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Saturday 24.03.2018 | Name days: Kazimirs, Izidors

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.

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MEP: operations of certain banks in Latvia ruin the country’s reputation

Money laundering is a problem in Latvia, because the activities performed by certain banks ruin the country’s reputation, said member of the European Parliament Krišjānis Kariņš in an interview to Rietumu Radio.

Harmony believes education only in Latvian language is discrimination

Members of Harmony’s Saeima faction have turned to President of Latvia Raimonds Vējonis with a request to halt the parliament’s newly approved amendments to the General Education Law and Education Law regarding education only in Latvian language.

Opinion: UFG and For Latvia and Ventspils were in favour of Vejonis congratulating Putin

Latvia’s President Raimonds Vējonis sent his congratulation to the newly-elected President of Russia Vladimir Putin in order to secure political capital for himself during next year’s presidential elections, says Assoc. Prof. Ojārs Skudra from Social Sciences Faculty of the University of Latvia.

Commissioner: Latvia should provide a clear response to situation in its financial sector

The scandal in Latvia’s financial sector has been reported far and wide in the European Union. This is why it is highly important for Latvia to provide a clear reaction to all this, said Vice-President of the European Commission for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Market Union Valdis Dombrovskis.

Don't joke about bombs at Tallinn Airport, they take it seriously

Estonia's largest airport in Tallinn has from early 2017 received 14 threats of the presence of explosives in the air-travel hub, most of which have been discovered to be just jokes said at the wrong place.

Minister: learning in a single education system using state language is only obvious

Education using state language is our way of ensuring sustainable development of our nation, says Latvia’s Education and Science Minister Kārlis Šadurskis.

Estonian banks close foreigner accounts in wake of ABLV closure

In the wake of the closure of ABLV Bank in Latvia and alleged money laundering via the Estonian branch of Danske Bank, lenders in Estonia are closing the accounts of foreigners, but this threatens the country's successful e-Residency programme aimed at attracting foreign investors.

Latvian Saeima conceptually supports limiting the Bank of Latvia governor’s authority

The Saeima has supported amendments to the Law on the Bank of Latvia in the first reading. Amendments provide that the term of the bank’s governor, his deputy and council members will be five years, as reported by Saeima’s press-service.

Baltic shareholders agree to keep Baiba Rubesa in charge of RB Rail

RB Rail CEO and board chairperson Baiba Rubesa will keep her post. This was decided by shareholders during the 22 March meeting. «The supervisory council had previously mentioned the CEO’s contribution to the company’s development. Still, we intend to find solutions and continue realizing Rail Baltica project,» said RB Rail Supervisory Council chairperson Riia Sillave.

Syrian rebel groups in eastern Ghouta announce ceasefire

In the besieged eastern Ghouta territory in Syria, which has been under heavy air strikes and artillery fire for about a month, several opposition rebel groups have agreed to ceasefire.

EU member states on Skripal attack: «Highly likely» Russia was responsible

The European Union has stated it would recall its ambassador to Moscow for consultations after heads of member states and their governments agreed it was very likely that Russia was responsible for the attack with a chemical weapon on a Russian-British double agent.

Weather to remain cold in Latvia until Easter; more snowfall expected

Weather in Latvia is expected to become cold again after a brief period of warmth. Air temperature will drop again at the beginning and the middle of next week; some areas may experience frost again, as reported by Latvian State, Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Farmers in Latvia dissatisfied with resolution of electricity-related problems

Two months have passed since farmers in Latvia had received unjustifiably large electricity bills. Countless meetings and discussions have taken place in those two months. Unfortunately, no decisive measures have been undertaken to resolve the problem. Farmers are confused with decision-makers’ incisiveness in a matter important to the national economy, as noted by the Farmers’ Saeima.

Life after 25 May: is this the end for free publication of photo galleries from events?

Many of us like to check out photos from concerts, conferences or sport events on gallery portals and social networks to have a look at guests of those events. However, after 25 May, when General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force, the situation will no longer be the same.

Saeima to establish legal framework for Baltic cooperation in disaster prevention

On Thursday, 22 March, Latvian Saeima supported a legislative draft, ratification of which will help create legal framework with other Baltic States in prevention of disasters, as reported by the parliament’s press-service.

Number of complaints with postal services on a rise in Latvia

Public Utilities Commission has compiled information about complaints submitted by residents in regards to postal services in 2017. The number of complaints has increased alongside opposing views about package terminals – the regulator has received 37 complaints in total.

Output of livestock products in Latvia increased in 2017

Compared to 2016, output of meat grew by 4.6 % and output of milk by 1.4 % in 2017. In 2017, in Latvia 91.2 thousand tonnes of meat were produced, which is 4.0 thousand tonnes or 4.6 % more than in 2016. The most significant increase was observed in the output of poultry (of 11.3 %) and pork (4.7 %).

Turkey's offensive in Syria condemned by NATO ally Germany

Angela Merkel, the head of the German federal government has stated that Turkey’s military offensive in the northern Syrian town of Afrin was unacceptable and she blamed Russia for simply watching, while attacks by Syrian government forces on besieged eastern Ghouta continue.

Finance minister still believes tax reform in Latvia has brought results

«The tax reform has given us the results we had expected, especially in regards to combating envelope wages,» said Latvia’s Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola in an interview to 900 seconds programme of LNT.

Planned hospital reorganisation in Lithuanian regions irks both mayors and patients

If the plan of the Lithuanian Ministry of Health to overhaul treatment services in the provinces does not hit a snag, the rural hospitals will be soon providing only essential care and nursing, the focus will be on out-patient care and treatment will be available only in larger county hospitals.

Ventspils beach high in popularity this week; Lembergs gets spotlight time as well

Ventspils ended up in the spotlight in an unusual way this week: seals washed up on the beach there. Animal Freedom emphasizes that human contact with baby seals would hurt them. Residents are asked to maintain at least 50 m distance from them. However, the suspended Mayor of Ventspils Aivars Lembergs decided to take photos with baby seals and publish them on his Facebook profile.

Ombudsman: problems in nursing homes and social care centres are associated with lack of funding

Problems in nursing homes and social care centres are largely associated with lack of funding, because it is not possible to perform high-quality work using currently available resources. This is the responsibility of ministries and the government, as ombudsman Juris Jansons mentioned in an interview to Latvijas Radio.

Estonian music authors receive record royalties for 2017

The organisation, which is tasked by collecting royalties for local and foreign music in Estonia, the Estonian Authors' Society, has received six million euros in royalties in 2017, which is its record level.

Facebook sorry for permitting exploitation of 50 million user data in politics

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has apologised for the social network failing to ensure enough privacy to its users that allowed for data on about 50 million of its users to abused by a political consultancy firm.

Zhdanok’s replacement to promote non-citizen matter in European Parliament

Miroslavs Mitrofanovs, who has taken Tatyana Zhdanok’s place in the European Parliament, plans to promote the matter of non-citizens in the institution.

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