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Monday 18.12.2017 | Name days: Klinta, Kristaps, Kristofers, Krists
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BNN summary of the week: expensive sick leave, more suspicion about Lembergs’ illegalities

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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; Growth and Opinion.

CHANGE: average earnings in Latvia exceed 900 euros

In Q2 2017 the average gross wages and salaries for full-time work constituted 927 euros. Compared to Q2 2016, the average wages and salaries increased by 74 euros or 8.7 %.

Compared to the previous quarter, in Q2 2016 the increase in the gross wages and salaries comprised 4.8 % (42.7 euros).

Compared to Q2 2016, in Q2 2017 gross wages and salaries fund rose by 9.1 % or 173.2 million euros, whereas the number of salaried workers grew only by 0.3 % or 2.5 thousand (recalculated into full-time units), according to data from the Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia.

In Q2 2017, the average net wages and salaries constituted 676 euros, which was 7.8 % more than in Q2 2016. In general, the average net wages and salaries rose slower than the earnings before taxes.

Full article here

BUSINESS: if LMT and Lattelecom are merged, Latvia will lose the most

Contradictory opinions about the merge between Latvijas Mobilais Telefons and Lattelecom have become especially loud in recent weeks. If the merge is carried out, Latvia will lose the most, says partner of Vilgerts law firm Julija Jerneva.

She believes the merge of LMT and Lattelecom is less than beneficial for the state as a shareholder. «By allowing the merge, the country would lose control, whereas Telia Sonera Group would gain controlling package of shares. This would also mean a considerable reduction of the value of shares owned by the state,» says Jerneva.

Full article here

FIGHT: Kaimins requests checking Lembergs’ activities in Business Development Association

Saeima deputy Artuss Kaimins has asked the Prosecutor General’s Office, State Audit, Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau and State Revenue Service to check Aivars Lembergs activities in Business Development Association.

Kaimins says he suspects Lembergs of performing illegal activities in this association.

«Available information allows us to conclude that the true goal of this association is providing Lembergs with stable and considerable income while his assets remain arrested by court. Because of that, I have decided to turn to law enforcement institutions with legal authority and access to relevant information and request proof from all sides to perform in-depth checks,» as mentioned in Kaimins’ application.

Full article here

DECLINE: LBAS opposes initiative to not pay for first three days of sick leave

Free Trade Union Confederation of Latvia does support Welfare Ministry’s proposal to not pay employees money for the first three days of sick leave instead of the first day only, as it is currently.

This proposal was not discussed with trade unions or social partners. Because of that, progression of this proposal should not be allowed, notes LBAS.

LBAS chairman Egils Baldzens explains: «Compared with Estonia and Lithuania, employees in Latvia pay larger labour taxes. Also compared with Estonia, it is the state social insurance fee rate for Latvian employees is more than three times larger.»

He continues: «The situation with incapacity for work is better for our employed people, but we cannot assess this situation by pulling it out of context. Realization of this proposal would only increase the existing inequality between work and capital.»

Full article here

TRUTH: materials from Oligarch case show that there are signs of state capture

The Criminal Law does not have the term state capture. However, materials of the oligarch case include multiple examples that such a phenomenon does exist in reality, said member of Saeima’s parliamentary investigation committee Andrejs Judins said on Tuesday, 29 August.

During the meeting, Judins informed members of the committee and the chief of Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau Jekabs Straume of the signs of state capture.

Judins explained that it is not possible to introduce criminal liability for state capture in Latvia. He added that the Criminal Law does not cover the term «state capture». State capture is a phenomenon when a group of people acquire power in a country to serve their personal interests. The term means illegally influencing state processes to satisfy one’s personal interests, Judins said.

Full article here

GROWTH: Latvia’s GDP has increased 4.8%

Compared to Q1 2017, Latvia’s gross domestic product at constant prices increased by 1.2 % in Q2. Compared to the corresponding period of 2016, in Q2 of this year the GDP grew by 4.0 % according to seasonally and calendar non-adjusted data and by 4.8 % according to adjusted data.

In Q2, the GDP amounted to 6.8 billion euros at current prices and at 5.7 billion euros at constant prices, according to data from the Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia.

Compared to Q2 of 2016, in Q2 of 2017 the manufacturing section grew by 7 %. Growth was recorded in almost all manufacturing divisions. Manufacture of food products went up by 7 % and manufacture of fabricated metal products by 4 %. Significant rise was also experienced in manufacture of electrical equipment – of 34 %, manufacture of chemicals and chemical products – of 23 %, and manufacture of computer, electronic and optical products – of 21 %.

There was an 18 % increase in the production volumes of mining and quarrying. Under the influence of the building of streets and roads, significant rise was recorded in quarrying – of 33 % (sand, gravel, rubble).

Full article here

FUTURE: European Commission proposes banning eel fishing in Baltic Sea

The European eel is a critically endangered fish species. Their population has declined 95% in the past three decades. Efforts to protect the eel have so far been unsuccessful. This is why stricter measures are needed to safeguard the endangered species. To prevent the species from going extinct, the European Commission proposes banning eel fishing in the Baltic Sea.

Experts say the European eel is a unique fish that has lived from prehistoric times. It has even survived multiple ice ages. Unfortunately, humans have had a devastating impact on them. A ban on eel fishing may be the chance to save this species.

