News Monday, JANUARY 04th, 1999

Those were the headlines and now the news in more detail:

Can minority government survive 1999?

An increasing number of political analysts are predicting that the present minority government of Social Democrats will not be able to deal with the country's serious economic problems. In a televised debate on Sunday, philosopher Vaclav Belohradsky and sociologist Jan Hartl both predicted a change of government before the end of the year, arguing that only a majority government with strong parliamentary backing could lead the country out of its present crisis. Deputy premier and social affairs minister Vladimir Spidla has sharply rejected this view saying that the Social Democrat cabinet was gaining credibility "slowly but surely" and was up to the task of reversing the negative economic trend.

1999 brings higher expenses

After boisterous New Year celebrations many Czechs are sobering up at the thought of higher household expenses, travel, postage and telecommunications fees this year. Real wages have dropped and most families are on a tight family budget. According to statistics only around 10% of all Czech households can put something aside for rainy days each month, others are either just making ends meet on what they make or depleting bank accounts. There is also a growing fear of unemployment, with some analysts predicting it could break the one digit barrier this year.

Church and State aim to settle their differences

A government commission aimed at resolving differences between the Church and the State is to be established and start working in January, according to culture minister Pavel Dostal. The culture minister himself was instrumental in settling a dispute late last year between prime minister Zeman and Cardinal Vlk over the commission's set up. Among other things the commission is to propose a solution to unresolved restitution questions and clarify the position and role of the Church in present day society.

Tighter legislation on drugs

As of January 1st an amendment to the criminal code gives police more leverage in combating drug-abuse and drugs trafficking. The new legislation allows police to persecute anyone caught with " anything over a small amount " of drugs in their possession. Police claim that the tightened legislation will help them track down traffickers better, but experts from Drop In centres claim that the law will only worsen the plight of addicts who need help rather than punishment. There is also a fear that it might worsen the AIDS situation, as addicts might be less willing to cooperate with health authorities.

Finally a look at the weather: a warm front moving in from the West should result in higher temperatures in the first half of the week. We are told to expect partly cloudy to overcast skies with day temps between 3 and 7 degs. Tuesday and Wednesday's temps will climb even higher -from 6 to 10 degs C.