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Wednesday 23.05.2018 | Name days: Leontīne, Ligija, Lonija, Leokādija
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BNN summary of the week: collapse due to absurd decisions and Aboltina’s return to diplomacy

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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: KNAB starts new inspection associated with oligarch case

Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau has commenced a new inspection associated with the so-called oligarch case. This time the inspection is about possible illegal acceptance of benefits by officials, as confirmed by KNAB management on Tuesday, 8 August.

KNAB Investigations Office Manager Ilze Kivleniece said the bureau has commenced a new inspection in relation to possible illegal acceptance of benefits by officials.

This inspection is planned to be completed within one month’s time. KNAB does not reveal the names of officials in question.

Full article here

BUSINESS: Vitol’s goal is stopping stock market quotation of LSC shares

The goal of Vitol Netherlands B.V. is stopping the quotation of Latvian Shipping Company’s shares at the stock market once the buy-back of shares is complete, said Chairman of Latvian Shipping Company Robert Kirkup.

The mandatory buy-back offer for LSC shares is currently ongoing, and Kirkup allows that not all minority shareholders will decide to sell their shares.

Kirkup comments: «I allow that there may be shareholders who will decide to keep their shares. There are definitely small shareholders who do not understand the point of the buy-back offer or have forgotten that they own shares. We saw this with the buy-back of Ventspils Nafta shares. But we do expect most minority shareholders will want to sell shares.»

He says no major changes to LSC’s operations are expected after the conclusion of the buy-back of shares.

«LSC will definitely remain a shipping company. This much will not change. We also hope our LSC Shipmanagement will attract more owners for technical management of our ships. Vitol Group has also voiced readiness to provide more ships for us if it becomes a co-owner of LSC,» Kirkup says.

Full article here

DECLINE: Average consumer price level up 2.6% in Latvia

Compared to July 2016, the average level of consumer prices increased by 2.6 % in July 2017. Prices of goods grew by 2.6 % and prices of services by 2.9 %.

Compared to July 2016, in July 2017 the greatest pressure on the price changes was put by the rise in prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages, goods and services related to housing, prices in miscellaneous goods and services group, prices of alcoholic beverages and tobacco products, as well as decline in prices of clothing and footwear, according to data from the Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia.

The average level of food and non-alcoholic beverage prices increased by 6.6 %. Rise was recorded in prices of vegetables, meat and meat products, milk products, butter, milk, cheese and curd, bakery products, fresh or chilled fish, eggs, sugar, fresh fruit, and chocolate.

Within the group of alcoholic beverages and tobacco products, the average level of prices went up by 2.7 %, which was mainly influenced by 5.4 % growth in prices of tobacco products. Prices of alcoholic beverages, of which beer, spirits and wine increased by 1.2 %.

Over the year, prices of garments dropped by 3.5 % and prices of footwear by 8.8 %.

Full article here

TRUTH: BATL says absurd decisions may cause a complete collapse in Latvia

Problems keep piling up in the transport and logistics industry, which is the second largest national economy industry in Latvia. On top of that, this industry may experience a complete collapse because of two unreasonable and absurd decisions, experts say.

The situation with dramatically declining cargoes has forced LatRailNet to increase railway tariffs by 7%, which will scare away cargoes and weaken local transporters.

It was previously reported that the government and Saeima have decided to increase excise tax for diesel fuel, ‘thereby making Latvia’s cargo transporting operations even less competitive and limiting the industry’s capabilities to attract new cargoes to replace lost Russian cargoes,’ specialists add.

«Weakening the transport and logistics industry will create a very serious fissure for Latvia’s national economy and will also impact nearly all economic fields, affecting the state budget, residents and commercial associations,» says Baltic Association – Transport and Logistics President Inga Antane.

She also notes that it has been observed since May that Russia has been gradually abandoning its previously coordinated plans and transporting considerably less cargoes than what was agreed upon. Only 27.9% of the previously planned cargoes were transported in July. On top of that, the rate at which cargoes decline continues to increase. While it was 15% on average at the beginning of the year, the rate grew to 30% in spring. Now it reaches 70%.

