Press Review

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Flood-related problems continue to fill the pages of all Czech dailies. And the focus is on two key questions. Who's to blame and who will foot the bill? Although it is clear that a natural disaster of such proportions could not have been averted there's a lot of squabbling at present as to whether enough was done to minimize the damage.

Flood-related problems continue to fill the pages of all Czech dailies. And the focus is on two key questions. Who's to blame and who will foot the bill? Although it is clear that a natural disaster of such proportions could not have been averted there's a lot of squabbling at present as to whether enough was done to minimize the damage.

The question of whether it was humanly possible to prevent the flooding of the Prague subway remains a front page issue in Mlada fronta Dnes. Studying the vast amount of statements and counter-statements, readers must inevitably get the impression that officials are tossing the responsibility of their decisions around like a hot potato. The subway management says it was only taking orders from the city's crisis management -and that it had been asked to keep the subway running for as long as possible in order to avoid panic.

The crisis management says it made no such request . The police say that whoever made the decision it could most certainly be classified as a criminal offense. There is criticism of the Prague mayor Igor Nemec for having down-played the danger in order to prevent panic. The mayor has rejected this and has asked the city police to guard his office at night since he suspects that important documents have been disappearing from his files.

Clearly, it will take plenty of investigation before police arrive at a definite conclusion. According to Mlada fronta Dnes, a city hall commission is now conducting a parallel investigation. Meanwhile, Lidove noviny, has focused on who's going to foot the flood-bill and it is clearly not happy with the government's proposal that some of the money should come from higher taxes for the rich -ie. people who make more than a million crowns a year.

Lidove noviny slams the proposal describing it as "dishonest and dishonorable", reminding the Prime Minister that in his recent address to the nation he promised that " we'd all carry an equal share of the flood burden" and warned that no one must misuse this natural disaster to suit their own ends.

Well, the communist party can celebrate, they've been pushing for this for years, Lidove noviny notes.

Pravo has more budget-related news for readers, reporting that politicians are now arguing over whether and how much they should increase taxes on gasoline and alcohol. On top of that, the promised wage increase for civil servants is unlikely to materialize, the paper says. The 13% wage increase promised to teachers, doctors, police and firefighters, among others, will probably drop by several percentage points because of the flood damage.

In its economic supplement, Mlada fronta Dnes says that while the price of gasoline, cigarettes and alcohol may grow, the price of most food products is expected to remain at the present level. This allegedly includes agricultural products, despite the flood damage to crops. However people living in flood-risk areas will most certainly have to fork out more for their annual insurance payments, the paper says. Two devastating floods in five years have led insurance companies to seek a safety net.

And finally, Pravo refers to the biggest planned expenditure of all - the government's original intention of buying a fleet of new fighter jets for the Czech Air Force. According to the Prime Minister, whom the paper shows sitting in the cockpit of a military helicopter wearing a pilot's helmet, the government will have to decide before the end of the year whether to abandon the idea altogether or whether to try and push for a compromise solution in the form of fewer jets or cheaper aircraft.