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Wednesday 28.06.2017 | Name days: Kitija, Viesturs, Viestards
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BNN summary of the week: institutions to be reformed and Latvians’ health with a question mark

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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; Truth and Growth.

CHANGE: Citskovskis intends to reform multiple state institutions

State Chancellery’s Director Janis Citskovskis considers performing reforms in minor state institutions like Latvian Institute, Latvian Council of Science and Data State Inspectorate.

In total, the director of the State Chancellery has identified 24 small state institutions that have a small number of employees. Among those institutions is Latvian Institute with five posts, Latvian Council of Science with seven posts, State Railway Administration with eleven posts, Lotteries and Gambling Supervisory Inspectorate with nineteen posts, State Administration School with twenty posts and Data State Inspectorate with twenty five posts.

Full article here

BUSINESS: Latvia commences international information exchange about financial institutions’ accounts

To improve global efforts for combating cross-border tax fraud and preventing tax avoidance, 52 countries – including Latvia – will commence automatic information exchange about financial institutions’ accounts in September, as BNN was informed by SRS.

The State Revenue Service emphasizes that it is a major step towards helping tax administrations identify a tax payer’s money stored abroad and whether or not the person gains income as a true beneficiary of a legal establishment to further reduce the freedom to hide income in offshore accounts.

«Lately there has been a significant increase in cross-border tax fraud and general tax avoidance. Income that is not declared and from which taxes are not paid have an impact on state budget revenue. The European Union and countries around the world are actively looking for solutions to prevent that,» SRS representatives say.

Full article here

FIGHT: Prime Minister’s work group discusses options to assist with healthcare funding

Latvian Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis’ health work group intends to offer the ruling coalition one of two options for securing funding for healthcare – tying social insurance with minimal social fees and raising VAT by one percentage point in parallel or by introducing mandatory health insurance with fixed or differentiated monthly payment.

After the work group’s meeting, Kucinskis informed journalists that four proposals were discussed at the 1 June meeting. Although the final decision was not made in the end, the work group decided to offer two proposals to be reviewed by the coalition – the idea submitted by the Bank of Latvia to introduce fixed or differentiated payments for health insurance or Kucinskis’ proposal to tie mandatory social insurance to minimal social payments and raising VAT by one percentage point – to 22% – in parallel.

Kucinskis said his offer would secure 75% of healthcare services, including services like family physician visits and treatment of serious diseases, from the service basket to residents who pay social fees.

The prime minister’s offer states that this would secure approximately EUR 80 million in additional finances for healthcare. «Additional finances will make sure residents will no longer have to waste time waiting in long queues,» said the prime minister.

He refrained from predicting if this proposal receives support in the coalition. «Waiting time is over. We will have to make the decision at the end of last week,» said Kucinskis.

Full article here

TRUTH: Latvian Traders Association: SRS covers up cash registers scheme

Finance Ministry’s forced cash registers reform is already outdated. On top of that, it was basically copied from Sweden, which had introduced it in 2006 and had found it impractical later in 2010, says Latvian Traders Association’s President Henriks Danusevics.

He says that LTA proposed developing a modern control system in accordance with recommendations from the European Commission.

LTA proposes providing true information about State Revenue Service’s cash register fraud prevention measures. The association also wants a clear answer as to why SRS has a neglecting position towards establishing criminal liability for tampering with cash register data.

Full article here

GROWTH: TM: politicians, officials and business representatives have to work together

«Geography in conjunction with well-developed infrastructure has made Latvia a major player in transits on the Eurasian continent. We are an attractive partner for a number of countries. We also have strong transport ties with European, Russian and Belarusian markets,» says Latvian Transport Ministry’s deputy state secretary Uldis Reimanis.

Full article here

FUTURE: Selection committee picks MIDD official Jekabs Straume to be chief of KNAB

On Wednesday, 31 May, personnel selection committee agreed to pick Military Intelligence and Security Service official Jekabs Straume for the post of chief of Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau.

As the journalists were told after the committee’s meeting by Director of the State Chancellery Janis Citskovskis, the vote was unanimous. Straume has appropriate education and good knowledge of foreign languages. He has more than 15 years of experience working at MIDD. He has also participated in international missions. Straume also understands the need to sort out and mobilize the corruption prevention and combating institution, said Citskovskis.

MIDD is one of three Latvian security institutions that perform objectives stated in the State Security Institutions Law. It works under authority of Defence Ministry.

Data of Straume’s declaration are not publicly available.

Full article here

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Construction costs in Latvia grew 0.2% in May

Compared to April, the level of construction costs in Latvia increased by 0.2 % in May 2017. Labour remuneration of workers grew by 0.4 %, maintenance and operational costs of machinery and equipment rose by 0.3 %, whereas prices of building materials increased by 0.2 %.

Residents are certain no new jobs will appear in municipalities after elections

68% or the majority of interviewed Latvian Residents are certain no new jobs will appear after municipal elections, according to results of a survey by CV Market.

LDz Council Chairman Ansis Zeltins approved as new Freeport of Riga CEO

The committee responsible for the selection of candidates picked LDz Council Chairman Ansis Zeltins as the best candidate.

Estonian court: Right to protection of family life also to same-sex couples

Estonian Supreme Court has established in a decision that same-sex couples also have the right to protection of family life, when the court detailed Estonian court jurisdiction in disputes over residence permits involving foreign nationals.

Dzintars losses have declined: can the company survive the crisis?

