News Monday, JULY 03th, 2000

Finance Ministry proposes 20 billion crown budget deficit

The Finance Ministry has proposed a deficit of 20 billion crowns, or 500 million dollars, for next year's state budget, 15 billion crowns less than the planned deficit for this year. The budget proposes revenues of 613 billion crowns, a rise of 3.5 percent compared to this year, and expenditures of 633 billion crowns, a rise of just under one percent. The Finance Ministry predicts GDP growth to reach 3 percent in 2001, inflation 4.5 percent and unemployment almost 11 percent. The government says it will make education a top priority in its budget for next year. The Prime Minister Milos Zeman said that investment in education would lead to the revival of the Czech economy.

Prazdroj, Radegast, Velke Popovice merge to form new beer giant

Three of the country's largest breweries, Plzensky Prazdroj, Radegast and Velke Popovice, have announced a merger which will create the biggest brewery group in the Czech Republic. The new group - to be called Plzensky Prazdroj - will control 40 percent of the Czech beer market, producing the best-selling beers Pilsner Urquell, Gambrinus, Radegast and Velkopopovicky Kozel. The three breweries were bought last year by South African Breweries, the third biggest brewery group in the world. A report on Czech Television said that 10 percent of the workforce at the three breweries would lose their jobs.

20,000 Sokol members gather in Prague

20,000 members of the Sokol organisation have gathered in Prague for a weekend of marching, mass gymnastics and sports. Members of the Sokol marched through the city centre and held gymnastics and sports displays at a stadium in Prague. Sokol, meaning falcon, was founded during the 19th-century, with a strong emphasis on physical fitness and patriotism. It played an important role in the Czech national revival, and members of the Sokol were later persecuted by both the Nazis and the Communists. The weekend rally is an attempt to boost the organisation's popularity.

Ag Min to ask for seven billion crowns in drought compensation

The Minister of Agriculture, Jan Fencl, has said he will ask the government for seven billion crowns, or 185 million dollars, to be used as compensation for farmers whose crops failed in the recent drought. Millions of acres of crops were ruined over the last month as temperatures reached 38 degrees Celsius in places with no rain for weeks. The Agriculture Ministry had set aside only 200 million crowns to deal with the consequences of drought when the budget was drawn up last year.

Minimum wage rises to 4,500 crowns per month

The minimum wage in the Czech Republic rose on July 1st to 4,500 crowns, or just under 120 dollars per month, an increase of around 15 dollars. The Social Democrats announced after entering government in 1998 that they would increase the minimum wage in a bid to encourage the unemployed to seek work. Health insurance payments have also increased.

Police: human error to blame for train crash

Police say human error was to blame for Saturday's train crash near the southern town of Jindrichuv Hradec, which left 19 people injured. Two local trains collided head on shortly before one p.m. on Saturday. A helicopter ferried the injured to a local hospital, where three remain in a serious condition.

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan begins first official visit to Ireland

The Czech Foreign Minister, Jan Kavan, has begun his first official visit to Ireland, meeting his Irish counterpart Brian Cowen and representatives of the Irish Parliament. The main points of discussion of his two-day visit are European enlargement and further economic co-operation between Ireland and the Czech Republic. Mr Kavan is also to meet the Irish President Mary McAleese.


And finally a quick look at Monday's weather. It will be a warm and partly cloudy day tomorrow, with scattered showers and storms in some parts of the country. Temperatures will reach 26 degrees Celsius during the daytime, falling to 11 degrees at night.