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Wednesday 17.01.2018 | Name days: Tenis, Dravis
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BNN summary of the week: Estonian minister disapproves of NATO; Latvia’s tax system lags behind

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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: Business; Change; Future; Decline; Truth and Growth.

CHANGE: Estonian Minister steps down after questioning NATO membership

Estonian Minister of Public Affairs Mihhail Korb has stated he resigns from office after saying he is not in favour of NATO membership.

Estonian public broadcaster ERR reports that Korb announced on Wednesday, May 25, following scandal that erupted earlier in the day about a comment he had made and after a lengthy discussion with Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas, a fellow member of Centre Party.

Full article here

BUSINESS: Support to Rail Baltica further funding voiced by European Parliament Committee

Political support for continued funding of the railway project Rail Baltica has been acknowledged by a member of the European Parliament Committee on Transport and Tourism.

Estonian public broadcaster ERR reports that Rail Baltic will cost close to 6 billion euros to build and will not be completed during the EU’s current budget period, so additional funding from the next joint budget is needed.

Full article here

DECLINE: Government’s indecisiveness and rushed decisions impact transit industry

The refusal of Russian Railways to carry cargoes from Russian ports to Latvia could create a state of emergency for Latvia’s transit industry, says Baltic Association – Transport and Logistics.

The crisis in the country’s second largest national economy industry will strongly impact Latvia’s economy, the association states, adding that the situation became like this because of the government’s indecisiveness, rushed and unreasonable decisions, as well as its refusal to resolve problems associated with the industry’s competitiveness.

«The government’s decision to prohibit Ventspils port to participate in the massive international Nord Stream 2 project shows that the government either does not know how or does not want to serve their country’s economic interests,» BATL continues.

Logistics industry’s representatives explain that the government’s arguments about the threat posed by Nord Stream 2 project to the country’s security do not hold up against criticism. «According to Latvia’s foreign policy doctrine, Russia remains our country’s strategic cooperation partners. Talks of espionage under the cover of pipeline components’ transport are nothing more than unreasonable dramatization of the entire situation. A more realistic threat is the army of unemployed people caused by the dramatic decline of transit cargoes. It will be necessary to pay social benefits to those people. We can also expect a new wave of emigration,» says BATL president Inga Antane.

Full article here

TRUTH: Latvia’s tax system is less progressive than systems in other EU countries

The European Commission recommends Latvia to reduce the tax burden for small wage recipients and move it to other sources that are less impacting on growth and motivate people to pay taxes.

EC notes that Latvia’s income inequality is one of the highest among EU member states and the country’s tax system is less progressive than what is found in other member states.

European Council recommends Latvia to realize a fiscal policy this year and the next in accordance with requirements of Stability and Growth Pact’s preventive measures section, which includes the goal for reaching medium-term budget goals in 2018.

EC’s published recommendations urge for improvements to the adequacy of social security and increase of work force’s professional skills by speeding up the reform of training programmes in vocational education.

Full article here

GROWTH: SRS and LCCI to cooperate in search for most efficient tax payment models

Latvian Chamber for Commerce and Industry and the State Revenue Service have signed an agreement for the development of better solutions he assist the growth of Latvia’s national economy.

This document provides for LCCI’s participation in the development of the tax policy, associated documents and regulations as long as it fits goals of SRS’ strategy. It is also planned SRS and LCCI will cooperate in the search for more efficient methods for the payment of taxes to better combat grey economy, contribute to economic breakthrough and increase honest competition.

It is expected this cooperation will organize training for businessmen to inform them of any new developments and changes to the existing system. Regular meetings will be organized between the two sides.

Full article here

Future: Razuks hints healthcare budget’s increase would require new fees

Sides involved in discussions about finding additional finances for healthcare have yet to reach a definite agreement. It is possible there may be a new fee introduced, said Saeima Public Health sub-committee chairman Romualds Razuks told Rīta panorama on Tuesday, 23 May.

