The Czech government ended last year with a deficit of CZK 67.7 bn (USD 1.93 bn), Revenues for the year amounted to CZK 626.2 bn, while spending reached CZK 693.9 bn. The deficit is lower than expectations of Finance Ministry and others. Reasons can be found in operations with previous losses of Konsolidacni Banka (KoB). The government covered CZK 24 bn of KoB's 1999 loss from the 2001 budget, with the remaining CZK 12.1 bn to be covered this year. The KoB's 2000 loss has been lower than expected and covered mostly from revenues of the off-budget state-asset agency, the National Property Fund. Finance minister Jiri Rusnok added that
according to Maastricht criteria the state budget deficit reached CZK 68.9 bn (3.2% of GDP).
According to preliminary figures, Czech government debt increased by CZK 55.8 bn to CZK 345.1 bn in 2001, and its share in GDP rose from 14.8% to 16.2%. The public debt increased to CZK 418.3 bn (19.6% of GDP).
The government's privatization effort generated CZK 164 bn for the National Property Fund in 2001. Last year's most important privatization projects were those of Komercni banka and Ceska pojistovna, the sale of state-owned stake in Prazske vodovody a kanalizace, Ceske radiokomunikace, Jan Becher-Karlovarska Becherovka, Unipetrol, Transgas, and eight regional gas distributors.
Argentina missed a USD 28 mil bond payment (denominated in Italian lira) due on Thursday touching off a debt default that could become the biggest in history. Argentina is now expected to break the fixed exchange rate of the peso to the dollar introduced in 1991.
The European Central Bank kept its benchmark interest rate at 3.25% and suggested its four reductions last year may be enough to spur the region's stagnant economy.
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