Daily news summary


Government approves 2019 budget with 40 bn crown deficit

The Czech government on Wednesday approved the draft budget for the year 2019. It counts on a deficit of 40 billion crowns (1.6 billion euros), the same amount as in the years 2020 and 2021, said PM Andrej Babiš (Ano) following a Cabinet meeting.

On the expenditure side, the focus is on investment, increasing pensions and raising salaries for public sector workers, Mr Babiš said. Some opposition politicians argued that during a period of strong economic growth, running such high budget deficits is irresponsible. They also said the level of investment was too low.

Average monthly old-age pension set to rise by 900 crowns as of January

The government has proposed increasing the average old-age pension by about 900 crowns as of January 2019. The fixed component of such pensions, which is the same for all and now stands at CZK 2,700, would rise by 570 crowns. The component reflecting the amount the recipient paid into the system during their working years will rise 3.4 percent.

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (Ano) has said the overall aim is to raise all pension levels – but first to help predominantly those pensioners now living at or below the poverty line. People with small pensions who retired years ago and those who earned less and therefore paid less into the social system will get a bigger hike; those who retired in recent years and have a higher pension would see a slower rise.

President Zeman willing to meet foreign minister candidate Tomáš Petříček

President Miloš Zeman has indicated that he plans to meet the Social Democrat’s new candidate for Foreign Minister, Tomáš Petříček, in the near future. Previously, he had rejected the party’s candidate Miroslav Poche, and the post has been vacant, with Social Democrat Jan Hamáček leading the ministry in the interim.

PM Andrej Babiš (Ano), who like the president had not backed Mr Poche, is reportedly in favour of the move. However, the foreign minister post appears likely to remain vacant until at least early October 2, the first available time in Mr Zeman’s calendar.

Ex-Interior Ministry employees charged in Fujitsu Technology case

Four former senior Interior Ministry employees have been charged with circumventing the Public Procurement Act and mismanaging state property in connection to a contract with Fujitsu Technology on the licensing of Microsoft products amended in 2008.

In September 2016, a Prague court sentenced former deputy labour minister Vladimír Šiška to six years in prison for abuse of office for having signed a disadvantageous contract with Fujitsu Technology on a system for distributing social welfare benefits.

A former director of an Interior Ministry department, Miroslav Duda, had received a three-year sentence, suspended for five years, in that trial. He is among the four ex-employees against whom fresh charges have now been brought.

Astronomical clock back in operation on September 28

Prague’s famous astronomical clock will go back into operation on September 28, St. Wenceslas’ Day. The clock at the city’s Old Town Hall has been undergoing repairs for several months. Freshly restored statutes of the apostles will reappear at 6 pm on the state holiday, having last been seen in early January.

The moving figures will emerge from stained glass hatches that replace metal ones installed in the 1970s, thus restoring that element of the time piece to its original form.

Interwar architecture focus of new Prague exhibition

A new exhibition entitled Architecture in the Services of the First Republic has just been opened at the National Technical Museum in Prague. The show highlights around 100 noteworthy buildings dating from Czechoslovakia’s interwar period, including Prague’s Legiobanka, the crematorium in Pardubice and the Baťa houses in Zlín.

Alongside structures characteristic of that period, the exhibition also features lesser-known public buildings and private villas. It runs until the end of October.

Average mortgage rate in August rose to 2.53 pct

The average mortgage rate rose marginally in August to 2.53 percent, according to data compiled by Fincentrum Hypoindex, whose figures are based on the real values of freshly agreed contracts, including refinancing deals.

In July, the average rate stood at 2.5 percent. Fincentrum chief analyst Josef Rajdl said that over the summer months, no major bank changed its mortgage rate, but a gradual rise is expected in the autumn months.

Weather outlook

Thursday should be clear to partly cloudy, with daytime highs of 25 to 29 degrees Celsius. Light showers are expected overnight in Western Bohemia, and rain is in the forecast for the Prague and Vysočina regions on Friday.