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Czech Watch - 30 January 2001

30.1.2001 9:15
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A Czech official flew on Monday to Cuba in an effort to break the diplomatic deadlock over the fate of two prominent Czechs arrested on the communist-run island after meeting with dissidents. Czech Senate leader Petr Pithart was headed to Havana at President Fidel Castro's invitation after Pithart wrote seeking the release of ex-finance minister and current legislator, Ivan Pilip, and former student leader Jan Bubenik. The visit of Pithart, who was expected to arrive in Cuba on Monday night, would be the first high-level contact between the two countries since the arrests earlier this month.

The Czech Statistical Bureau (CSU) said on Monday it increased the weighting given to housing costs in the consumer price basket, and adjusted weightings of other items to reflect changes in consumer consumption in the past years. The housing and energy category replaces food as the leading item, with a new weighting of 23.6% against the previous 14.1%. The CSU also added mobile telephones and used cars to the basket. Net of tobacco/alcohol, the weighting of food drops to 19.8% from 26.1%. CSU said it would recalculate previous inflation data according to the new weightings, but said overall inflation figures for the past years would not be affected. The new basket has 775 items, 38 more than previously. Prices are checked in 10,000 retail outlets. The old basket has been in use since 1993. The government has since significantly raised regulated energy prices and rents in state and private dwellings.

The National Property Fund agreed to sell 66% stake of Pražské vodovody to Vivendi-Anglian Water for CZK 6.1 billion. Vivendi said it plans to lower costs by 20% in the coming years.

The Czech koruna closed slightly firmer on Monday, following euro/dollar moves. Late on Monday, the koruna was up to 34.75/78 to the euro from the day's low of 34.90 and 34.79/85 late on Friday. Koruna/dollar dipped to 37.82/85 from the morning's 37.70/74 and 37.79/89 late Friday.

Bonds finished mixed. The state 6.40/10 was down 15 points from late Friday to 98.45/75, yielding 6.63/58. The state 6.75/05 was flat at 102.05/35, yielding 6.16/08 percent. The newly auctioned state 6.95/16 dipped 20 points from late Friday to 102.60/90, yielding 6.67/64 percent.

(David Marek)


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