Press Review

All the Czech newspapers today feature front page photos of Frantisek Chvalovsky, chairman of the Czech Football Association. Mr Chavlovsky could have all his property confiscated if he's convicted of defrauding the Czech bank Komercni banka of 13 billion crowns in dodgy loans.

MLADA FRONT|A DNES writes that last year was a fruitful one for Czech industry. According to data published on Thursday, Czech companies enjoyed their highest profits since 1993, earning nearly 80 billion Czech crowns. Extremely important is the fact that not only selected industrial branches but almost all smaller industries, with the exception of textile and wood-processing industries, can boast of high earnings.

According to economic experts, though, it's foreign companies who enjoy the lion's share of this impressive industrial performance: they were responsible for two thirds of the record income last year. But deputy Trade and Industry Minister Zdenek Vorlicek says this doesn't mean that it's only rich foreign companies who are doing well in this country. On the contrary, there are a number of excellent Czech firms contributing a great deal to industrial growth, concludes MLADA FRONTA DNES.

Ondrej Schneider in LIDOVE NOVINY ponders the tax system in the Czech Republic. He writes that although taxes can win or lose elections, the system is not a frequent topic of discussion in the Czech Republic. We often hear that the Czech tax system is complicated, incomprehensive and bureaucratic, but that could be said about any tax system in the world, writes the paper.

The Czech system does have a truly weak point, though: it has to bring in 800 billion crowns a year to the state coffers, which is a huge sum. State income is high - the government collects 42 percent of VAT, while the average in OECD countries, most of which are far wealthier than the Czech Republic, is just 39 percent.

Common sense - and experts, too - say there's not much room to increase taxes any further, except by raising consumer tax, mostly on tobacco and alcohol. But Mr Schneider thinks the situation could get worse as there'll be growing pressure for tax increases in the future, writes LIDOVE NOVINY.

"Czechs come third in Viagra use," says a headline in PRAVO today. The article reveals that Czech men are the third biggest consumers of Viagra in Central and Eastern Europe, right behind Slovenes and Hungarians.

Patrik Machan, general manager of a pharmaceutical firm that sells Viagra in the Czech Republic, told journalists in Liberec that they sell 15 Viagra pills per 1,000 Czech men, which is ten less than in European Union, says PRAVO.

And finally, ZEMSKE NOVINY reports that the price of petrol in the Czech Republic is going up again, and now stands at nearly 30 crowns per litre. Although it's clear that this is due to increased prices of crude oil on the world markets and a weak crown against the US dollar, Czech refineries are increasing prices much faster than they are growing on the world's stock exchanges.

Refineries try to earn as much money as possible, says the chairman of the Association of Petrol Station Owners, Ivan Indracek: they buy crude oil at low prices and wait until the price rises so they can sell it at a profit. But then again all refineries do this, it's not a Czech speciality, Mr Indracek tells ZEMSKE NOVINY.