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Czech Watch - 30 August 2001

30.8.2001 11:33

The average wage in the Czech economy rose 9.3% year-on-year in 2001Q2 to CZK 14740. Over the same period, consumer prices grew by 5.0%. Therefore the real wage increased by 4.1 %. 2001Q2 average wages grew more rapidly in the non-business sector, where the real average wage grew by 4.8 %, while in the business sector only by 4.0 %. The wage growth in the non-business sector was accelerated by a 6 % increase in pay scales at the beginning of this year, as well as by an additional wage rise benefiting teachers and medical staff. Despite the stronger wage growth in 2001Q2, the average wage in the non-business sphere has remained CZK 1382 below that in the business sphere. Wage gap among industries further widened in 2001Q2. The same two branches that showed the highest growth rate of their average wage have already had their nominal wage level set well above the nationwide average: average wage in financial intermediation jumped 21.1 % year-on-year and in computing and related activities 16.7 % year-on-year. For the first half of 2001, the average wage grew by 9.3 %, and because consumer prices rose only 4.6 % in the same time period, the real wage increased by 4.5 %. The average registered number of employees decreased 1.0 % year-on-year to 3.1m in 2001Q2. In the business sphere, the number fell by 37.2t, in the non-business sphere the number grew by 4.3t.

Foreign Minister Jan Kavan surprisingly touched himself the question of the Temelin nuclear power plant at the European Forum in Alpbach. Kavan said that the Czech Republic perceived the fears of its neighbors' citizens as understandable, but because it did not consider them justified it would do everything to dispel them and assure the people that the plant is safe. Czech Foreign Ministry stressed that Kavan had not even hinted that the Czech Republic would consider not putting Temelin into operation.

The Czech government endorsed a plan transforming the Czech army into a fully professional organization by the end of 1996. The army would then have around 35t soldiers and 10t civilian employees. Within the next two months, Deputy Premier Spidla will try to gain support for the plan among the parties in the parliament, while Defence Minister Tvrdik will seek to win experts´support for the plan. The cabinet is to issue a report on the results of its negotiations by the end of October.

The Czech government backed Czech Airlines in its wage dispute with pilots threatening to begin an indefinite strike on Friday morning because of failed negotiations on overtime pay. The Transport and Communications Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday that pilots' demands were unacceptable. "The Minister and main shareholders expressed support of CSA's leadership ... in talks with CZALPA CSA," the statement said. CZALPA CSA is the CSA pilots´ trade unions. The cabinet also voiced fears that the fulfillment of the wage demands could harm the market value of the company ahead of its upcoming privatization. The principal shareholders in CSA are the National Property Fund and the Konsolidacni Banka.

According to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, contracts for the sale of the Czech power and gas sector will be signed with the winners of the respective tenders and the purchase price will be paid in the first half of 2002. The results of the tenders shall be submitted to the government for approval by the end of 2001. Analysts often expect Electricite de France to win the power tender, while in the gas sector, a battle is expected between the consortium Gaz de France-Ruhrgas-SNAM and Germany's RWE-Wintershall.

The Czech crown closed flat on Wednesday both against the euro and the dollar. CZK/EUR was trading at 34.21/24 late Wednesday, nearly unchanged from 34.20/23 on Tuesday evening. CZK/USD dipped negligibly at 37.61/63 from late Tuesday´s 37.59/61.

Bond prices grew on average on Wednesday. The data on wages in 2001Q2 were consistent with market expectations and rather supported market optimism ahead of the CNB Board meeting held today. The longest state 6.95/16 bond closed flat at 102.50/80, yielding 6.67/64 %, the state 6.75/05 gained 40 basis points at 101.90/20, yielding 6.11/01 %.

Late on August 29 bond yield Late on August 28
State 6.75/05101.90/206.11/01101.50/80
State 6.95/16102.50/806.67/64102.50/80

(Martin Kupka)

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