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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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Opinion: Latvia at risk of restricting healthcare to 300,000 people

Kustība Par! political party has sent a letter to Latvia’s President Raimonds Vējonis, asking him to return to the Saeima the recently approved law on healthcare funding legislative draft. According to the party, the law restricts healthcare for 300,000 people in Latvia.

Lithuania’s 2018 budget focuses on spending cuts, NATO commitment and social security

Lithuania's 2018 budget, approved this week by the Seimas, Lithuanian Parliament, makes history for being the first budget ever with fewer spending for the governmental sector, the commitment to NATO of earmarking 2 per cent of the gross domestic product to defence and bigger allotments for social security. The budget was adopted by 84 MPs, 29 voted against, with 15 abstentions.

EU member states have to strengthen measures against sexual abuse of children

Member states of the European Union have to take more serious measures and cooperate more intensely with Europol and information technology industry to better combat sexual abuse of children, as noted by members of the European Parliament.

Latvian parliament views initiative for changing VAT rate for food product

On Thursday, 14 December, Latvia’s Saeima made its decision on the collective application that proposes reducing VAT on everyday healthy food products and increasing VAT on unhealthy products.

Maxima: residents have become more conservative in their choice of products

In Q2 and Q3, a higher degree of conservatism was noticed in residents’ choice of products. The number of buyers who gladly purchase new products has declined, whereas the number of buyers who do not change anything in their purchasing habits has increased, according to results of a study performed by Maxima.

Civil processes to be sped up and simplified in Latvia

On Thursday, 14 December, Saeima supported amendments to the Civil Process Law in the final reading. Amendments propose several major changes to the process of review of civil processes to make court sessions quicker and more efficient.

State Auditor dissatisfied with parliament’s slow legislative process

Latvian State Auditor Elita Krūmiņa plans to inquire to the Saeima about the delay with the approval of the legislative draft on the expansion of authority of her institution, as she mentioned in an interview to Rīta panorama programme of LTV.

Aldaris commences exports to France, China and Netherlands

Aldaris concludes 2017 with three new export contracts, commencing exports of products to China, France and Netherlands. Until now Aldaris has exported products to eight markets, with the largest one being United Kingdom, taking up 78.71% from Aldaris export volume, as reported by the company.

Estonian budget passed with 0.25 billion-euro deficit

The Estonian Riigikogu with 55 votes against 41 has passed the country’s 2018 state budget bill planning to spend by 0.25 billion more than it is planned to earn.

AFSAL: loan requests in non-banking industry are declined in 69% of all cases

In the first six months of 2017 Alternative Financial Services Association of Latvia (AFSAL) issued a total amount of EUR 84.7 million in consumer loans. No increase is noted in this amount when compared with the same period of 2016. Increase did not exceed 0.2%, as reported by the association.

European Parliament supports changes for combating activities detailed in Panama Papers

Public registries with names of true owners of businesses, effective protection of whistle-blowers and stricter requirements for financial intermediaries are some of the proposals intended to assist with the fight against tax avoidance, as noted by members of the European Parliament.

Former deputy chief of anti-corruption bureau: Christmas lights are more important to Riga mayor than residents’ welfare

«Mayor of Riga Nils Ušakovs focuses a lot on ‘shiny things’ and procurements performed by capital associations in which flow of money is hard to control. For example, Ušakovs has decided to allocate from the budget EUR 200,000 for Rīgas Gaisma to procure Christmas decorations. Meanwhile in Riga there are nearly 50 km of streets with no lighting. This demonstrates that the mayor focuses on ‘shiny things’ instead of improving life for Riga’s residents,» former deputy chief of Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) Juta Strīķe told BNN in an interview.

Turkey and 56 other countries recognise East Jerusalem as capital of Palestine

In a summit of the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation, held in reaction to Washington’s decision to recognise the city of Jerusalem as only the capital of Israel, Turkey and 56 other Muslim countries have called on the rest of the world to recognise «the State of Palestine and East Jerusalem as its occupied capital».

Ventspils City Council opposition member sees possibility of establishing closer ties with Unity

«If Unity is interested, and wants to come back to the values it once had, we may consider working more closely. My knowledge and experience from the past 5-6 years may be useful in restarting political cooperation and restoration of lost influence,» said Ventpils City Council opposition member Ģirts Valdis Kristovskis.

FM mentions progress in combating grey economy; prime minister expects more

Latvia will continue combating grey economy in construction field and fight envelope wages, said Latvian Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola during the ministry’s Taxpayer Forum 2017 organized by the ministry on Wednesday, 13 December.

EP agrees to EU moving on to phase II of Brexit talks

Members of the European Parliament have overwhelmingly supported what has been negotiated upon in the joint EU-UK progress report in Brexit talks and have recommended Brussels to move on to phase two negotiations on the future relations of the parties.

Businessmen share stories: ‘surviving’ and taking risks in Latvia when starting a business

The silent period – the time for Christmas wishes – has begun. Snow covers Tukums, and the city slowly becomes white. Everything is quiet at Pils ielā. The phone rings, interrupting a quiet moment of watching snowflakes fall under the light of a lantern. «You’re here for us, aren’t you?» BNN goes to interview manager of Merci Cafe Anija Rabkeviča (23) and cafe’s founder Rinalds Pluģis (22). They tell about their experience of ‘surviving’ in Latvia.

BATL: Transport Ministry plans to increase burden on taxpayers’ shoulders

Latvian Transport Ministry’s developed development plan for the transit industry, which was presented to Saeima’s National Economy Committee this week, states that raising competitiveness in the country requires subsidizing railway cargo transports.

Croat soldier dies in Lithuania barracks

A soldier from the Croat contingent in Lithuania, who served in the Rukla military town as part of NATO international forces, has passed away.

LMP President: proposal for LMT and Lattelecom merge was only politically discussed

Only political discussions were held proposal on the merge between Latvijas Mobilais Telefons and Lattelecom, and it is good that this matter has been taken off the agenda, said LMT President Juris Binde in an interview to Rīta Panorāma programme of LNT.

Survey: 55% of employed people are not paid for overtime

More than half of employed people work overtime. On top of that, 55% of them are not paid for working overtime and 45% are paid, according to results of a survey performed by CV Market.

Estonian military receives anti-tank missiles, bought with U.S. funding

The Estonian military has acquired another lot of missiles for the American-made man-portable Javelin antitank system bought with U.S. money allocated for supporting European defence measures.

Tallinners can claim millions for overpriced water, says competition watchdog

In the Estonian capital, the result of a legal dispute between water utility company Tallinna Vesi and the Estonian Competition Authority is that consumers are considered to be able to claim tens of millions of euros in compensation for overcharged water tariffs that have been in place for a number of years.

Latvian Association of Regions decides against working with For Latvia’s Development political party

It was decided at a meeting of representatives of Latvian Association of Regions (LAR) that the party will not work with For Latvia’s Development. The party has also decided to start in 13th Saeima elections with its own list of candidates.

Italy in state of emergency after fire at Austria gas hub

Italy has declared a state of emergency in its natural gas sector as a large explosion at a major natural gas hub in Austria killed one person, injured at least 18 and is prone to affect supplies in central Europe.

When do you go shoping for Christmas gifts?

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