Press Review

The Trade and Industry Minister's ambitious plans to boost the Czech economy and an official confirmation of Czech government's plan to supply arms and military training to the Sri Lankan government to fight Tamil Tiger rebels, make the main headlines in the Czech daily newspapers on Friday.

All the papers carry photographs of the controversial former head of news at Czech TV, Jana Bobosikova, holding up a pint of beer to say goodbye to the station. Some of the newspapers also mention the latest scandal involving financial donations to the ruling Social Democrats.

MLADA FRONTA DNES writes that the Social Democrats were loaned 20 million Czech crowns before the 1998 general election by entrepreneur Karl-Heinz Hauptman. Mr Hauptman was eventually richly rewarded for his generosity - the party helped him to clinch a property deal worth half a billion crowns by selling a building in Prague to the newly established National Security Office.

LIDOVE NOVINY comments on Miroslav Gregr's plans to accelerate economic growth by massive state investment. The paper notes that Mr Gregr has no competitor in the government as far as the number of grand proposals, concepts and visions are concerned.

The latest plan will ensure that the Czech Republic remembers Mr Gregr for a long time after his term in office expires, because if it eventually materializes, it will leave the country with an immense debt burden while revenues from privatization will dissolve in dubious projects.

On its front page, ZEMSKE NOVINY carries a photograph of a butcher holding up a packet of meat with a large label reading "TESTED - BSE FREE". The paper reports that organic farmers have not experienced any problems with demand for their beef, as they never fed their cattle with bone meal and test every slaughtered animal for mad cow disease.

ZEMSKE NOVINY points out that organic producers have not been affected by the dramatic drop in beef sales, although their prices are as much as 25 percent higher than ordinary beef.

Also on the front page, the same newspaper reports on a worrying increase in obesity in the Czech Republic - Czechs, apparently, are the sixth fattest people in the world. According to medical studies, two thirds of Czech men and just over half of Czech women are overweight. But the most alarming finding, ZEMSKE NOVINY writes, is the accelerating percentage of obese children in the Czech Republic.

And finally, MLADA FRONTA DNES writes that the architectural pride of Prague, Charles Bridge, is in a very bad shape indeed. A probe showed that it is virtually falling apart - but neither the Prague City Hall nor the Ministry of Culture have enough money to pay for essential repairs.

The paper quotes a ministry official as saying that the necessary repair works would cost the Culture Ministry its entire annual budget. Experts warn though that time is running out, and if Charles Bridge is allowed to deteriorate further, radical action might be necessary which would inevitably change the appearance of Prague's most famous landmark.