Press Review

Anxieties are growing in Prague as the city braces itself for next month's joint session of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which will attract thousands of anti-globalisation protesters from around the world. According to ZEMSKE NOVINY, the Ministry of Transport fears that air traffic controllers, who have long been disappointed by their working and salary conditions, might seize the opportunity and go on strike to press for their demands. This could paralyse air traffic at the least opportune moment. The paper quotes ministry officials as saying they are taking no chances and have been preparing for all contingencies for well over a year. A former transport minister and the state's chief negotiator during last year's ATC strike, Petr Moos, has been appointed as government commissioner responsible for keeping the skies over the Czech Republic safe. The paper notes that last year, air traffic controllers went on strike shortly after the end of the Yugoslav crisis during which NATO planes made hundreds of high-altitude flights across Czech airspace. They demanded the dismissal of their boss, a ban on overtime, and better pay. The strike was largely a flop and since then, they've been waiting for another chance, ZEMSKE NOVINY reports.

And staying with the IMF/World Bank scare, MLADA FRONTA DNES warns that Czechs know very little about the two institutions, their mission and how they operate. And yet, few see anything strange about their decision to meet in Prague. Czechs are also largely ignorant of the motives of young anti-globalisation protesters, and yet it doesn't seem strange to them that the police, paid out of their taxes, are bracing themselves for a clampdown on rioters. A generation of parents is sending the police out to fight a generation of their children and nobody quite knows why. Certainly, the paper notes, a few criminals may sneak in across the border and these should be dealt with firmly. But the majority of peaceful protesters will have an interesting message to put across. The IMF, they say, is a murky organisation, which robs poor countries of their sovereignty, sets unfair rules although it has no political right to do so, and imposes its ideas on peoples of different cultural backgrounds and traditions. This, the protesters claim, is the essence of globalisation. The rich are getting richer and the poor, poorer. A small group of wealthy individuals are running the world and pay no heed to the hopes and wishes of millions of ordinary people, says MLADA FRONTA DNES.

The new chief of the Agency for State Information Systems, Alexander Kratochvil, faces a tough challenge, reports CESKE SLOVO. By September, he is supposed to help the state recover an estimated 53 million crowns or about 1.5 million dollars that this agency, under his predecessor, squandered on projects connected with the Y2K problem--or rather on smooth transition of computer systems to the new millennium. The Supreme Audit Office has discovered that much of the money was wasted on projects only very remotely associated with the Millennium Bug. In short, more than three quarters of the 70 million crowns collected from taxpayers were misspent on information leaflets with little or no information value. Such as advice to households that problems with malfunctioning equipment, such as refrigerators, should be referred to authorised servicing personnel. Or on 300,000 CD-ROMs containing a handful of anti-virus programmes but dozens of computer games. Many of these contracts were granted to winners of public tenders, the paper points out, and lawyers are having a field day.