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Czech Watch – 9 July 2001

9.7.2001 8:45

PM Zeman discussed institutional reform of the EU and its enlargement at a two-day international conference held behind the closed door in Austria. Croatian President Stipe Mesic, President of the Austrian Central Bank Adolf Wala, head of Austrian opposition Social Democrats Alfred Gusenbauer and premiers of Brandenburg and Northern Rhine-Westphalia Manfred Stolpe and Wolfgang Clement also attended the event.

After about one year of investigation, a special parliamentary commission concluded that the contracts on IPB sale to CSOB were strongly biased in favor of CSOB to the detriment of the tax-payers and that ex-finance minister Pavel Mertlik (CSSD) bears the main responsibility for it. On the other hand, the commission sticks to its preliminary finding that the state participation in solving the IPB crisis in June 2000 had been necessary. ODS deputies expressed their satisfaction with the following recommendation of the Chamber of Deputies that the government should modify contracts concerning the sale of the IPB to the CSOB. CSSD and part of Freedom Union deputies voted against the recommendation. The Lower Chamber says that if an agreement with CSOB is not reached, the government should consider going to an independent court. The government is also asked to publish the contracts on IPB sale from last June. Finance Minister Rusnok is pessimistic about the possibility of making any substantial change in the contracts. He considers the Chamber's resolution to be a "political conclusion”, implementation of which “is far from reality”. Also CSSD leader Spidla rejected the recommendation and said that the debate on IPB in the Parliament had confirmed that the government had prevented an economic catastrophe.

The Agriculture Ministry announced that Czech Republic has tested more than 18t cattle animals so far for mad cow disease (BSE) with a single positive result detected in South Moravia early in June. Veterinarians are now working out alternative solutions to the liquidation of the disease in case another animal test turns out positive.

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) works on its second audit of the Czech Republic's trade policy. The purpose of the audits is to stimulate WTO members to comply with the rules and obligations adopted in their trade agreements. Deputy Industry Minister Maceska said that the low number of protective measures still applied by the Czech Republic is fully in line with the country’s obligations.

57 % of Czechs are dissatisfied with their government and parliament, while 23 % assess performance of both institutions positively, according to a June poll by STEM. The government is assessed better than the parliament. Before 1997, 35-40 % of respondents assessed parliament's work very or rather good but since than the figure has slipped to 25-28 %. Of the people who are satisfied both with the parliament and government, some 30 % would vote for the ODS and another 30 % for the CSSD.

The Czech crown was oscillating in a narrow range of 33.72-33.76 CZK/EUR on Wednesday, close to its all-time high. In late afternoon, the currency was trading at the same level as late on Tuesday, i.e. 33.73/76 CZK/EUR. Vis-a-vis the dollar, the crown ended trading at 39.93/95 CZK/USD on Wednesday, slightly down from 39.79/81 on Tuesday afternoon.

Bond prices fell during a rather weak trading on Wednesday. The state holidays on July 5 and 6 were blamed for extraordinary low market activity. Increased activity is expected this week, namely on Thursday when CSO is going to publish June CPI inflation. The State 6.95/16 lost 20bps to 100.00/30, yielding 6.94/91 %. The State 6.75/05 dipped 11bps to 102.04/34, yielding 6.09/99 %.

late July 4 bond yield late July 3
State 6.75/05102.04/346.09/99102.15/45
State 6.95/16100.00/306.94/91100.20/50

(Martin Kupka)

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