Full article here

GROWTH: Multiple parties support oligarch case’s publication; UGF has yet to decide

The National Alliance VL-TB/LNNK may support Unity deputy Andrejs Judins’ proposal to approve a law on publication of materials of the so-called oligarch case.

Unity and the Union of Greens and Farmers plan to hold discussions about this idea.

Unity’s Saeima faction chairperson Solvita Aboltina says Judins’ proposal will be viewed at the next faction meeting. The deputy’s proposal is innovative, and it has to be reviewed properly to make sure publication of materials of a criminal case does not impact the rule of law, said Aboltina. She added that this idea has come under fire from Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis.

When asked if the party has any plans about any more attempts to replace Inguna Sudraba in the post of chairperson of the parliamentary investigation committee for the oligarch case, Aboltina said concerns of some Unity member about the committee being formed in its current composition have been confirmed.

UGF Saeima’s faction leader Augusts Brigmanis said the following about Judins’ proposal – «the deeper in the forest we go, the more wood there is and the deeper we go, the more original the performance». Once Judins’ proposal has been phrased, it will be possible to decide on it at the next meeting of the political faction.

Full article here

FUTURE: Rinkevics and Aboltina discuss her return to diplomatic service

Latvian Foreign Affairs Minister Edgars Rinkevics and Unity Saeima faction chairperson Solvita Aboltina intend to discuss the politician’s return to the diplomatic service, said the minster’s advisor Martins Dregeris.

At the same time, Rinkevics said it is not possible to provide more detailed comments on this matter. He added that Aboltina has considerable experience working in the foreign affairs service. Aboltina also worked as the director of Foreign Affairs Ministry’s Consular Department before she began her political career. There have also been precedents in which politicians had returned to the foreign affairs service to perform diplomatic duties, which includes Foreign Ministry’s Inspector General Maris Riekstins and Latvia’s ambassador to France – Imants Liegis.

«This is nothing new, because the foreign affairs service is open for ex-diplomats. We never comment candidates until all national procedures are complete and we receive approval from other countries in regards to ambassadors,» Dregeris explains.

Full article here

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Riga City Council decides not to view gambling hall closure in Riga; says Saeima should do it

Riga City Council has declined opposition deputy Juris Jurašs’ proposal to review matter regarding the closure of gambling halls in Riga. The coalition and one other deputy abstained in the vote, opposition voted in favour.

Fixed MPC portion to drop 27.8% for electricity users in July

From 1 July onward, the fixed portion of mandatory procurement component will decline by 27.8% for all electricity users, as reported by Public Utilities Commission.

Producer price level in industry grew 0.6% in Latvia in April

Compared to March, level of producer prices in the Latvian industry rose by 0.6 % in April 2018. Prices of products sold on the domestic market went up by 1.0 % and prices of exported products by 0.3 %.

70% of residents confident about benefits from European Union membership

According to results of European Parliament’s Eurobarometer study, 52% of Latvian residents are confident their country’s membership in the European Union is a good thing. An average of 60% of respondents across member states agree with this statement; even more positive responses are noted in Lithuania and Estonia – 67% and 69% respectively, as BNN was informed by EP Office in Latvia.

Minister: merging Competition Council and Public Utilities Commission is possible

Merging Competition Council and Public Utilities Commission is possible and is something for the next government to consider, says Latvian Economic Minister Arvils Ašeradens.

Turkish lira sharply loses value this week

The national currency of Turkey, the lira, has lost five percent of its value against the U.S. dollar this week resulting in a 20%-drop in the currency pair in 2018. The Middle Eastern NATO member is to hold early presidential and parliamentary election in June.

Number of companies whose employees sort waste on a rise in Latvia

The battery-collecting campaign organized by AS Latvijas Zaļais punkts, SIA Officeday Latvia and SIA Fazer Latvia has concluded. Over the course of the eight-month campaign, more than 100 businesses managed to collect 1,104 kg of used batteries.

Estonia's Kaljulaid on visit to Ukraine, where warfare has escalated

Kersti Kaljulaid, the President of Estonia, is in Ukraine on an official visit taking place from May 22 to 24m which includes both meetings with senior officials and travelling to Eastern Ukraine, where the Donbass war has entered its fifth year.

