News Wednesday, SEPTEMBER 23rd, 1998

Radio Prague E-News, September 23, 1998, Vladimir Tax

Hello and welcome to Radio Prague. I'm Vladimir Tax and we begin with a brief news bulletin. First the headlines.

These are the main points and now the news in more detail.

Government approves budget bill

At an extraordinary session on Tuesday, the government approved the 1999 budget bill, which plans a deficit of just under 27 billion crowns with revenues of 580 billion. Deputy Premier in charge of Economic Policy Pavel Mertlik told journalists that the government does not want to link the vote on its draft budget for 1999 with a confidence vote in the cabinet. Mertlik said that the proposed budget was considered reasonable by Czech National Bank Governor Josef Tosovsky, who attended the cabinet session. According to Tosovsky, the budget would not be a reason for changing the bank's policies and would not prevent a gradual lowering of interest rates,

Zeman: 20 billion budget deficit this years

According to premier Milos Zeman, the state budget this year is likely to end with a deficit of 20 billion crowns and last year, the budget had a deficit of 17 billion, although both of them were compiled as balanced.

Czech Republic more corrupt than Hungary, less than Poland

The Czech Republic has come 37th in a list estimating the level of corruption in 85 countries around the world. The Czech Republic appears to be more corrupt than Hungary but less than Poland, Belarus or Slovakia. The list was compiled by the international anti-corruption organisation Transparency International. The Czech Republic scored 4.8 on a scale ranging from 0 to 10, where 0 means "totally corrupt" and 10 "absolutely clean".

Havel hottest candidate for Nobel Peace Prize

Czech President Vaclav Havel is the hottest candidate for this year's Nobel Prize for Peace, according to Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Manuel Ramos Horta, a leader of the movement for the liberation of East Timor. He explained however, that this is only speculation because the Nobel Prize committee works in complete secrecy. Horta said during his visit to the Czech Republic that awarding the prize to Havel would be equal to the world recognition of Mahatma Gandhi.

British ambassador warns Rokycany Romanies against emigration

British Ambassador to the Czech Republic David Broucher warned the Romany community in west Bohemian town of Rokycany against seeking asylum in Great Britain. During his visit to the town, the ambassador said that only three of more than five hundred asylum- seekers had been granted asylum in Britain since the beginning of last summer. According to the latest information from Rokycany town hall, some four dozen Romanies from the town have left for Britain. Broucher stressed that a large majority of Romanies requesting asylum in Britain were being sent back to the Czech Republic and warned that if the number of asylum-seekers grew further, Britain would have to adopt adequate measures.

Govt support NATO membership

The government of Milos Zeman fully supports the Czech Republic's NATO membership, foreign minister Jan Kavan told CTK. He noted that in the past, some media sources had reported on the Social Democratic Party in such a way that it appeared it did not support the Czech Republic's accession to the Alliance. Minister Kavan stressed that the Social Democratic cabinet wants the Czech Republic to join NATO together with Poland and Hungary as soon as possible.

KDU about new taxes

The Christian Democrat MPs will not vote for an increase in the social insurance payments as proposed by the labour and social affairs ministry. Christian Democrat leader in the Chamber of Deputies, Jan Kasal said his party cannot support such an increase without following measures aimed at improving the whole social welfare system. The minority Social Democrat government is reckoning upon an increase in the social insurance payments in order to increase state budget revenues.

Czech economy boost uncertain

The state of the Czech economy this year is uncertain, the European Union says in its quarterly study on East European economies. According to the study, the only GDP growth motor in the current situation is foreign demand, and that fiscal and monetary policies will be the key factors for future development.

The sharp slow-down of the economic development which started last year had positive effects as well, the EU study says, because it initiated necessary structural changes, narrowed the foreign trade deficit and slowed down excessive wage rises.

Trade Union session

The Czech chamber of trade unions, which held its general assembly on Tuesday said it would focus on fighting unemployment in the future. According to union leader Richard Falbr, one unemployed person costs the state more than 100 thousand crowns a year. The unions will also push for an increase in unemployment benefits and want the government to work out a programme for fighting unemployment.

Latest Opinion Polls

According to the latest opinion poll conducted by the STEM agency, the popularity of political parties remains almost unchanged since the June parliamentary elections. The survey revealed that the Social Democrats are the strongest, followed closely by the Civic Democratic Party. The only parties that recorded a decrease in support are the Republicans and the Pensioners party, both of which failed to get into parliament.

According to the poll, the most popular member of the minority Social Democratic cabinet is justice minister Otakar Motejl, the only minister with no party affiliation.

Another opinion poll conducted by the STEM agency showed that the number of those who oppose the Czech Republic's accession to NATO has decreased to 39 percent, and the number of those who support it has held at around 60 percent.

Czech weather report

And finally, a brief look at the weather. On Wednesday, the weather in the Czech Republic will still be influenced by a high- pressure area. We are expecting a mostly clear day with afternoon highs ranging from 16 to 20 degrees Celsius. Thursday and Friday should be much the same, although partially cloudy with temperatures between 17 and 21 degrees Celsius.

And that's the end of the news.