Compared with 2015, net turnover of Dzintars declined by 104,000 euros in 2016. The company’s losses, on the other hand have declined by 904,000 euros when compared with 2015, says the company’s board member Dagnija Maike.

Victims of Portugal’s forest fires let down by communications with rescuers

After the Portugal wildfires, in which 64 people died and 254 got injured earlier in the month, the government of Portugal has ordered an investigation into the operation of emergency communication operations as at least 10 emergency calls are reported to have failed to reach firefighters.

Latvian Shipping Company sells House of Press for 16.8 million euros

Latvian Shipping Company’s subsidiary LASCO Investment has sold House of Press to PN Project, which is managed by Lithuanian real estate and private capital company Lords LB Asset Management. The total value of the deal is EUR 16.8 million, as reported by LSC.

Latvia and other countries refuse to support proposal for energy efficiency

The proposal to add changes to the Energy Efficiency Directive has been approved, establishing a goal to reach 30% of energy saving within the European Union by 2030.

Netherlands ruled partly liable for 350 Srebrenica victims

In relation to the Srebrenica massacre, an appeals court in the Netherlands has for the most part upheld an earlier ruling that the Dutch state was liable for the deaths of 350 Bosniak men in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.

Lembergs fails to chair third meeting of the new Ventspils City Council; this time he «lost his voice»

Although the slogan of Ventspils is ‘City with tomorrow’, little changes in the work of the local city council – the organizational process of meetings remains absurd and incomprehensible. For example, Aivars Lembergs, who is legally prohibited from performing his duties as Chairman of Ventspils City Council but has been elected as mayor regardless, could not chair the most recent meeting of the city council. The excuse he gave was that he lost his voice.

Multi-storey building at Zolitude Tragedy site sold at an auction for 3.9 million euros

The multi-storey building located at the site of Zolitude tragedy in Riga, Priedaines Street 20, has been sold at an auction for EUR 3.9 million, according to information published at eizsoles.ta.gov.lv.

Registration of social service providers employs «silence means consent» principle

From now on administrative practice of institutions responsible for social service providers will employ a «silence means consent» principle to reduce bureaucracy. This means if service providers do not receive a response to their application from a ministry by a specific date, service providers will be well within their rights to commence providing services, explains Welfare Ministry.

Experts: Latvia either does not use advantages offered by technologies

In spite of wide technological opportunities to create a powerful digital economy, Latvia either does not know how or simply does not use those advantages. This hurts the country’s competitiveness on the global market.

Estonia pushed to ban low nutritional value products from schools

Food and drinks with a low nutritional value and rich in calories should not be sold in schools, sets forth a bill drafted by the Estonian Social Affairs Ministry and the Minister of Health and Labour.

CEOs admit – it is getting harder and harder to find new workers

Study results show that 60% of businesses admit it is getting harder and harder to find workers. This marks more complex personnel selection processes for employers, which often costs more time and money.

Opinion: consumption of dairy products in Latvia continues to decline

Consumption of dairy products continues to decline in Latvia, says Food Union Vice-President for strategy and businesses development matters Normunds Stanevics.

Russian military incidents over Baltic Sea unprofessional, not hostile, says NATO general

Aviation incidents involving Russian war planes above the Baltic Sea are not clearly hostile against NATO, but are rather unprofessional, Chairman of the NATO Military Committee Gen. Petr Pavel has evaluated.

FCMC applies fines to three Latvian banks

Finance Capital and Market Commission in cooperation with United States Federal Bureau of Investigation found out that three Latvian banks – Baltikums Bank, Privatbank and Reģionālā investīciju banka – have not complied with requirements for combating money laundering and terrorism funding.

Role of NATO forces in Latvia’s state defence to be discussed in detail

On Tuesday, 27 June, Commander of Latvian National Armed Forces Major General Leonids Kalnins will meet with Lieutenant General Manfred Hofmann, who is the NATO's Multinational Corps North-East Headquarters Commander.

After successful Italian local election, Berlusconi sets sights on returning to power

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who has been convicted of tax fraud, has hailed the results of the large support his party has received in alliance with two other parties in the Italian local election.

LCCI decides to request a review of state expenditure

During an extraordinary meeting on Monday, 26 June, Latvian Chamber for Commerce and Industry decided to withdraw its support for the medium-term tax strategy until the government is ready to return to guidelines approved by the Cabinet of Ministers.

London outlines UK’s offer for post-Brexit stay of EU nationals

British Prime Minister Theresa May has stated she wishes for citizens of European Union member states to remain in the UK after the country leaves the bloc, outlining an offer for Brexit talks with Brussels.

Latvian ruling coalition agrees to introduce progressive PIT rate

The ruling coalition in Latvia has reached an agreement to differentiate personal income tax rate at 20%, 23% and 31%, as Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis told journalists after the coalition meeting.

Latvian Transport Ministry signs memorandum with Chinese Xinhua news agency

Transport Ministry’s State Secretary Kaspars Ozolins and Xinhua Vice-President Liu Siyang signed a memorandum on cooperation for mutual exchange of information associated with transport and logistics sector, BNN was informed by the ministry.

Opinion: Latvia is behind other countries both politically and economically

«Unfortunately, often the desire of our politicians to defend national interests is on par with that of the American president in relation to activities of Russian hackers. When two transit companies asked the government to compensate income of EUR 8.3 million lost because of the government’s stance on Ventspils Freeport’s involvement in Nord Stream 2 project, those businessmen were immediately called shameless,» Dienas Biznes journalist Egons Mudulis comments the situation with Nord Stream 2 project in Latvia.

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