performs well though its growth has slowed down slightly.

“I am very glad that the average monthly wage grew by more than 1000 crowns this year, and that, of course, pensions will be indexed accordingly,” Zeman said.

The rise in pensions at the beginning of 2016 was meagre, he said and appreciated the expected 300-crown increase in the average monthly pension next year.

Zeman said the expected balanced or even surplus 2016 state budget result is a good piece of news.

The government owes this result to the economic growth but also to its more effective collection of taxes and prevention of tax fraud,” Zeman said.

“All these are good economic pieces of news,” he said.

In 2016, the average monthly gross wage rose by 1,170 crowns or 4.5 percent to 27,220 crowns against the previous year. With inflation being subtracted, the real increase in people’s earnings was 4 percent, according to the Czech Statistical Office (CSU).

Pensions are annually indexed as of January 1, in accordance with the relevant law. In 2015, they were increased by an average 200 crowns a month, and in 2016 by a mere 40 crowns, with pensioners receiving a one-off subsidy of 1,200 crowns in February.

As from January 2017, monthly pensions will rise by an average 308 crowns.

Zeman criticised a low volume of public investments.

“It is a half lower than in 2015, though it is investments that form the basis for our future,” Zeman said.

He spoke about a failure to build new motorways and other transport projects, in consequence of which the construction industry has been declining, though it should be an indicator of economic growth.

Like during the recent parliamentary debate on the 2017 budget bill, Zeman criticised what he called excessive state subsidies going to solar power plants.

“This mistake is to blame on the previous governments and parliaments in 2005, but this does not mean that we should not fight against it,” Zeman said.

He also repeated his criticism of some kinds of welfare benefits.

Welfare benefits should not go to the unemployed who refuse to accept jobs offered to them, he said.

Zeman mentioned the March 2016 Czech visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping as a significant event in the field of economic diplomacy.

“China is the biggest foreign investor in Germany. It would be silly of us not to use similar opportunities,” Zeman said.

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