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Czech Watch - 6 September 2001

6.9.2001 10:48

- The Czech cabinet approved the state budget draft for 2002, with a deficit of CZK 52.2bn. Revenues and expenditures are CZK 7bn higher compared to the preliminary proposal. The CZK 4bn needed for pension indexation (not included in the preliminary draft) will be taken from privatization proceeds. The calls of ministries for tens of billions of additional funding were naysaid. Mandatory expenditures should swallow 56 % of overall expenditures in 2002. Letting apart this year's loss of Konsolidacni banka, the proposed deficit complies with political agreements between the CSSD and the ODS. The government is about to discuss the state budget draft again on September 17. However, Finance Minister Rusnok indicated that the basic features would not be changed any more. The final budget draft must be submitted to the Parliament by the end of September.

- According to the latest version of the 2002-budget draft, the state debt in the Czech Republic is supposed to jump to CZK 408bn from CZK 359bn in 2001, i.e. to reach 18 % of GDP. The rapidly growing state debt has led the finance ministry to the assertion on insufficient capacity of the domestic market for the placement of state bonds and to the preference for borrowing abroad. The ministry could issue bonds abroad even if the CNB is against it. State debt, along with debt of health insurers, off-budget funds and local budgets, constitutes part of public debt, which is estimated to amount to CZK 403bn in 2001, or 19 % of GDP.

- The subsistence level in the Czech Republic will increase by an average 7.6 % from 1 October. The level for a single adult, for example, will rise from the current CZK 3770 to CZK 4100. The contribution for alimentation and other basic needs will increase by 5.9 % and the necessary household costs support by 12.5 %. Related welfare payments such as child benefits will rise correspondingly. The life subsistence concerns about 4 % of Czechs. Its hike will require additional CZK 832m till the end of 2001 and about CZK 3bn every year thereafter.

- Premier Zeman said yesterday he would not dismiss Minister Jaromir Schling and would not negotiate with the protesting representatives of driving schools and small car importers until the conflict between them and the transport ministry is jointly resolved. Outraged protesters blocked a nearby bridge across the Vltava River. About 200 cars blocked the parking lot in front of the Transport Ministry and several more hundreds of cars jammed the neighboring streets. The protesters demand that minister Schling, his deputy and a department director be dismissed because they are blamed for legislative chaos in the system of registration of imported used cars and in driving schools.

- The cabinet approved a constitutional bill on referendum. According to the bill, the president would declare a plebiscite on the proposal of a house of parliament, the government or a petition signed by at least 300t citizens. The referendum would ask fundamental questions of internal and foreign policy, including the Czech Republic's admission to the European Union or the use of nuclear power. Simple majority of votes would be required for a proposal submitted in a referendum to be accepted. The bill supposes that a plebiscite would be held only exceptionally and not more frequently than once in four years. Expenditures on one referendum are estimated at CZK 0.5bn.

- The cabinet decided that the consortium of Tele Danmark and Deutsche Bank would buy 51.2 % of Ceske radiokomunikace from the National Property Fund for USD 177m.

- Trading in the crown was calm on Wednesday and the traded volumes were low. CZK/EUR dipped to 34.15/18 from 34.10/13 late Tuesday, CZK/USD firmed to 38.38/40 from 38.45/47.

- State bonds lost and corporate issues gained in average trading on Wednesday. The corporate KB 8.00/04 bond rose 30bps from late Tuesday to 103.75/05 yielding 6.58/47 %. The state 6.75/05 bond lost 15bps to 101.55/85, yielding 6.77/74 %. The state 6.75/05 was flat at 101.80/10, yielding 6.14/04 %.

Late on September 5 bond yield Late on September 4
State 6.75/05101.80/106.14/04101.80/10
State 6.95/16101.55/856.77/74101.70/00

(Martin Kupka)

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