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Czech Watch - 12 March 2001

12.3.2001 9:23

Czech national average wage grew by 7.2% in Q4/00, i.e. real wages gained 2.9%. The growth was concentrated in the private sector, where wages grew by 8.2%. Public sector workers had to swallow a real wage cut as their nominal wages grew by 4.0%, slower than prices did.

Construction output speeded by 12.4% in January, in line with our forecast of a 11% growth, partly due to more working days and low base. Also, January 2000 was plagued by a influenza outbreak that further skewed the number. Nevertheless, the January number is encouraging.

Czech National Bank mulls its inflation target for 2002 that it has to announce in April. The CNB governor Tuma suggested that the CNB may switch from the (flawed as we argued in our latest macroeconomic Focus) net inflation targeting to the CPI targeting. The vice-governor Dedek wants to stick to the net inflation, so the discussion should be interesting.

The governing CSSD has clinched yet another deal with its contract-opposition partner, the ODS. In exchange for continuing support from the ODS, the Cabinet must come up with a strategy how to limit budget deficits. The Cabinet has also pledged to formulate pension reform principles, but both parties were quick to stress that they are not in the business of a pension reform, they just want to discuss "principles". Why not, discussion is a fine enterprise, but the Social Democrats have made it clear what they mean by a pension reform, so there is little to learn from further discussions.

More substantially, the ODS refused to endorse bonds to cover higher-than-planned deficit in 2000. The prime minister is confident that unspecified additional budget revenues will fill the gap while the finance minister talks about spending cuts in the 2001 budget to partly cover excesses of the last year.

Also, the finance minister sacked the head of the insurance and pension fund regulation but gave no details. Sighs of relief could be heard from all investors…

Czech bonds dipped slightly on Friday, march 9, but trading was very quiet and thin.

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