Business News

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In brief

* Czech Finance Minister Pavel Mertlik has called on French companies to step up their investment in the Czech Republic to catch up with the massive inflow of British investment. The French are reportedly interested in the privatisation of Czech energy producers and distributors.

* President Vaclav Havel continues to search for a new governor for the Czech National Bank. He is in a hurry to appoint one before a new controversial law on the independence of the central bank comes into effect in January. After that, he would have to consult his choice with the government and parliament.

* More than half of Czechs believe the current pension system is unsatisfactory. However, only a few of them would be willing to bear the costs of transition to a new system. The Ministry of Labour and Social affairs has drafted new legislation for the pension system, which preserves the current scheme to a large extent and therefore has little chance of success in parliament.

* Czech transport companies - road, rail and air - have had to deal with increased costs this year due to soaring fuel prices. They are likely to react by cutting the number of lines and increasing fares. On the other hand, Czech Airlines is not considering such a step, choosing instead to compensate for the increased costs from higher revenues.

* and the State Office for Nuclear Safety has allowed the Temelin nuclear power station to increase output to 12 percent of its full running strength. The output will be gradually raised to 45 percent. Nuclear fission will then be stopped and the reactor will heat up again to full power. Thorough tests continue during the whole warming up process.

Czech Republic makes progress

On the eve of the 11th anniversary of the fall of communism, the European Commission indicated that the Czech Republic was--in economic terms at least--at the bottom of the list of most promising candidates. At the same time, the EU's commissioner for enlargement, Guenter Verheugen, suggested that the inadequacies in the Czech Republic's progress were the fault of the former Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus who ruled the country from 1992 until late 1997.

So how is the Czech Republic really doing more than a decade after the end of totalitarianism, and hopefully, three or four years before accession to the EU? I spoke to economic analyst Radomir Jac of Commerzbank: