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Friday 23.03.2018 | Name days: Mirdza, Žanete, Žanna

BNN summary of the week: BATL against oligarchs, Latvian president under fire

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUBNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Change; Truth; Business; Future and Growth.

CHANGE: Tax avoiders may have to pay for health insurance next year

For residents who do not pay social insurance fees, health insurance fees could be 1% of minimal wage, said Latvian Healthcare Minister Anda Caksa during a meeting of National Council for Trilateral Cooperation on Thursday, 24 August.

It is planned to increase fees to 3% of minimal monthly wage amount and 5% in 2020. Next year, minimal wage in Latvia is planned to be EUR 430. With that, fees are expected to reach EUR 4.30 a month. After two years, this amount will be EUR 21.5 a month, as long as minimal wage is not increased.

As noted in Healthcare Ministry’s developed healthcare funding legislative draft, an insured person is someone who has paid health insurance fees for no less than nine months in a 12-month period.

Full healthcare service amount will be provided to state insured individuals, including children, pensioners, orphans, unemployed and other persons.

Full article here

BUSINESS: grey economy’s presence in fishing industry may be 40%

The total proportion of grey economy in Latvia’s fishing industry may be around 40%, says fish processing company Brivais vilnis chairman Arnolds Babris.

«I think its [grey economy] presence in the fishing industry is roughly the same as it is in the country – around 40%,» said Babris.

He admits there are companies in the industry who do not pay taxes in the full amount. Unfortunately, the process of pushing such businesses from the industry is not going anywhere. Tax avoidance provides businesses with greater advantages to reduce self-cost, rather than improvement of efficiency. It is the duty of state institutions to prevent that, but there has not been a great amount of activity so far.

Babris believes grey economy in the fishing industry may decline only if the government decided to increase non-taxable minimum to EUR 500 instead of raising minimal wages, because it would increase production costs and producers would be forced to raise prices.

Full article here

FIGHT: oligarchs’ established system has to be changed immediately

We have major problems with the established democratic system. This has to be discussed. What are the improvements that we need to prevent a repetition of such a situation, said Baltic Association – Transport and Logistics president Inga Antane when asked about people’s protests at Town Hall Square in her interview to TV24.

Antane said in her interview: «One thing is protesting, and revolutionary ideas have always been with good intentions. But where are the proposals we would need to discontinue this system? Who’s to say the system will not create new oligarchs? The system needs to be changed.»

The expert also mentioned that during 11th Saeima’s era, when the Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry was managed by Edmunds Spruds and Antane was his advisor, five initiatives had been launched to improve state administration and prevent the distortions present in the system now.

«At the time we proposed a legislative draft regarding deputies under criminal prosecution. Where is it now? It no longer exists. We prepared and submitted a legislative draft on municipal referendums that would have allowed residents to affect the work performed by municipal governments. Where is it now? It no longer exists. We prepared a legislative draft on reducing the number of deputies in municipal administrations,» Antane comments.

Full article here

DECLINE: businessmen will be forced to pay larger wages

The current market situation shows that Latvia should speed up its education reform and think about attracting additional human resources from other countries, said Latvian Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola in an interview to Latvijas Radio.

«We have a number of problems. We see unemployment is in decline, dropping to 7.2% in the past three years, whereas the number of employed people remains unchanged. It is a red light for national economy,» explains the minister.

She emphasizes that tax reform alone is not enough to guarantee economic development. Other solutions are needed as well, including qualified labour force. «We hear this more and more often from businessmen,» she added.

Full article here

TRUTH: criticism of president Vejonis causes loud applause

The New Conservative Party’s organized people’s gathering at Town Hall Square this Wednesday, 23 August, gathered more than 400 people. JKP representatives said that people should gather for such meetings every month, because this is how democratic society is formed.

At the beginning of the event, participants sang Latvia’s national anthem. After that, JKP leader Janis Bordans took the stage. He emphasized that the situation currently present in the country – when everything is decided by a small group of people through their mutual agreements – cannot be allowed to continue.

The politician invited participants to act and take responsibility for their own homes and the country in general.

Participants of the gathering armed themselves with posters, which were handed out to them by organizers. Aside from usual slogans inviting others to respect the laws, posters also featured slogans like «don’t feed oligarchs».

There were many old people as well. Representatives of the party also invited younger people to be more active in the political life of their country.

