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Wednesday 17.01.2018 | Name days: Tenis, Dravis
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BNN summary of the week: cynical politicians, Latvia’s tax reform and weak presidents

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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; Fight; Truth; Business; Future and Growth.

CHANGE: Martins Bondars confident he should «step aside»

Martins Bondars has decided to step down as chairman of Latvian Association of Regions. According him, recent decisions made by members of LAR have not been ones he would personally support.

When asked how he intends to continue working in the party, Bondars said leaving the post of chairman of LAR means he is formally not part of LAR. Except he remains a deputy in Riga City Council elected from the party’s list. He has confirmed that he plans to continue working in the city council’s opposition.

When asked about the possibility of Latvijas Krajbanka case’s influence extending to political decisions, Bondars said this political case will not affect his decisions.

Full article here

BUSINESS: Government allows Bite Lietuva to become the owner of TV3, LNT and Star FM

On Tuesday, 25 July, the Cabinet of Ministers permitted Lithuanian company UAB BITE Lietuva to acquire decisive influence in Latvian media companies TV 3 Latvia, LNT and Star FM.

Permission from the Competition Council is still necessary for the deal to complete.

According to government representatives, the three Latvian media companies own a major share of the country’s mass media market. They are also important from the perspective of protection of interests of national security. In accordance with requirements of the National Security Law, acquisition of 100% of capital shares in such companies requires permission from the Cabinet of Ministers.

To make a decision, the Cabinet of Ministers took into account reports from state security institutions on this deal, as well as information from Bite Lietuva about its owners and all other information regarding this deal from the perspective of protection of national security.

Full article here

FIGHT: Unity believes electing Sudraba to the committee causes trust in politicians to go down more

Inguna Sudraba’s approval for the oligarch talks parliamentary investigative committee’s board would the equivalent of the parliament deciding not to permit searches in Slesers’ home, Unity members say.

By electing Sudraba in the parliamentary investigative committee when there has been information that Sudraba was mentioned in Ridzene talks in relation to the possible illegal influence of a third country in political processes in Latvia, Saeima deputies demonstrate cynical attitude towards society and actively act against the goals of the investigative committee, Unity states.

The vote for her approval as head of the committee is the equivalent of the Saeima’s decision to prohibit the search in Ainars Slesers’ home in 2011, which resulted in the Saeima being dissolved in the end.

Unity had previously proposed rejecting Inguna Sudraba for the committee and picking each member individually, but the parliament rejected this proposal.

Full article here

DECLINE: candidates of the last presidency have all been intellectually weak

One of this summer’s hottest and most discussed piece of news was the proposal to allow residents to elect the country’s president. Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis’ 22 June speech to the parliament, in which he proposed allowing the people to elect the president in 2019, caused even more discussions.

BNN has compiled opinions of multiple publicly well-known people on this matter.

When asked about the idea of a president elected by the people in Latvia, Skaidrite Lasmane, leading researcher of Social Science Faculty of the University of Latvia, said: «I think it would be better waiting a bit longer for society to get used to democracy.»

Continuing the conversation, Lasmane admits being sceptical of a future in Latvia where the president is elected by the people: «I would support a president elected by the people more than I would the last weak and intellectually weak presidents».

Lasmane is also harsh towards Latvia’s current president: «I would go as far to say that our current president is also intellectually weak, as were the two that came before him. They were unable to offer a single worthwhile project or form a correct sentence properly. A president should be clever, like Vaira Vike-Freiberga was.»

Full article here

TRUTH: Antane says excise tax for diesel fuel should be reduced, not increased

«Unfortunately, when making the decision to increase excise tax rate for diesel fuel, the government did not consider all possible risks this decision could bring to the transport and logistics industry and the country’s economy as a whole,» BNN was told by President of Baltic Association – Transport and Logistics Inga Antane.

BALT has turned to all factions represented in the Saeima, as well as independent deputies, with a request to prevent the increase of excise tax for diesel fuel. At the same time, BATL proposes reviewing its proposal to decrease diesel fuel excise tax rate for railway transports by 50%.

«The proposal to review the plan for raising excise tax would be a notable gesture to the industry and society that the government thinks about the development of Latvia’s national economy in a long-term perspective, not just in relation to patching holes in the budget,» said BATL President Inga Antane.

She emphasizes: «Every ton of transit cargo brings our economy up to EUR 15, and this amounts to more than EUR 1 billion over the course of a year. This is why further development of this industry is vital.»

