Thursday News Briefing
Presidential hopefuls voice concern over Klaus amnesty; State budget deficit lower than expected
Posted: January 2, 2013
Foreign Affairs Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said today's amnesty act should not apply to those involved in major fraud cases.
A majority of presidential candidates criticize the amnesty declared by outgoing President Vaclav Klaus, which takes effect today and applies to over 7,000 people. Karel Schwarzenberg (TOP 09 chairman) and Zuzana Roithova (Christian Democrats, KDU-CSL) saidt the amnesty may apply to individuals convicted in major fraud cases related to state-owned companies. Even candidates who are close to Klaus, Milos Zeman (Party of Citizens' Rights, SPOZ) and Jana Bobosikova (Sovereignty) are critical of the amnesty. Schwarzenberg, who is foreign affairs minister, said he himself was considering declaring amnesty if elected president, but added the act should only apply to petty crimes. The amnesty "should not apply to the biggest scandals of the country," he told the Czech News Agency.
Over 27,500 Czech working pensioners have tried to avoid higher taxation newly imposed on them by the government by briefly giving up their pensioner status. Within its austerity measures, the center-right government recently cancelled an income tax exemption that allowed working pensioners to save 24,840 Kč annually. The Finance Ministry expected this measure to bring an additional 7 billion Kč to state coffers in the next three years. If the pensioners succeed in circumventing the new law, the state's tax revenues will be approximately 700 million Kč lower this year.
The state budget ran a 101 billion Kč deficit in 2012, while the approved budget reckoned with a 105 billion Kč gap, Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek announced Jan. 2. "The government has met the deficit target and will do that also in 2013. We've maintained the target thanks to austerity measures," said Kalousek. Before Christmas, when the 2013 state budget was approved, Kalousek pointed out that the public finance deficit for last year would grow to 5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) instead of the planned 3.5 percent of GDP as a result of the recently passed church restitution law. The government's obligation to financially compensate churches was included in last year's fiscal data as a one-off accounting operation, thus preventing the passed bill from affecting the public finance gap this year. The law came into force Jan. 1. The budget deficit is expected to drop to 100 billion Kč this year, with budget revenues at 1,080.8 billion Kč and expenditures at 1,180.8 billion Kč. The government will issue bonds to cover the gap.
A record 473,128 customers changed their electricity supplier last year, nearly 25,000 more than in 2011, according to data from electricity market operator OTE. In contrast, the number of customers who changed their natural gas supplier decreased by almost 14,000 against the record year of 2011, reaching 348,056 last year. Household customers mostly left dominant energy distributors, such as CEZ, Prazska energetika and E.ON (electricity) and RWE (gas), for minor distributors with price offers below prices of the large companies.
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Tags: czech budget deficit, czech business news, czech economy, czech republic news, miroslav kalousek, vaclav klaus.