News Saturday, MAY 20th, 2000
The European Commission is now less optimistic about the prospects for the Czech economy. In its regular half-year report, the Commission says it expects growth of just 1.8 percent this year - down from the 2.8 percent it predicted in it´s last report in December.
The report shows higher growth in other EU candidate states such as Poland, Hungary and Slovakia.
It says the Czech economy is a typical example of neglected restructuring. These reforms are taking place only now and their effect will be felt later, the Commission says, adding that the current mild revival is mainly due to increased demand in EU markets.
According to the Commission report, unemployment is higher than the nine percent shown by official figures because as many as 140,000 employees are not being paid or are receiving only some of their wages. The real jobless rate could be 12 percent.
However, the Commission also says the Czech Republic has the smallest balance of payments deficit of all EU candidate states and also has no problem with inflation.
Czech farmers have agreed on a list of demands for state aid after the drought that hit the Czech Republic this spring - even though the rain finally fell this week. The Chamber of Agriculture has produced eleven demands, starting with restructuring of loans and price floors for all farm products.
Other demands include relief on land tax for this year and higher subsidies. Farmers disgruntled by this year´s big heat wave have also called on the government to draw up a comprehensive system of compensation for unfavourable weather conditions.
The Chamber of Agriculture pointed out that the results of the drought are all the worse because there is no form of insurance against it.
The Czech President, Vaclav Havel, has granted an amnesty to a 19-year-old woman found guilty of drug offences.
The woman was given an eight-month suspended sentence last year under a controversial amendment to drugs legislation. This made it a criminal offence to have what is termed a "larger than small amount" of illegal substances. In this case she had grown three marijuana plants and offered the drug to schoolmates.
This is not the first time President Havel has granted amnesties to someone caught out by the new legislation, which he was strongly opposed to when it was approved by Parliament.
In March he set a 19-year-old man free who had received a four-year sentence after selling 19 marijuana cigarettes.
And finally the weather. This weekend will see cloudy skies and rain, with temperatures ranging from 14 to 19 degrees Celsius - time to cool off after so much sun, perhaps. And that´s the news.