The sub-committee will view the legislative draft on gradual rejection of extended work hours for doctors. Razuks mentioned that this matter will not be resolved without a transition period because there is not enough funding.

Currently the only open option to finance this step is using money from the emergency budget. The prime minister’s work group will continue discussions about the proposal to liquidate extended work hours, added the politician.

Razuks hinted that increasing healthcare budget would require a new fee – health insurance. Otherwise there will be no other option than suffer with insufficient funding.

Free Trade Union Confederation of Latvia chairman Egils Baldzens adds that there have been many different proposals mentioned in the search for funding. Unfortunately, no agreement has been reached on any of them so far.

Full article here

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Betsafe: To Latvia from the Heart has laughable chance of entering next Saeima

With declining ratings, Inguna Sudraba’s party To Latvia from The Heart has been left with laughable chances of entering the next Saeima, Betsafe bookmakers say.

EU Affairs Committee: EU Digital Single Market motivated Latvia to perform reforms

European Union’s Digital Single Market strategy offered new opportunities for Latvian businessmen to actively present their services in other member states. The strategy also served as an impulse for the business environment and state administration. The strategy motivates our government to walk the road of reformation more actively and clean up messes that have remained for a long time, said chairperson of Saeima’s European Affairs Committee Lolita Čigāne on Wednesday, 17 January.

Expert: Zhdanok’s decision to leave EP was carefully calculated to revive Latvian Russians Union

The decision made by member of the European Parliament (EP) and leader of Latvian Russians Union (LRU) Tatyana Zhdanok, in accordance with which she intends to leave the European Parliament to instead focus on LRU’s election campaign, was a carefully calculated step to reanimate the party, said dean of Social Sciences Faculty of the University of Latvia Juris Rozenvalds.

Maxima Latvia expects price decline up to 15% in 2018

Following Maxima Latvija’s decision to reduce prices for nearly 1,000 important goods, it is expected that a similar step will be made by other players in the industry. This could mean prices for everyday goods could decline by up to 15%, as BNN was informed by the company.

Latvia’s economy reaches highest peak since 2015

Residents’ mood has improved for most positions of the study. Residents were positive the most about ongoing changes for Latvia’s economy, the value of which has reached its peak since July 2015. In spite of optimistic changes, however, 30% of respondents are critical about ongoing economic changes in Latvia, according to results of the latest Baltic International Bank’s Latvian Barometer.

Riga exchange hopes for new securities issuers this year

There are hopes to see new Latvian businesses release shares on the stock market this year, says chairperson of Nasdaq Riga Daiga Auziņa-Melalksne.

Latvian universities to offer students an innovative grant system

To help develop students’ innovative and business abilities, Latvian Education and Science Ministry has developed a new student grant system, which will focus mainly on supporting innovative projects and research and further improve cooperation between universities and leading businesses to attract human resources, the ministry reports.

Russian sociologists fear closure, quit publishing election polls

Russian leading independent polling organisation Levada Center has stated it has quit releasing results of polls on the country’s spring presidential election citing concern that the authorities could close it down for what they see as meddling in politics.

Court maintains pledge on former LAR leader’s bank accounts and owned property

Court has applied pledge status on property and bank accounts owned by Riga City Council member Mārtiņš Bondars to enforce EUR 15 million from him as part of Latvijas Krajbanka criminal case, as reported by TV3 News.

McDonald’s to use unrecycled packaging for 7 more years

World’s largest catering chain McDonalds has set the aim of ensuring that by 2025 all its packaging would be from either from recycled or renewable materials, which would be an increase current proportion of a half.

Saeima speaker: Judicial Affairs Council’s work should be more apparent

Work performed by the Judicial Affairs Council should be made more apparent, said Saeima speaker Ināra Mūrniece during her meeting with Supreme Court chairman Ivars Bičkovičs.

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.

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