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Czech Watch – 23 April 2001

23.4.2001 10:20

Economic growth in the Czech Republic should reach +3.2 % this year and +3.5 %, in 2002, according to a report submitted by Institute for International Finance at the Annual EBRD Conference. Large fiscal deficits and costly restructuring of the banking industry pose a threat for sustainability of public finance. Given that, a thorough reform of the expenditure side of public budgets following next parliamentary elections appears to be necessary. EBRD considers social security reform to be a crucial task for the Czech Republic in the years to come.

Planning Offices in the Czech Republic issued 17469 planning permissions in January and February, 2.3 % less than in the same period last year. Estimated cost of the permitted construction works rose 0.9 % to CZK 28.3bn. The number of permissions for non-residential buildings fell 10.2 % year-on-year, while permissions for residential buildings expanded 3.2 %. About a half of the permissions were granted for building, slightly less than a half for new objects. From the regional point of view, strongest investment activity is expected to take place in Central Bohemia (18 % of total permissions) and South Moravia (11 %).

Following the first meeting of EU Finance Ministers with their counterparts from candidate countries in Malmö, Jiří Rusnok said that Czech Republic would strive to achieve relatively balanced public budgets as soon as possible. Rusnok promised that the draft version of the state budget for 2002 would be in line with this effort. The first budget draft can be discussed in the cabinet within two weeks. Rusnok added that the budget proposal prepared by his predecessor Pavel Mertlik would not be profoundly modified and the basic philosophy - to cut the deficit considerably compared to 2001 - remained unchanged. As to the ecological tax, Czech Republic is going to wait until the debate on the issue within EU comes to clearly defined conclusions. Independent from the EU debate, Ministry of Finance has developed a concept of changes making Czech tax system more compatible with environmental demands. When speaking on privatization, Rusnok expressed his belief that not only České radiokomunikace but perhaps also energy and gas companies could be sold until the end of this year. Rusnok declined to comment on the expected privatization revenue from the sell-off of Komerční banka; with respect to the UMTS he reduced the original plan to get CZK 20bn down to CZK 15bn. Rusnok acknowledged that actual privatization revenues would lag behind original expectations of the social-democratic government.

Czech export of high-tech products rose 46.5 % year-on-year in 2000 to around CZK 87.6bn. In relative terms, hi-tech generated 7.8 % of total Czech exports. High-tech import increased 44.1 % to CZK 177.4bn and its share in total import was 14.2 %.

CZK was trading calm on Friday. Following 34,55 CZK/EUR in the morning, the crown strengthened to 34,45 Kč za euro in the afternoon. The development of CZK/USD rate reflected the euro-dollar market, with 38.30 CZK/USD late on the day.

A CZK 5bn tranche of the CR 6.40/10 government bond yielded an average 6.32 % in Friday‘s auction. The issue was heavily oversubscribed, with demand for CZK 16.25bn worth of the bond. The issue raised the volume of the bond to 17 billion crowns. The mighty demand in the auction reversed the market sentiment. State CR 6.40 gained 40bps, EIB 6.5/15 50bps, CR 6.95/16 85bps and MERO 10.3/11 full 140bps.

late April 22 bond yield late April 19
State 6.75/05104.45/755.42/33104.35/65
State 6.95/16106.30/606.28/25105.45/75

(Martin Kupka)

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