Most of what politicians and culture sector representatives said on stage was focused on condemnation of oligarchs and the ruling government’s inability to set things right in the country. A lot of criticism was voiced towards Latvia’s President Raimonds Vejonis. Participants of the gathering welcomed the voiced criticisms with applause.

Full article here

GROWTH: Producer prices in industry in Latvia grew 0.4% in July

Compared to June, the level of producer prices in Latvian industry rose by 0.4 % in July 2017. The prices of products sold on the domestic market increased by 0.5 %, whereas the prices of exported products grew by 0.3 %.

The prices of products exported to euro area countries rose by 0.5 % and of products exported to non-euro area countries – by 0.1 %, according to data from the Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia.

During the month, changes in producer prices were mainly affected by a price increase in the manufacture of wood and of products of wood and cork, except furniture, as well as in the manufacture of food products. A lowering effect on the prices could be observed in the manufacture of fabricated metal products, except machinery and equipment, in distribution of electricity, as well as in steam and air conditioning supply.

Compared to July 2016, the average level of producer prices in Latvian industry increased by 3.6 % in July 2017. The prices of products sold on the domestic market increased by 3.9 %, while those of exported products grew by 3.4 %. The prices of products exported to euro area countries rose by 4.4 % and of products exported to non-euro area countries – by 2.7 %.

Full article here

FUTURE: following VAT decline, prices of goods will decline as well

Latvian Association of Food Traders supports Agriculture Ministry’s proposal to reduce VAT rate for food and separate food product groups. Traders confirm that this step will also reduce food product prices in stores.

«Latvian food retailers unanimously support the initiative to reduce VAT for fresh vegetables and fruits. Currently large volumes of vegetables and fruits of unknown origin are brought to Latvia. They are sold in in the country without paying VAT,» says LPTA CEO Noris Kruzitis.

«In addition, as confirmed by local producers, reduction of VAT for fresh vegetables and fruits will help reduce the turnover of illegal products in the country,» Kruzitis explains.

The association also reports that differentiated VAT rates for food and separate food product groups would also be reflected in proportionally reduced prices of fresh fruits and vegetables in shops.

Full article here


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MEP: operations of certain banks in Latvia ruin the country’s reputation

Money laundering is a problem in Latvia, because the activities performed by certain banks ruin the country’s reputation, said member of the European Parliament Krišjānis Kariņš in an interview to Rietumu Radio.

Harmony believes education only in Latvian language is discrimination

Members of Harmony’s Saeima faction have turned to President of Latvia Raimonds Vējonis with a request to halt the parliament’s newly approved amendments to the General Education Law and Education Law regarding education only in Latvian language.

Opinion: UFG and For Latvia and Ventspils were in favour of Vejonis congratulating Putin

Latvia’s President Raimonds Vējonis sent his congratulation to the newly-elected President of Russia Vladimir Putin in order to secure political capital for himself during next year’s presidential elections, says Assoc. Prof. Ojārs Skudra from Social Sciences Faculty of the University of Latvia.

Commissioner: Latvia should provide a clear response to situation in its financial sector

The scandal in Latvia’s financial sector has been reported far and wide in the European Union. This is why it is highly important for Latvia to provide a clear reaction to all this, said Vice-President of the European Commission for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Market Union Valdis Dombrovskis.

Don't joke about bombs at Tallinn Airport, they take it seriously

Estonia's largest airport in Tallinn has from early 2017 received 14 threats of the presence of explosives in the air-travel hub, most of which have been discovered to be just jokes said at the wrong place.

Minister: learning in a single education system using state language is only obvious

Education using state language is our way of ensuring sustainable development of our nation, says Latvia’s Education and Science Minister Kārlis Šadurskis.

Estonian banks close foreigner accounts in wake of ABLV closure

In the wake of the closure of ABLV Bank in Latvia and alleged money laundering via the Estonian branch of Danske Bank, lenders in Estonia are closing the accounts of foreigners, but this threatens the country's successful e-Residency programme aimed at attracting foreign investors.

Latvian Saeima conceptually supports limiting the Bank of Latvia governor’s authority

The Saeima has supported amendments to the Law on the Bank of Latvia in the first reading. Amendments provide that the term of the bank’s governor, his deputy and council members will be five years, as reported by Saeima’s press-service.

Baltic shareholders agree to keep Baiba Rubesa in charge of RB Rail

RB Rail CEO and board chairperson Baiba Rubesa will keep her post. This was decided by shareholders during the 22 March meeting. «The supervisory council had previously mentioned the CEO’s contribution to the company’s development. Still, we intend to find solutions and continue realizing Rail Baltica project,» said RB Rail Supervisory Council chairperson Riia Sillave.

