Press Review

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For the regular citizens of Prague, the significance of the world bankers' rendezvous in the Czech capital dims in comparison with a highly irritating problem which has plagued Prague over the past three days. An estimated one third of all bank machines operated by the Ceska Sporitelna savings bank have been off-line. "Collapse!!!" shrieks LIDOVE NOVINY. The paper slams the bank for its apparent inability to tell them who was responsible. The paper complains that it was impossible by the time it went to press to ascertain what was actually going on at the bank. All phones at Ceska Sporitelna headquarters were either dead or constantly engaged. The bank merely issued a brief apology to its customers saying every effort was being made to sort things out.

MLADA FRONTA DNES today asks what membership of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank has done for the Czech Republic. The paper notes that ever since the start of economic reform a decade ago, both institutions have radically changed the lives of practically all Czechs. And these reforms would have been inconceivable if it hadn't been for money sent in by the IMF and the World Bank. There would have been no transition from a notoriously inefficient, centrally-planned economy to a free market. In the period of transition, the paper says, membership in both institutions was of key significance to the Czech Republic. The paper quotes the country's IMF envoy, Jiri Jonas, as saying that the financial cushion provided by the Fund helped ease the shock of lifting price controls and allowing free movement of goods in the early 1990s.

Staying with the IMF/World Bank shindig, PRAVO reports that hundreds of police officers from all around the Czech Republic, deployed in Prague as reinforcements to help the city police cope with crowd control during the meeting, are clearly worried about their role in the capital. A policeman from the North-Moravian town of Zlin told PRAVO that this would be a more difficult task than handling unruly football fans in the local stadium. This, he said, has been his only experience in crowd control techniques to date. And another one sounded quite anxious, saying he'd be posted outside Prague's Hilton--where most bankers will be staying.

And leaving aside the IMF, for a fraction of a second at least, "Afro-Czechs search for an identity", reads one headline in today's MLADA FRONTA DNES. It was boiling in Namibia and we couldn't go skiing, says a 21-year-old student of Prague's College of Agriculture. We couldn't understand them and they couldn't understand us, he says, they called us "tyvole" because that's what we say to each other, says his friend, a student of medicine. By way of explanation, "ty vole" is a Czech figure of speech, literally meaning 'you ox' but as meaningless as 'y'know'. Hepute Simon Nujoma is the grandson of Namibia's current president, and his colleague Isaac Nghaamwa hails from northern Namibia. Both men have spent more than half of their lives to date in Central Europe, their knowledge of their mother tongue and vernacular is limited, they love Czech beer... in short, they don't belong where they were born, and feel more at home here in the Czech Republic, MLADA FRONT DNES notes.