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Czech Watch – 20 April 2001

20.4.2001 8:55

Czech Air Force Commander Ladislav Klíma decided to leave the army. Klíma's spokesman told ČTK that Klíma was considering ending his professional military career for personal and service reasons. Klima rejected speculation that he is considering cooperation with Lockheed Martin, one of five contenders to supply the Czech Air Force with supersonic planes. Klima (52) - a graduate of Western schools and one of the best evaluated Czech military professionals - became Air Force commander in 1997 when training of pilots was severely reduced due to a shortage of money and some pilots had to stop flying altogether. Year later eight pilots died in plane crashes. Klima supports buying of new supersonic fighters but ODS demands postponement of the purchase. Defense Minister Vetchý admitted that Klíma is not the only general who does not intend to prolong his contract with the army.

KDU-ČSL national committee decided that Cyril Svoboda had harmed the party by his statements on Miroslav Kalousek and should therefore explain his allegations and present concrete evidence. Kalousek's critics say he was responsible for huge losses at the Defence Ministry during his time there (as Deputy Minister). For this reason Svoboda, a former 4K leader, refused to include Kalousek in the Quad-Coalition shadow cabinet he was trying to form. A week ago Kalousek resigned from his posts both in the KDU- ČSL and the 4K, of which the KDU-ČSL is a member. KDU-ČSL deputy chairman Pavel Severa rejected the possibility that Svoboda might be thrown out of the party.

Senate Chairman Petr Pithart criticized Czech diplomats for their unprofessional involvement in drafting this year's resolution on human rights violations in Cuba. The Czech Foreign Ministry had included criticism of the US embargo against Cuba in the original draft of the resolution. The criticism was left out of the final version, after the USA had expressed strong objections to the passage. UN Human Rights Commission passed the final wording of the resolution on Wednesday. According to Pithart, it is good that the issue provoked "a fundamental and excited discussion" on human rights, attitudes towards undemocratic regimes and the effectiveness of the sanctions in the Czech Republic.

ČNB said on Thursday that its weekly board did not take any monetary decision. No further comments were provided. The bank last cut rates on February 22. The key two-week repo rate is now at 5.0 %. The board is due to hold a monthly monetary policy meeting on April 26.

CZK tried to break through its resistance level of 34.20 to EUR on Thursday but failed and rebounded later due to reinvigorated EUR/USD. According to dealers, overall sentiment for the currency remains to be positive. The crown was trading at 34.42/45 in late afternoon trade from 34.32/34 late Wednesday. CZK/USD rose to 38.61/64 from 38.77/80 late Wednesday. Dealers see a range of 34.20-50 for Friday.

The longest state 6.95/16 bond rose 50bps to 105.45/75, yielding 6.37/33 %. The state 6.75/05 up five basis points to 104.35/65, yielding 5.45/36 %. ČNB held a Dutch-style auction of 52W T-bills, yielding 4.94 %. The CZK 8.0bn tranche was oversubscribed. The yield in the previous 52W T-bill auction on January 25 was 5.53 %. Ministry of Finance will auction a CZK 5bn tranche of 6.40/10 state bonds on April 20. No maximum yield was set for the tranche.

late April 19 bond yield late April 18
State 6.75/05104.35/655.45/36104.30/60
State 6.95/16105.45/756.37/33104.95/25

(Martin Kupka)

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