Full article here

GROWTH: where is the piece of land Duklavs’ associates wanted 15 million for?

Ir magazine has surveyed several hectares of land on Daugava River’s left bank, specifically within the territory of Riga Freeport, to find the piece of land that was mentioned by Agriculture Minister Janis Duklavs during his conversation with other politicians in Ridzene hotel.

Ir has identified the piece of land within the port’s territory for the sale of which Duklavs asked Ainars Slesers for help in 2010. Duklavs owns 10% of the piece of land. In addition, his associates wanted to get 15 million from the buyer. Ir found the piece of land based on clues mentioned by Duklavs in the conversation.

According to Ir, the piece of land in question is indirectly by two Latvijas Gāze board members Gints Freibergs and Liga Berga through two firms.

When asked to explain his association with this piece of land, Duklavs continued denying ownership. He did, however, admitted sharing ties with one of the Bergs family members, Ir reports.

The piece of land is located on the left bank of Daugava River, not far from Latvian Propane Gas export base – those are two pieces of land have an area of 8 ha and were owned by Kremeri firm since 2005. Since 2008, this firm is owned by Vilandres, whose owners consist of LG board members Gints Greibers and Liga Berga. Berga’s daughter, Elina Berga, is a board member in the company.

Full article here

FUTURE: Saeima supports tax reform laws in final reading

Saeima’s Budget and Finance Committee has concluded work on tax reform laws, supporting them in the final reading. Part of the proposals on additional benefits and multiple other matters will be put off for a later date.

Members of the committee concluded assessing all legislative drafts associated with the reform. Saeima’s Social and Employment Matters Committee supported the Law on State Social Insurance on Wednesday, 26 July.

Budget committee started assessing proposals for legislative projects for the final reading this Tuesday, when proposals for possible changes were reviewed by the government. On Wednesday, the committee worked all day – with several breaks over the course of 13 hours. In total, the parliament received around 350 proposals for reform laws.

When assessing proposals, the opinion of deputies coincided with decisions of the government. Many of the supported proposals were editorial. Nevertheless, there were multiple conceptual matters in which deputies changed their previous decision about possible amendments.

Part of the proposals on additional benefits and multiple other matters is planned to be put off for a later date. Decisions are planned to be made during budget review period. Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola says this decision is only logical, because there are matters that are not associated with the reform. The budget review is the right time to review them, because then it will be possible to balance desires with opportunities, said the minister.

Reviews of tax reform are planned to commence at the next Saeima meeting this Thursday.

Full article here


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Mass protests in Greece do not hold back new bailout reforms

The parliament of Greece has adopted a large set of reforms pushed for by international creditors in return for more bailout money, despite approximately 20 000 people protesting outside the parliament and brief clashes with riot police breaking out.

Foster families in Latvia to receive larger benefits

Municipal administrations have a duty to pay larger benefits for child care when children are put in foster families, Latvian Welfare Ministry reports.

Government plans to improve anti-doping measures in Latvia

During a meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers, a legislative draft developed by Healthcare Ministry on adding changes to the Sports Law for the improvement the country’s anti-doping measures was approved.

Only 12% of workers know their organization’s IT security policy

Businesses around the world still suffer from a catastrophically low level of awareness for IT matters, according to a study performed by Kaspersky Lab and B2B International.

Parents let children on ice in spite of temporary restriction

On Sunday, 14 January, officers of Riga Municipal Police observed with video-recording equipment how two people were skating on the surface of Victory Park’s pond. Because it is banned for people to remain on ice of large bodies of water in Riga, officers were sent in.

Czech President to be determined in duel between Zeman and Drahoš

In the Czech presidential election, no candidate has garnered a half of the votes and its result will be determined in a run-off between the current eursceptic President and a pro-European academic.

Aldaris: non-alcoholic beer market in Latvia grew 9% in 2017

Aldaris concluded 2017 with a significant increase in their non-alcoholic beer category of products. Demand for non-alcoholic beer has increased across all of Latvia – market growth was 9% in 2017, as reported by the company’s representatives.

Politician reports meddling with e-health system; prime minister parries

Last Thursday, 11 January, e-health system ‘suffered malfunctions’, which suggests that it may have been hacked, Saeima’s Social and Employment Matters Committee head Aija Barča mentioned in an interview to Latvijas Radio.

Pension fund cautious about 500-million-euro bridge project to Saaremaa

Commenting on the idea that Estonian pension funds could invest into the ambitious project of building a bridge from mainland Estonia to the country’s largest island, Swedish Swedbank has expressed caution.

