News Thursday, OCTOBER 15th, 1998

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Hello and welcome to the programme. I'm Alena Skodova and we start with a bulletin of domestic news:

Parliament-budget

After a fierce all-day debate, the lower house of parliament on Wednesday rejected the government's budget proposal for 1999, which envisaged a deficit amounting to nearly 27 billion crowns. Defending their bill, cabinet ministers argued that a steep deficit was the only way to reverse the accelerating economic decline in the country, but, with the exception of the communist party, the house remained unconvinced rejecting the bill by 101 to 97 votes. However, the house of deputies approved, in their first reading, proposed government bills on increased consumer and income taxes, intended to bring more money into state coffers.

The Social democrat cabinet has to submit a new version of its 1999 draft budget, within a period of 30 days, explaining how deficit funding would be used to boost growth. In line with parliament's demands, the government must also submit a work schedule on reforming the social security system and a timetable for its plans to sell-off state shares in companies.

Europalia - Havel

President Vaclav Havel arrived in Brussels on Thursday morning, to open a three month long festival of Czech culture in Belgium, named Europalia 98 - the Czech Republic. President Havel considers the festival most significant, telling Belgian journalists that "culture is always prior to politics, not vice-versa," . Over the next three months, the Czech Republic will present in Belgium the best it has to offer from its cultural life: exhibitions, theatre performances, films, concerts and folklore dance performances. The festival will be opened on Thursday by the Belgian King Albert II, president Havel and his wife Dagmar, who is the chairwoman of its honorary committee.

Britain - visa

British ambassador to the Czech Republic, David Broucher, said that Britain might re-impose a visa requirement for Czech citizens if the number of people, seeking asylum in Britain, remains high. In question are mainly Czech Romanies, who keep on arriving in Britain seeking refugee status. As a result, the British ambassador, offered assistance with the realization of projects aimed at solving the Roma issue in the Czech Republic.

Foreum 2000 - Prague

The second international conference Forum 2000, which brings together some 500 experts on economics, social sciences and politology from around the world, was addressed on Wednesday by representatives of three major world religions. The Israeli Rabbi Meir Lau, envoy of the Great Sheikh Fadel El Zefzaf and Swedish bishop Jonas Jonson spoke about the role of faith in the global world. Rabbi Lau stressed that people should have the right to a free choice of religion. El Zefzaf spoke in favour of equality amongst superpowers and small states in the United Nations, while the Swedish Bishop told participants that religion is a certain system of values that influences the course of the world and that's why it cannot be ignored.

Information - survey

Almost half of Czech citizens - 47,3 percent - think that the government and the ministries unveil only little information about their work to the public and that they try to keep some facts secret, having no reason to do so. This is the result of the latest survey conducted by the Sofres Factum polling agency, which also revealed that especially entrepreneurs and businessmen feel the lack of information, and, suprisingly enough, some 50 percent of working men share their opinion. The agency has found out that even members and supporters of the ruling Social democratic party are not satisfied with information the government provides to citizens.

And that's the end of the news.