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Czech Watch - 22 August 2001

22.08.2001 11:11
Autor: 

- Britain is considering returning its immigration officials to the Prague airport as the number of Czech asylum seekers in London has increased again. The Czech government is going to discuss the issue on Wednesday. British immigration checks at Ruzyne airport were lifted on August 9. British and Czech representatives gave different information on how quickly and under which conditions the checks could be resumed. According to the daily Lidove noviny the British Home Office had registered several dozen new applications since the UK had lifted its immigration checks in Prague.

- German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said that the Czechs had the sovereign right to decide on their own energy policy and Germany would not block Czech EU accession because of the Temelin nuclear power plant. Czech PM Milos Zeman and Gerhard Schroeder said after a meeting that they regarded the Melk process - an agreement reached between the Czech Republic and Austria in December on an environmental impact assessment and safety checks at Temelin - as decisive. Both Zeman and Schroeder expressed support for the EU's position on Temelin. Czech-German relations are excellent and free of any problems, said Schroeder.

- Deputy Finance Minister Eduard Janota said that the government will probably fail to fill at least ex post the CZK 9bn revenue hole in the last year’s budget if it does not receive CZK 20bn worth of planned proceeds of the sale of UMTS licences. The Czech Parliament decided in July not to approve the state final account for 2000 due to billions of crowns spent beyond the permitted framework. The cabinet consequently promised to close the non-planned budget gap in 2000 via 2001 budget savings. Janota admitted that he did not know a solution to the problem yet and added that further developments concerning the state final account would depend on decisions made by the cabinet and the Parliament.

- The question, whether the Czech Republic issues government bonds on foreign markets soon, has still been undecided. Ministry of Finance (MoF) would like to borrow abroad, while the CNB prefers bond issues on the Czech market. The Ministry says that the state debt is soaring and the capacity of the Czech market may soon cease to suffice to absorb the state bonds, but the CNB is afraid that the crown would strengthen. The talks on the matter will continue next month. Treasury bills maturing in up to one year currently finance 60 % of the Czech state debt. The MoF intends to prolong the maturity of bonds and to reverse the bonds/bills ratio to 60:40. Deputy Finance Minister Janota said CTK that foreign markets would be interested in Czech bonds. "Their yield could reach the level seen with Hungarian or Polish issues," he explained.

- Government agency CzechIndustry will support the Czech industry in 2001 with less than a fifth of the planned sum. The EU Phare program provides EUR 2m and roughly the same sum arrives from the state budget. The reasons for a considerable decrease in the promised sum have been multiple, ranging from the complicated structure of Phare, over money shortage, up to a poor quality of submitted projects. The available money will be spent on quality improvement of production and services and on the introduction of technologies and products for SMEs in the structurally weak regions of North Moravia and Northwest Bohemia. CzechIndustry participates in the drafting of the Phare 2002 and 2003 projects and waits for an EU accreditation for dealing with EU funds. The Industry and Trade Ministry set up CzechIndustry in November 2000.

- The Czech crown has been driven mostly by euro/dollar movements. Late on Tuesday the crown was trading at 34.07/09 to the euro, slightly down from Monday close at 34.02/06. The crown/dollar dipped to 37.37/39 from 37.28/31 late Monday.

- Bond prices soared to three-month highs on Tuesday afternoon after the CNB board member Jan Frait's comment that recent data made him lean towards keeping interest rates unchanged. The statement caused buying all along the yield curve. Late on Tuesday, the 6.95/16 stood at 102.15/45, 100bps up from Monday close, yielding 6.71/67 %. The 6.75/05 rose 40bps at 101.80/10, yielding 6.14/05 %. A Reuters poll last Friday showed a slight majority of analysts expecting an interest rate hike on August 30, most likely by 25bps.

Late on August 21 bond yield Late on August 20
CZK/EUR34.07/09-34.02/06
CZK/USD37.37/39-37.28/31
State 6.75/05101.80/106.14/05101.40/70
State 6.95/16102.15/456.71/67101.15/45


(Martin Kupka

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