Press Review

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All Czech daily newspapers today carry photographs and extensive reports from the Academy Awards ceremony, where the Czech nomination "Divided we fall" was defeated by the highly tipped Taiwanese film "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" for the award of best foreign-language film. All the papers also mention the record-breaking strengthening of the Czech currency.

The business daily HOSPODARSKE NOVINY reports that the steady and massive inflow of Foreign Direct Investment to the Czech Republic has strengthened the Czech currency. The paper notes that on Monday, the Czech crown was at its strongest ever against the euro.

HOSPODARSKE NOVINY expects this trend to continue during the ongoing privatization of the remaining state-owned companies. Estimates say that the exchange rate could reach 34 crowns to the euro. However, the paper warns that such a development could be in conflict with the Czech National Bank's policy. This could cause The Central Bank to verbally intervene in order to weaken the Czech crown to a level acceptable to the Bank.

Today's ZEMSKE NOVINY reminds its readers that Czech castles and other historical monuments are once again open to visitors following the winter holidays. The paper provides a convenient table of opening hours and basic information about each sight. The paper writes that tourists can look forward to many novelties, including new rooms and exhibitions opened to the public at some places.

Elsewhere, the same paper alleges that regional state administration bodies are wasting state subsidies. The paper quotes the Supreme Audit Authority as saying that hundreds of millions of Czech crowns, which had been allocated to subsidise local transport systems, have disappeared without a trace.

MLADA FRONTA DNES writes that Czech politicians are facing a bit of a problem if they want to satisfy the voters. The newspaper which has analysed recent opinion polls, has shown that the majority of Czechs would like their country to be socially sensitive but at the same time would also like to enjoy low taxes.

Illustrating the point, MLADA FRONTA DNES gives us this entertaining example. When asked whether it is all right for the government to subsidise large industrial companies to prevent them from collapse, provided that those measures would prevent an increase in unemployment, most poll respondents said "yes". However, when the same questions is altered to ask whether it is all right to save large industrial companies from collapse using tax- payers money, the majority of poll respondents said "no".