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Czech Watch – 17 April 2001

17.4.2001 8:56

Recently elected head of ČSSD Vladimír Špidla and fresh Quad Coalition (4K) leader Karel Kühnl admitted the possibility of the post-election coalition cooperation between the two political subjects. ČSSD and 4K differ in their views of many hot political issues, including the pension reform, the budget reform, the share of double taxation, or the introduction of tuition fees.

Karel Kühnl declared on Sunday that he would attempt to stop personal disputes in the 4K as fast as possible. The disputes culminated on Thursday when KDU-ČSL deputy chairman Miroslav Kalousek resigned from all his party posts and as a member of the 4K shadow cabinet. Kalousek's nomination to the shadow cabinet prompted former 4K leader Cyril Svoboda (KDU-ČSL) to resign. Freedom Union deputy chairwoman Hana Marvanová resigned as a member of the 4K political council for the same reason. Kühnl claimed that the widely publicized skirmish in the 4K was a unique event and it only concerned a couple of people.

New Finance Minister Jiří Rusnok intends to reconsider Pavel Mertlík´s proposal for an earlier privatization of selected energy companies. The cabinet’s rejection of an accelerated sell-off of minority stakes in four energy distributors provoked Mertlik’s resignation last Tuesday. Rusnok said that higher speed of privatization was one of his priorities. He added that a thorough analysis was needed to find out why privatization has become stuck.

Jiří Rusnok warned that higher taxes are not on the agenda in near future because of existing political agreements, but their change would be unavoidable in a longer term. The current tax quota (about 37.5 %) should increase by some tenths of a percentage point. In which form taxes should be raised is subject to discussion, said Rusnok. According to Rusnok, Czech Republic has relatively low direct taxes, namely personal income taxes, while indirect taxation of labor in terms of various kinds of mandatory insurance appears quite high.

The Czech crown was steady in thin trade on Friday with many markets shut for the long Easter holiday weekend. Late on Friday CZK/EUR was steady at 34.47/50 from 34.48/51 late Thursday. CZK weakened against USD to 38.82/85 from 38.67/70 late Thursday.

Most bond prices fell on Friday. The longest state 6.95/16 lost 50bps to 105.75/05, yielding 6.34/30 %. The state 6.75/05 was flat at 104.35/65, yielding 5.45/37 %. Earlier on Friday, deputies in the Parliament endorsed a government plan to raise CZK 36bn in new bonds to cover the 1999 loss at Konsolidační banka. On the same day, ČNB said it would auction a CZK 5bn tranche of 6.40/10 state bonds on April 20. The tranche is going to raise the total volume of the bond to CZK 17bn. Václav Havel vetoed a law planning a CZK 4.8bn bond issue to cover old debt to Germany and a CZK 5bn bond for damages caused by last year's drought. Havel returned the law because it was “contaminated” with unrelated controversial points on political parties financing. The Lower House can override the veto.

late April 13 bond yield late April 12
State 6.75/05104.35/655.45/37104.35/65
State 6.95/16105.75/056.34/30106.25/55

(Martin Kupka)

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