News Wednesday, SEPTEMBER 16th, 1998

Radio Prague E News Written / Read by: Pauline Newman Date: 16.9.98

Hello and a very warm welcome to the programme. You are tuned to Radio Prague, I'm Pauline Newman, first let's take a look at the main headlines of the day:

Those were the headlines, now let's take a look at the news in more detail..

Havel / USA

Czech President Vaclav Havel has begun his three day state visit to America. Apart from a series of gala events, talks between Mr Havel and US President Bill Clinton, will focus on next year's planned Czech accession to NATO and other joint security issues. A press conference will take place afterwards.

The state visit which ends on Thursday also includes lunch with Vice-President Al Gore and meetings with congressional including Senate majority leader Trent Lott.

Bill Clinton has met with Havel on several occasions, including an official visit in 1994, where the two ended up in a jazz club.

Presidential aides say Vaclav Havel one of the nominees for this year's Nobel Peace Prize, has a few answers prepared for journalists in case he his opinion is asked on Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky.

This is the first trip abroad for President Havel who nearly died from complications following surgery in late July.

Economists / GDP

Domestic and foreign analysts say they are expecting an economic fall back of about one percent for this year. This comes after the Czech statistical office revealed on Monday that the GDP in the second quarter of 1998, dropped by 2.4 percent compared to the same period last year.

Some specialists are predicting a drop in wages in the industrial sector and expressed fears that a strong currency could have a negative impact on Czech exports.

One analyst said that a drop of one percent in the GDP for the Czech Republic is no exaggerated nightmare scenario. He based his views on the deficit budget being planned by the government, saying it would limit not only the Czech National Bank but also any exchange restrictions.

Svoboda / Banks

Czech Finance Minister Ivo Svoboda confirmed on Tuesday that the Social democrat government intends to go ahead with the privatisation of three major Czech banks as soon as possible.

Speaking at a discussion forum on the subject of Czech banking and preparations for entry to the EU, he said the most important aspect of the privatisation schemes, would be finding reliable, solid partners to modernise the banks enabling them to compete on European markets.

The three banks in question are: Komercni banka, CSOB - the Czechoslovak Business bank and Ceska Sporitelna.

Mr Svoboda did mention that property issues which have been dogging Czech - Slovak relations could hold up some privatisation plans. He expressed hopes, however, that the forthcoming Slovak elections would clear the air, making way for improved negotiations.

Havel / Budget

Czech President Vaclav Havel who left for America on Tuesday, said before his departure, that although he is not against the planned deficit budget, he feared money would be sucked into what he called "black holes".

Speaking to journalists, the President said: "I know a little bit about budgetary and financial organisations, which are still tied to old, out dated communist rules and regulations and I know how much they tend to drain money".

The government intends to present Parliament with its proposal for a deficit budget, which has already caused much controversy and been unanimously rejected by all right wing parties. Even ODS leader Vaclav Klaus who has signed an agreement with Premier Milos Zeman that his party will lend its tacit support to the government, has said the ODS does not approve the draft.

Governor of the Czech National bank and former caretaker Prime Minister Josef Tosovsky, who is accompanying President Havel on his American trip, said on Tuesday, the bank is currently analysing the budget draft, trying to determine whether or not it will revive a flagging Czech economy.


Wednesday will see more of the wet, cold and windy weather we've had over the last few days. Daytime temperatures will reach about 15 degrees celsius, dropping overnight to as low as 5 degrees celsius in some parts of the country.

I'm Pauline Newman and that's the end of the news.