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Czech Watch – 24 September 2001

24.9.2001 11:36

- Chamber of Deputies´ foreign committee chairman Lubomir Zaoralek sharply criticized last Thursday’s speech of the Chamber of Deputies´ chairman Vaclav Klaus in Brussels, where the latter had said that today's European Union is held captive by a false ideology of a unified continent and the idea of being European. Zaoralek added that Klaus´speech questioned the Czech Republic's entry in the EU and it was difficult now to imagine possible coalition between the CSSD and the ODS after the next parliamentary elections scheduled for mid-2002. The things Klaus said about the EU were "words of a small man from a small town" Zaoralek concluded.

- A solid majority of deputies in the Czech parliament passed a new bill on asylum drafted by the cabinet. The bill aims at preventing foreigners from using the country's asylum status to illegally enter other countries and restricts job opportunities for refugees. If passed, the bill should help speed up the asylum procedure and reduce its abuse. Interior Minister Stanislav Gross said that asylum seekers with other than economic or social motives should not be discouraged by the new law and should even face a more accommodating approach compared to now since a newly created institution would review decisions of the Interior Ministry. According to data by the UNHCR, the Czech Republic has been the 11th country in the world in terms of the number of asylum seekers, well ahead of all post-communist countries. The bill is yet to be discussed by the Senate and signed by President Vaclav Havel.

- EC chairman Romano Prodi and EU enlargement commissioner Guenter Verheugen repeated to Vaclav Klaus that neither the Czech-Austrian dispute over the Temelin nuclear power plant nor a debate about controversial Benes Decrees from 1945 cannot be an obstacle to the Czech Republic's admission into the EU. Benes Decrees sanctioned the deportation of 2.5m Germans from Czechoslovakia after World War Two.

- The Czech Republic's state debt rose from CZK 274.7bn at the end of 2001Q1 to CZK 287.6bn at the end of 2001Q2. The internal debt grew by CZK 19.1bn to CZK 274.9bn, while the external debt dipped by CZK 6.3bn to CZK 12.6bn. The Finance Ministry predicts the state debt to grow to CZK 362.9bn or 17.2 % of GDP by the end of this year. Bonds covering state budget deficit for 2001 will be responsible for the blow-up. Due to additionally passed laws the 2001 budget deficit will climb up to around CZK 95bn. The state debt, together with the debt of health insurance companies, off-budget funds and local budgets is part of the public debt. The Finance Ministry estimates the public debt at the end of 2001 at CZK 437.9bn, or 20.7 % of GDP. Primarily short-term treasury bills (51 %) followed by state bonds issues (45 %) finance the state debt. Banks hold 68 % of the state debt, foreign lenders hold less than 5 % of the state debt.

- The Czech crown first strengthened but later fell again against the dollar on Friday due to closing euro positions before the weekend. Also a Bank of Japan´s intervention supported the dollar. Against the euro, the crown was trading within a narrow band with low volatility. Late afternoon, the CZK/USD weakened to 37.60/63 from 37.10/12 on Thursday. Vis-a-vis the euro, the crown slightly gained to 34.23/27 on Friday from late Thursday’s 34.32/35.

- Bond prices slightly rose on Friday on average market activity. The state 6.30/07 bond, Skoda 7.25/05 or Radiomobil 8.25/04 pushed the price index up around mid-day. The state 6.95/16 bond closed nearly flat compared to Thursday at 102.90/20, yielding 6.63/59 %. The state 6.75/05 gained 10bps to 102.90/20, yielding 5.75/67 %.

Late on September 21 bond yield Late on September 20
State 6.75/05102.90/205.75/67102.80/10
State 6.95/16102.90/206.63/59102.85/15

(Martin Kupka)

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