Business News

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Soaring petrol and diesel prices and the diplomatic disputes surrounding the launch of the Czech Republic's second nuclear power station at Temelin have been making the main headlines this week. These news stories somewhat overshadowed the announcement of the results of a public tender for the Fixed Wireless Access networks. These networks will make competition in fixed-line telecommunications easier. Those who are granted the licences will be able to use wireless access to customers from their backbone networks, without having to lay their own cables or hire existing metallic lines from the monopoly Czech Telecom. The winners are BroadNet Czech, which is 70-percent-owned by U.S.-based Comcast, then a consortium of a Czech data firm GiTy and German local loop operator StarOne, and finally, Nextra, a unit of Norway's Telenor.

Although fuel prices are a concern for Czech drivers, and the conflict with neighbouring Austria occupies the minds of Czech diplomats, the whole country has been preoccupied with preparations for the IMF and World Bank session.

The annual session of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund is due to start in a week's time here in Prague with a series of seminars and discussions, before the actual opening of the session itself on the 26th. At the same time, opponents of the two institutions are organizing their own seminars and discussions. Will these be just two isolated groups of people keeping to themselves or are they going to interact? Besides the so-called counter-summit organized by the radical Initiative Against Economic Globalisation, three other international non-governmental organizations, CEE Bankwatch Network, Friends of the Earth, and Jubilee 2000 on Wednesday announced their program: a forum called "A Different Message". It starts with a seminar at Prague Castle which will be attended by Czech President Vaclav Havel. I talked to Pavel Pribyl from Friends of the Earth: As Mr. Pribyl said, representatives of the IMF and World Bank have also been invited to participate. Petr Hlobil from CEE Bankwatch Network says the two institutions ARE willing to meet with NGO's, but as he pointed out, willingness to meet and discuss issues is one thing, but willingness to reform themselves quite another.