Written by: Martin Zika
AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY: New car sales slow down
After three years of year-to-year growth, the Czech auto market recorded a decline for the first eight months of this year. Despite the fact that automakers are offering the lowest prices in the past four years and various benefits, interest in new passenger cars is declining. For the first six months, the decline was 2.65% and 4.6% for all of January to August. August sales significantly influenced the overall trend, probably due to the floods, opines Antonín Šípek, director of the Automobile Industry Association. He says it is difficult to say now whether this trend is significant or not. Although “the autumn has always improved the entire situation; we are expecting a decline of three to four percent this year compared with last year,” says Šípek.
TELECOMMUNICATION: The barriers are down
The Czech retail telecom market has begun moving. After early September, when the Czech Telecommunications Office reduced the maximum price alternative operators must pay Český Telecom for connections, four other firms began offering their services to a small segment of individual customers (Aliatel had already begun). Presently, Contactel, eTel, Tele2 and Tiscali are attracting potential clients by offering lower prices and various benefits. Rates for a minute of long-distance during peak time may be lower, from 70 hellers to over 2 crowns, than with Český Telecom, and Aliatel is offering long-distance calls for the price of local calls until the end of this year. With the exception of Tele2, however, players require a minimum value of calls per month – CZK 500 with Contactel and Aliatel, CZK 200 with Tiscali, and CZK 1000 with eTel.
SOCIETY: Supporting women in the workplace
On 3 September, another so-called twinning project, financed by the European Committee, was launched in the framework of the Phare program. Its goal is to support and reinforce the equal status of men and women in the Czech Republic, and to help eliminate lingering problems connected with the discrimination of women in this country. According to the European Committee, some important steps have already been taken in this area, such as the establishment of the governmental Council for Equal Opportunities for Women and Men in 2001. Nevertheless, women are still allegedly discriminated against in such areas as access to jobs, career advancement and salaries. The project, with a budget of CZK 18 million, will run until August 2003 and incorporate the experience of Swedish experts on the equality of the sexes. They will share their knowledge with their Czech colleagues through seminars, workshops and presentations of the best examples of their achievements in this area.