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Monday 11.12.2017 | Name days: Valdis, Voldemārs, Valdemārs
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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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Week in Lithuania. Vilnius mayor apologises for poor performance of road services

Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius has admitted that the road services of the Lithuanian capital city were not efficient enough in their response to the weather conditions, apologising to Vilnius residents for the inconveniences they encountered due to traffic interruptions.

BNN summary of the week: kebab industry’s fears, insiders in anti-corruption bureau, and Latvia’s crumbling roads

BNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Fight; Fear; Opinion; Confusion; Truth.

Farmers Saeima: if Latvia does not ease rules for guest workers, there won’t be any workers

During a meeting of the Food Industry Council, the biggest discussions were raised about the matter regarding the lack of labour force in agriculture and food processing companies. On top of that, farmers are confused over Economy Ministry’s proposed solution, saying that it is too far from reality.

Ex-deputy chief of anti-corruption bureau: I have no doubt the prime minister and president dance to Lembergs’ tune

«For ten year now Aivars Lembergs has been under the ban to perform duties as chairman of Ventspils City Council. And for the same period of time Lembergs and state officials have been ignoring this ban. Environment Protection and Regional Development Minister Kaspars Gerhards, who is responsible for supervising municipalities and is very well-informed of the truce power centre, which, unfortunately, is not Latvian citizens as it is stated in the country’s Constitution, goes to visit Lembergs, not Ventspils. He does that to demonstrate his fealty to the ruler as he would if we lived in the Middle Ages,» says politician from New Conservative Party, councillor of Riga city Council and former deputy chief of Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau Juta Strīķe.

Average consumer price level up 2.7% in Latvia

During 2017, the average level of consumer prices rose by 2.7 % when compared with last year. Prices of goods grew by 2.7 % and prices of services by 2.9 %.

Updated: MEPs move against allowing phosphates in kebab meat said to endanger massive industry

As the European Parliament plans to vote on vetoing European Commission's proposal to allow phosphates, used to keep seasoned kebab meat moist and aromatic, the industry considers it a threat event to the existence of meat in the popular fast food.

Prime Minister: new step is made to stimulate Latvian-Japanese cooperation

A new step has been made towards stimulating cooperation between Latvia and Japan in political and economic field. Latvia is not large enough for our businesses to focus solely on the domestic market. Our country has a rapidly-growing economy with a free market ready to make major steps towards transnational cooperation, said Prime Minister of Latvia Māris Kučinskis during his visit in Tokyo.

Theatre critic: there is historic importance in people’s trust of television

«Pop-culture’s influence over society should be viewed from two different perspectives. First of all, it is important to consider how society affects popular culture – what we see or hear at least partially reflects the modern society. Secondly, if created products turn out very influential, they inspire people and shift their thought processes or behaviour one way or another. This is because new and exciting products that have never existed until now, products that are considered marginal,» said theatre critic and Assistant Professor of Social Sciences Faculty of the University of Latvia Zane Radzobe.

MEP: Soviet Union’s activities in occupied countries are not discussed openly

Even to this day Soviet Union’s activities in occupied countries are not discussed openly and loudly, said member of the European Parliament Inese Vaidere at the presentation of the English translation of the book ‘Damage Caused to the Baltics by the Soviet Union’ in Brussels.

Expert: data importance will only increase in the digital transformation era

«Technologies are the driving force behind the development of all sectors in the 21st century. They affect our everyday lives and Latvia’s future development. We cannot afford to stop now. We have to continue developing innovations and creativity on all levels,» said Latvian President Raimonds Vējonis during the annual conference organized by Information and Communication Technologies Association.

Estonia in OSCE urges Russia to meet international standards in Ukraine

Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sven Mikser, draw attention to support of Ukrainian territorial integrity and the protection of human rights, as he addressed fellow foreign ministers at the meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Vienna this week.

Emotional debates break out in Saeima in regards to automatic access to state secrets

During the last meeting, very emotional debates in regards to automatic issue of access to official secrets were held. Proposals were voiced both in support of this and against. The proposal was declined in the end.

UK: EU citizens inside country «will be able to go on living as before»

In the talks on the UK leaving the European Union, London and Brussels have managed to agree on such key issues as the future of EU citizens within the UK and the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, which will allow diplomats to move on to talks on the future relations between the bloc and the country after their divorce.

Polish head of government Szydlo resigns

The Prime Minister of Poland, Beata Szydlo, has stepped down, hours after surviving a no-confidence vote pushed for in the Sejm by the opposition.

Weather becomes colder and colder in Latvia

In the next seven days weather in Latvia will be volatile; cyclone activity will remain. On Friday, 8 December, air temperature will remain relatively high – in most of Latvia it will be around +1° C… +5° C, as reported by the State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Lithuania’s real estate market hints of troubles ahead

Although the new flat sales, including luxury sector, in Lithuanian capital Vilnius continue to hover at the peak of recent years, real estate market outside the capital and Kaunas, the second-largest Lithuanian city, is cooling off, which may be an omen as to what expect soon.

Vaškevičs asked Latvian authorities to investigate death threats against him

Bribery accused former deputy director of the State Revenue Service Vladimirs Vaškevičs, who has fled to Austria, says he had asked Latvia’s Prosecutor General’s Office to investigate an anonymous internet death threat.

People of Palestine urged for upraising after U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital

Palestine's Islamist group Hamas called on its population to quit peace efforts and launch a new uprising against Israel reacting to Washington's recognition of Jerusalem as Israeli capital.

Survey: residents have weak knowledge on teaching in national minority schools

Residents have very imprecise information about the teaching process in national minority schools, as concluded in results of a survey performed by SKDS.

Latvia demonstrates one of the most rapid economic growth rates in EU

In the third quarter of 2017, Latvia had experienced one of the most rapid GDP growth rates among European Union member states, according to information from Eurostat.

Saeima rejects proposal on lowering entry bar for parliamentary elections

Reviewing amendments to the Saeima Elections Law, deputies declined Gunārs Kūtris’ proposal to lower the entry barrier for next year’s parliamentary elections from 5% to 3%.

Prime Minister: Latvia wishes to work in Japan’s global financial technologies market

Latvia has a unique synergy between traditional finance sector and fintech companies. People there constantly come up with new solutions to make Latvia the first choice for fintech company headquarters, said Latvian Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis at the opening of World FinTech Day Latvia business seminar in Tokyo on 7 December.

Large companies predict turnover rise for 2018

Most large companies in Baltic States predict their turnover to rise next year. Such an opinion was voiced by 67% of large businesses in Latvia, 70% in Estonia and 59% in Lithuania, according to SEB Bank’s financial directors survey.

Estonian Defence Ministry to combine its IT and cyber policy departments

The Estonian Defence Ministry will combine its cyber policy and information technology departments into a single department.

Cimdars: there are concerns about qualifications of people working at election sites

If wages of people working at election sites is not increased, serious concerns about people’s qualifications will appear, said chairman of the Central Election Commission Arnis Cimdars in an interview to 900 seconds programme of LNT.