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Czech Watch - 21 August 2001

21.8.2001 9:10

- Deputy finance minister Eduard Janota told CTK that his ministry would not back a significant increase in budget revenues (and consequently expenditures). "If the government wants to give more to someone (a ministry - PF), it will first of all have to take from someone else," Janota said. According to Janota it is possible that budget revenues were only slightly expanded because of improved tax collection and higher inflation, which usually affects VAT collection. Opposition politicians and economists have criticized the cabinet for overoptimistic budget revenues. The individual ministries delivered their draft budgets to the Finance Ministry on Monday. Taking into account their proposals, the Finance Ministry will draft the first version of the state budget for 2002. The government will discuss the draft by September 10 and the final version will go to Parliament by end-September. CTK polls found out that the additional requirements of individual ministries surpass the government-approved expenditures by several tens of billions of crowns. - The Finance Ministry transferred a state contribution for 2001Q2 to 2.37m clients of pension funds. Compared to 2000Q4, the number of clients grew by 72t. The 2001Q2 contribution totalled CZK 663m and was a record amount in the history of the pension fund system in the Czech Republic. At the end of 1994, when the first pension funds were set up, the Finance Ministry registered first 183t clients. Five years later, in 1999, the number surpassed 2.0m. Only 17 out of the original 44 pension funds are still operating in the Czech market. About 80 % of the total number of clients are concentrated in 8 largest funds. - A group of Austrian activists, together with lawyers, will bring a lawsuit against the CEZ and the Westinghouse with the aim to achieve the two companies' unlimited liability for possible damage caused by the Temelin nuclear power plant. The activists want to file the lawsuit with the Upper Austrian Land Court in Linz in September. The lawsuit is also to make the two companies take measures to prevent harmful radioactive emissions and the endangering by Temelin's operation of plots owned by the plaintiffs. Upper Austria brought a similar lawsuit against CEZ in July. Environmentalists and lawyers are reportedly ready to file further suits over Temelin also with courts in the USA, the Czech Republic and other European countries. - The ODS decided to initiate talks about a realistic budget for 2002 in the Chamber of Deputies if there is a danger of a stopgap budget. The ODS considers a stopgap budget the worst solution and a bad signal for the EU. According to the ODS, a stopgap budget is increasingly attractive for the CSSD minority cabinet. ODS chairman Klaus argued that the 2002 budget would not only be the budget of the current government, but also of the cabinet, which would arise from the 2002 elections. A stopgap budget, based on this year's budget, would be valid next year if the parliament does not pass the draft 2002 budget. The draft budget for 2002, approved by the government in late July, projects a deficit of CZK 53bn including the expected loss of the Konsolidacni banka. - Late on Monday the crown stood at 34.02/06 to the euro, little changed from 34.08/11 late on Friday. The crown/dollar fell to 37.28/31 from 37.16/18 late Friday. - Bond prices significantly rose with the exception of shortest maturities. The state 6.40/10 bond rose 75bps from Friday's close to 98.05/35, yielding 6.70/65 %. According to dealers, the change was driven by excess demand from Friday's auction of the issue and weaker expectations of a substantial interest rate hike by the CNB next week. The longest state 6.95/16 rose 85bps at 101.15/45, yielding 6.82/78 %. The state 6.75/05 upped 40 points at 101.40/70, yielding 6.27/18 %.
Late on August 20 bond yield Late on August 17
State 6.75/05101.40/706.27/18101.00/30
State 6.95/16101.15/456.82/78100.30/60

(Martin Kupka)

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