An impressive array of heavy agricultural machinery took to Czech roads to protest tax changes which farmers say will hit them hard where it hurts, in the wallet. Farmers say they will step up the pressure on the government to plow up their proposals.
Czech state bodies and institutions’ key financial statements will be used to calculate the debt and deficit of public finances. Such highly sensitive information helps the markets predict whether the state can meet its commitments — but not all the data are wholly reliable, the Supreme Audit Office (NKÚ) warns. Clear definitions of basic accounting concepts are missing, which can lead to different interpretations of these categories and thus incomparable data. Look to Greece to understand what that can mean.
The Czech Ministry of Finance is planning its second ever issue of state bonds for individuals and non-profit organizations, to follow up on the success of its first issue. This time around some of the bonds, which will have a total face value of around Kč 20 billion, will be inflation linked. Subscription is due to begin in May and if successful, a further issue for individuals could be made this fall.
With billions of crowns in EU funding frozen, the Czech government is finally taking action. Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek (TOP 09) is planning to gather all the auditors responsible for controlling EU grant expenditure from various regions and regional bodies into a single unit within his ministry. According to a number of sources, however, the Finance Ministry holds its fair share of responsibility for misuse of EU funds and flawed surveillance.
Interior Minister Jan Kubice (unaffiliated) has effectively ruled out laying off any rank and file police offices or fire fighters, despite an expected Kč 1.7 billion cut in the ministry’s 2012 budget. Following a meeting Friday with the heads of the Prague police force and the capital’s fire brigade, he said that cuts hitherto are not threatening law enforcement efforts — in fact, he said crime detection rates are up.
The Finance Ministry’s anti-money laundering and financial crimes unit (FAU) says hundreds of millions of crowns which gambling and betting firms should have put into charitable causes was in effect embezzled. The daily Hospodářské noviny haspublished the names of the firms against which the FAÚ has lodged criminal complaints.
Anti-corruption NGOs say the Civic Democrats (ODS) are trying to thwart legislation granting the Supreme Audit Office (NKÚ) powers to control and audit the finances of state and city-owned entities — powers that they say are essential to combat organized crime in the public sphere. The amendment’s author, MP Stanislav Polčák (TOP 09), supports the NGOs’ claim about obstruction by the ODS – its coalition partner.
Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek appears to have put himself in the position of a lone barfly, at least as far as his proposal for excise taxes on wine. Everyone on the Czech political spectrum appears to be shunning the idea, even top members from his own party, TOP 09, have come out with undiluted condemnations. Kalousek, though, is not giving up for now.
The Finance Ministry announced Tuesday that last year its Financial Analysis Unit (FAÚ) blocked Kč 808 million of “laundered” money, i.e. funds suspected of being diverted to avoid taxation and illegally-gained funds. Over the year FAÚ received 1,970 reports of suspicious transfers of money, 83 more than in the previous year.
The Ministry of Finance is reported to be keen to invite bidders interested in a stake in Czech Airlines (ČSA) to declare themselves mid-way through the first half of the year. If there is sufficient interest then a full blow privatization could proceed. The weekly Týden says talks with Air France and Korean Air have already started, but the former would appear an unlikely bidder given the disastrous episode when it already bought into ČSA.