Latvian State Audit: it is necessary to sort out retirement pension system

Latvia should finally sort its sensitive retirement pension system, said State Auditor Elita Krūmiņa in an interview to Rīta Panorāma programme of LTV.

24/7 working hours getting popular for Tallinn supermarkets

In Tallinn, the Finnish supermarket chain Prisma has noticed demand for round-the-clock shopping plans to have in the Estonian capital three supermarkets with unlimited working hours 24/7.

Latvian Defence Committee conceptually supports amendments to National Security Law

To further improve legislation in the country’s defence sector, Saeima’s Defence, Internal Affairs and Corruption Prevention Committee supported in the first reading amendments to the National Security Law on Tuesday, 22 May.

U.S. to relax banking oversight rules introduced amid financial crisis

As the U.S. is seeking to ease banking oversight rules in place since the aftermath of the global financial crisis triggered by American bankers, the U.S. Congress has approved its lifting.

Minister promises to fill gap caused by cancellation of extended normal work time for doctors

A clear strategy is in the works to fit the ruling of the Constitutional Court and organize human resources to fill the formed gap, said Latvian Healthcare Minister Anda Čakša after meeting with hospital representatives.

Zuckerberg at EP apologises for Cambridge Analytica scandal

Social network Facebook chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg has apologised to members of the European Parliament for the company's role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal and for allowing fake news to target audiences on its platform.

Four candidates proposed for the post of head of State Revenue Service

Four candidates have been approved for the last stage of the personnel selection process in the State Revenue Service, as confirmed by Latvian State Chancellery.

Supreme Court: parent companies could be held accountable for subsidiaries’ competition violations

The Supreme Court of Latvia has made a ruling, in accordance with which Latvia’s competition rights are established in a way that permits authorities to punish parent companies for violations of competition rights committed by their subsidiaries.

Unemployment in Latvia was 8.2% in Q1 2018

In Q1 2018 Latvian unemployment rate constituted 8.2 %. Compared to the previous quarter, unemployment rate rose by 0.1 percentage points, while compared to the corresponding quarter of the year before – by 1.2 percentage points.

63.5% of Latvia’s residents were employed in Q1 2018

898.0 thousand people or 63.5 % of Latvia population aged 15–74 were employed in Q1 2018. Over the year, employment rate grew by 1.9 percentage points and number of employed persons by 15.5 thousand.

Cancellation of ‘extended normal’ work time could require up to EUR 10 million

The decision made by the Constitutional Court of Latvia to liquidate «extended normal» work time starting from next year may require up to EUR 10 million, said Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis in an interview to Rīta panorama programme.

Crimean bridge not to pay off, Crimean Tatar leader says

Crimean Tatar leader in a reaction to the opening of the Crimea bridge from mainland Russia to illegally annexed peninsular has evaluated that the money spent on the construction works would not pay off.

Deputy names ‘abstention specialists’ in Latvian Saeima’s votes

«I was elected to make decisions, not abstain from them. Abstention in votes automatically counts as ‘against’ in the Saeima. I believe this practice needs to be changed. You’re either in favour or against. Businessmen, for example, have no way to abstain from making decisions,» said Saeima deputy Artuss Kaimiņš.

Finland's last snow melts, too early meteorologists say

Finland, similarly to the Baltics, has this year enjoyed an unusually warm and sunny weather in May that has surprised many by melting the last remnants of snow in the country's north. Usually, this takes place in the middle of June.

Museum Night tradition continues – participant numbers exceed 221,284

A total of 204 locations with culturally historic heritage in Latvia opened their doors for visitors free of charge during the 14th Museum Night. In addition to 122 accredited museums, 82 other cultural and state institutions participated in the Museum Night event on 19 May, as reported by Culture Ministry’s public relations department lead Lita Kokale.

In pictures: Cuba holds first funerals for victims of plane crash

Number of the victims of Cuban passenger plane crash has reached 111 and the first funerals of victims have been held.

Latvian Red Cross to provide refugee mentors for half a million euros

In the next one and a half years, social mentoring services to asylum seekers and persons with refugee or alternate status will be provided by Latvian Red Cross, as confirmed by Social Integration Fund’s representatives.

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