Study: more than half of Latvians do not trust other people

52% of Latvian residents believe most people cannot be trusted. Only 5% of residents are ready to trust their fellow man. Less than one-fifth of Latvian residents trust decision-makers, according to results of a study performed by SKDS.

Economic expert: 2018 expected to be good for investors

«This year promises to be good for investors, because global economy is on a rise and profits of businesses have a tendency to grow,» says Luminor economic expert Gints Belēvičs.

Estonia counts more residents for 3rd consecutive year

Registering an increase in the Estonian population for the third consecutive year, Estonian statisticians have estimated that the population has increased by 3,070 people to 1,318,700 residents. They have also warned that this is preliminary data, which could still change considerably as unregistered immigration has not been included.

Russian school struck by teenager knife attack

In a knife attack on a school in Perm, Russia, eleven children and a teacher have suffered injuries.

NA: city council has to consider new partnership approach for Agenskalns market

Riga City Council members have to decide what is more important for Agenskalns market’s development: rate or quality. There are two options: force a closed market development with an auction of long-term lease or consider public private partnership option. Such a proposal was submitted to Riga City Council’s City Property Committee by the faction of the National Alliance.

Romania Prime Minister changed, second since June

Romanian head of government Mihai Tudose has lost the support of his own Social Democratic Party becoming the second Romanian Prime Minister to lose the seat in seven months.

Moderately rapid export rise recorded in Latvia in January-November period

Compared with the previous year’s period, a moderately rapid export growth was recorded in Latvia in the January-November period of 2017 when compared with other EU member states, according to data published by Eurostat.

Japanese R&I upgrades Latvia’s credit rating to A-

Japanese Rating and Investment Information, Inc. (R&I) has announced its decision to upgrade Latvia’s rating from BBB+ to A- with a stable outlook, as reported by Latvian State Treasury.

KVV Liepājas metalurgs to be auctioned off

Insolvency administrator to the bankrupt KVV Liepājas metalurgs Guntars Koris has decided to sell property owned by the company at an auction, as confirmed by the administrator’s representative Dzintars Hmieļevskis.

Port turnover of Latvia’s neighbours up 9%; Latvia suffers 2% decline

«Total turnover of Russian ports has grown to 787 million tonnes, according to data from Russian Federal Agency for Marine and River Transport. Compared with 2016, stevedores of Latvia’s neighbouring countries serviced 7.2% more liquid cargoes, with their volume reaching 414 million tonnes. The total volume of bulk cargoes, on the other hand, has increased by 11.1%, and now reaches 373 million tonnes,» as reported by Dienas Bizness journalist Egons Mudulis.

Greek transport strike seeks to safeguard right to call strikes

A scope of Greek public transport services drew to a halt on the opening day of the week as public transport workers and air traffic controllers engaged in a strike to protest against what they see as attempts to limit they right to hold strikes.

Olaine prison to have a new training centre for correctional service personnel

On 15th and 16th January, Justice Ministry will organize a meeting for the Norwegian finance instrument’s 2014-2021 planning period. During this period, officials will discuss the progress of the Improved correctional services system. As part of this programme, it is planned to build a new training centre in Olaine prison for correctional service personnel, as reported by the ministry.

Estonia's new road tax payment criticised by road hauliers

As the new road tax has entered into force in Estonia in 2018, the country's Association of Estonian International Road Carriers has commented after the first two weeks of its implementation that a key problem is that the state has not granted truck drivers the possibility to pay the road tax at gas stations in addition to the existing way paying the tax online.

Marriott International hotel network enters Latvia’s market

Albert Hotel will be closed down for renovations on Monday, 15 January. It will be reopened in 2019 as AC Hotel Riga part of Marriorr Group. The new Marriott hotel in Latvia will be managed by Legendhotels, as BNN was told by the company.

NP: Reizniece-Ozola and Kučinskis are proud of tax reform, businessmen are not

Latvia’s tax system underwent serious reforms before the country entered 2018. Until now officials only mentioned the benefits – businessmen will no longer have to pay tax for profits if they reinvest money in business development, the majority of small wage recipients will become several dozen euros richer. However, businessmen are generally dissatisfied with the reform, Nekā personīga reports.

Ilves suggests creation of world cyber-security alliance beyond NATO

Former Estonian President, cyber-security activist Toomas Hendrik Ilves has noted that world's democratic countries, starting from NATO, should form a common cyber security organisation.

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