Experts of World Wide Fund for Nature say that such a decision from the European Commission is welcome. Nevertheless, further steps should be considered as well. This means establishing a full ban on eel fishing in Europe and Northern Africa. Also, every EU member state would have to perform internal measures to preserve eels, such as establishing migration corridors for eels around hydro-electric dams.

Full article here

OPINION: a people’s elected president will not resolve anything

79% of residents support the idea of having a people’s elected president, according to data from SKDS. Are Latvian residents sufficiently competent to make such a decision? What would such a choice be based on? How would realizing such an idea change the existing interior structure of the country, says Turība University lecturer and Riga TV24 and Latvijas Radio journalist Ansis Bogustovs.

«For most people in countries like France and Lithuania, presidents who were elected in recent years using media tricks and populism brought more disappointment than praise. Hoping to avoid disappointment, people make the opposite choice and end up in a different ditch, as it happened with the last two presidents in France,» Bogustovs says.

He continues: «Ratings of people’s elected presidents decline as rapidly as they rise. Such a situation creates a degree of instability for society. It is reckless, foolish and even dangerous. Donald Trump’s election in USA was basically a democratic solution.»

At the same time, Bogustovs notes that Latvia has never had a tradition of allowing the people elect their president. «If we look at Lithuania, which has such a tradition, we should mention that the tradition there was historically formed. They walked the path of electing leaders throughout their history – they had also had kings and queens, after all.»

Full article here

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Week in Lithuania. Lithuanian doctors to offer voluntary test on alcohol habits

Lithuania's Health Minister Aurelijus Veryga has drafted a new scheme for residents attending health care institutions to fill out tests that would reveal whether the person's drinking habits signal a possible addiction.

Citadele Index: businessmen are more optimistic about economic growth

After a four-year gap, optimism has been noticed in all of Latvia’s business sectors. For the third consecutive quarter Citadele Index value exceeds 50 points. Businessmen are also positive about the country’s economy and their own finances, according to the final Citadele Index study for 2017.

Bank of Latvia increases GDP growth outlook to 4.7% for 2017

Bank of Latvia has decided in increase gross domestic product growth outlook from 4.2% to 4.7% for 2017, as reported by the bank’s governor Ilmārs Rimšēvičs.

Latvian residents’ opinion of government’s work remains negative

Latvian residents voiced the biggest degree of dissatisfaction about the development of the situation in Latvia and the work performed by the government. Although the previous evaluation of government’s work had increased by four points, it has since declined by two points, according to data from Baltic International Bank’s Latvian Barometer.

Eel fishing to be restricted in Baltic Sea for three months

European Union Fisheries Council has decided to restrict eel fishing for three months in 2018 in all waters, including the Baltic Sea. Although the World Wide Fund for Nature and environmental organization in Europe view it as a notable first step, these efforts are unlikely to have a major impact on the most important problem – eel population continues declining rapidly, as noted by WWF.

LCCI: increase of electricity bills for thousands of companies in unacceptable

Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) categorically opposes increasing electricity bills for the majority of small and medium-sized companies due to mandatory procurement component’s differentiation. The organization believes that this would basically introduce a new additional tax, making them even less competitive.

Head of Latvian Association of Regions to spend Christmas thinking on remaining in the party

Dissatisfied with multiple decisions made by Latvian Association of Regions (LAR), Riga City Council member Mārtiņš Bondars will spend the holiday thinking about his place in this political party, as he mentioned in his interview to Rīta panorama or LTV.

Estonian fund permitted to purchase several Latvia energy production companies

Latvian Competition Council has permitted Estonian fund to purchase several energy production and agricultural companies.

Meat processing giant sees room for growth in ready-to-eat foods

Consumption in the meat market segment of ready-to-eat foods is growing quickly, evaluated Finnish meat processing group HKScan that is planning to invest eight million euros in its factory in Estonia.

To fight for national minority schools, Russian representatives promise to hold a referendum

Defenders of Russian schools in Latvia promise to organize a referendum for autonomy of national minority schools, said co-chairman of Latvian Russians Association Miroslavs Mitrofanovs in regards to the transition to education only in Latvian language.

Tax payment process from capital growth to change in Latvia

As part of the tax reform, changes will be added to the Personal Income Tax Law starting from 1 January 2018. One of the changes is associated with payment and declaration of income from capital growth. The tax rate and the term for submission of declarations on income from capital growth will change next year.

Tusk deems EU migrant quotas ineffective as some states oppose taking in migrants

Donald Tusk, the head of the Council of the European Union and chairman of this week's EU summit, has evaluated that mandatory EU-wide quotas are ineffective and that there is a split between east and west as regards asylum policy.

Riga City Council’s 2018 budget – poorly planned or well-developed?

As the vote for the 2018 budget of Riga City Council draws near, representatives of all opposition parties say they will not support it as long as politicians of the ruling coalition continue viewing the city’s most important financial document as good and aimed at development.

Euro area economy has grown quicker than expected, European Central Bank estimated

Growth has been at a faster pace in the eurozone prompting the European Central Bank to raise its economic growth forecasts.

Weekends in Latvia expected to be snowy

A layer of snow will form in Latvia’s central and western regions that will remain until the middle of next week, as reported by State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

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.

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