Syrian rebel groups in eastern Ghouta announce ceasefire

In the besieged eastern Ghouta territory in Syria, which has been under heavy air strikes and artillery fire for about a month, several opposition rebel groups have agreed to ceasefire.

EU member states on Skripal attack: «Highly likely» Russia was responsible

The European Union has stated it would recall its ambassador to Moscow for consultations after heads of member states and their governments agreed it was very likely that Russia was responsible for the attack with a chemical weapon on a Russian-British double agent.

Weather to remain cold in Latvia until Easter; more snowfall expected

Weather in Latvia is expected to become cold again after a brief period of warmth. Air temperature will drop again at the beginning and the middle of next week; some areas may experience frost again, as reported by Latvian State, Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Farmers in Latvia dissatisfied with resolution of electricity-related problems

Two months have passed since farmers in Latvia had received unjustifiably large electricity bills. Countless meetings and discussions have taken place in those two months. Unfortunately, no decisive measures have been undertaken to resolve the problem. Farmers are confused with decision-makers’ incisiveness in a matter important to the national economy, as noted by the Farmers’ Saeima.

Life after 25 May: is this the end for free publication of photo galleries from events?

Many of us like to check out photos from concerts, conferences or sport events on gallery portals and social networks to have a look at guests of those events. However, after 25 May, when General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force, the situation will no longer be the same.

Saeima to establish legal framework for Baltic cooperation in disaster prevention

On Thursday, 22 March, Latvian Saeima supported a legislative draft, ratification of which will help create legal framework with other Baltic States in prevention of disasters, as reported by the parliament’s press-service.

Number of complaints with postal services on a rise in Latvia

Public Utilities Commission has compiled information about complaints submitted by residents in regards to postal services in 2017. The number of complaints has increased alongside opposing views about package terminals – the regulator has received 37 complaints in total.

Output of livestock products in Latvia increased in 2017

Compared to 2016, output of meat grew by 4.6 % and output of milk by 1.4 % in 2017. In 2017, in Latvia 91.2 thousand tonnes of meat were produced, which is 4.0 thousand tonnes or 4.6 % more than in 2016. The most significant increase was observed in the output of poultry (of 11.3 %) and pork (4.7 %).

Turkey's offensive in Syria condemned by NATO ally Germany

Angela Merkel, the head of the German federal government has stated that Turkey’s military offensive in the northern Syrian town of Afrin was unacceptable and she blamed Russia for simply watching, while attacks by Syrian government forces on besieged eastern Ghouta continue.

Finance minister still believes tax reform in Latvia has brought results

«The tax reform has given us the results we had expected, especially in regards to combating envelope wages,» said Latvia’s Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola in an interview to 900 seconds programme of LNT.

Planned hospital reorganisation in Lithuanian regions irks both mayors and patients

If the plan of the Lithuanian Ministry of Health to overhaul treatment services in the provinces does not hit a snag, the rural hospitals will be soon providing only essential care and nursing, the focus will be on out-patient care and treatment will be available only in larger county hospitals.

Ventspils beach high in popularity this week; Lembergs gets spotlight time as well

Ventspils ended up in the spotlight in an unusual way this week: seals washed up on the beach there. Animal Freedom emphasizes that human contact with baby seals would hurt them. Residents are asked to maintain at least 50 m distance from them. However, the suspended Mayor of Ventspils Aivars Lembergs decided to take photos with baby seals and publish them on his Facebook profile.

Ombudsman: problems in nursing homes and social care centres are associated with lack of funding

Problems in nursing homes and social care centres are largely associated with lack of funding, because it is not possible to perform high-quality work using currently available resources. This is the responsibility of ministries and the government, as ombudsman Juris Jansons mentioned in an interview to Latvijas Radio.

Estonian music authors receive record royalties for 2017

The organisation, which is tasked by collecting royalties for local and foreign music in Estonia, the Estonian Authors' Society, has received six million euros in royalties in 2017, which is its record level.

Facebook sorry for permitting exploitation of 50 million user data in politics

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has apologised for the social network failing to ensure enough privacy to its users that allowed for data on about 50 million of its users to abused by a political consultancy firm.

Zhdanok’s replacement to promote non-citizen matter in European Parliament

Miroslavs Mitrofanovs, who has taken Tatyana Zhdanok’s place in the European Parliament, plans to promote the matter of non-citizens in the institution.