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Wednesday 20.09.2017 | Name days: Marianna, Ginters, Guntra
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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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Pabriks: Russia failed to intimidate anyone with Zapad exercises

Information acquired during Zapad 2017 military exercises will be enough to assess the tactics used and strategy, said MEP Artis Pabriks in an interview to Rīta panorama programme of LTV.

Latvian Court Administration invests in development Georgia’s court system

Latvian Court Administration opens Twinning project in Tbilisi, Georgia. This project provides for supporting rule of law and independence of court in Georgia to improve the professionalism of judges and court employees, as reported by Court Administration’s European Social Fund project manager Anna Skrjabina.

Spanish police seizes documents related to Catalonia referendum

As Spanish central government seeks derail the October 1 Catalonian independence referendum, which has been banned by the country's Constitutional Court, police in the autonomous region has seized boxes of documents related to holding the vote.

Court orders Loginovs and Pečaks to pay back illegally spent finances

Riga Regional Court has ordered former Riga Freeport CEO Leonids Loginovs and his deputy Aigars Pečaks to repay illegally spent finances in the amount of EUR 856,951.

Mexico shaken by tragic 7.1-magnitude earthquake

Buildings in Mexico City collapsed as a powerful, 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck in central Mexico taking the lives of no less than 220 people.

VNT director: I’m not desperate, managing such challenges is why we are here

Increase of infrastructure tariffs means cargo transports in Latvia’s direction will also become more expensive. In spite of that, Ventspils nafta terminals as a competitive commercial company that is interested in carrying cargoes from Belarus and Russia will definitely pay attention to tariff prices. «And in this case we are not the most competitive,» VNT Managing Director Lars Pantzlaff comments the situation over the plans of Latvijas Dzelzceļš to raise railway tariff plans.

Judins says parliamentary committee «is going nowhere»

The work performed by Saeima’s investigative committee in charge of oligarch case does not fit the established goal to investigate and analyse possible state capture, says member of the committee and Unity’s Saeima faction Andrejs Judins.

Study: residents criticize development of Latvia general situation the most

With the coming of autumn, residents’ optimism has declined significantly, according to results of Baltic International Bank’s Latvian Barometer.

Number of occupied jobs in Latvia up 9.3 thousand

At the end of the first half of 2017, in Latvia there were 903.2 thousand occupied posts, and, compared to the end of the first half of 2016, the number has grown by 9.3 thousand or 1.0 %.

Latkovskis says sometimes questionable votes are lobbied in Saeima in secret

There have been cases sin which questionable votes were being lobbied in the parliament in secret. Compared with last year, this tendency is demonstrating growth, said Saeima deputy Ilmārs Latkovskis in an interview to Latvijas Avīze.

E-governance advocate Ilves comments on alleged Estonian ID card vulnerability

The ex-President of Estonia Toomas Hendrik Ilves, who has been an active advocate of e-governance has emphasised that a possible security risk with Estonian ID cards has not put that the country's reputation as an e-state at risk.

Delna invites Saeima to support initiative to liquidate option to abstain from votes

Society for openness Delna invites Saeima deputies to support public initiative and liquidate the option for deputies to abstain from votes.

82% of Estonian households use mobile internet at home

As to the choice of internet connection in Estonia, 82% of Estonian households use mobile internet at home, Estonian statisticians have estimated.

Baltic Express attracts railway cargoes; decline noted for other carriers

Railway cargo carrier Baltic Express more than doubled its cargo volumes in the first seven months of 2017. Meanwhile, other two cargo carriers – LDz Cargo and Baltic Transit Service – have suffered cargo declines. Baltic Association – Transport and Logistics notes that it is ringing the alarm over the situation in the industry, not over the interests of its members.

Survey: more than half of Latvian residents are half-serious about their health

44% of Latvian residents use all medicine prescribed by their doctor when they get sick, according to data from Mana Aptieka&Apotheka health index.

In pictures: Zapad drill in full swing

BNN offers you an insight into the quadrennial join military training of Belarus and Russia, which have been inspected in person by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoygu.

Rinkēvičs invites India to open an embassy in Latvia

During the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly in New York on Monday, 18 September, Latvian Foreign Affairs Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs met with his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj. The two discussed political and economic cooperation between the two countries.

Norwegian top policeman sentenced to 21 years in prison for aiding hashish contraband

A court in Norway, a country often recognised as one of the least corrupt globally, has convicted a senior Norwegian police officer to 21 years in prison after finding him guilty of taking bribes and helping drugs contraband.

Road Transport Administration: transport planning in Riga does not reflect region’s scale

Road Transport Administration plans to speak with Riga and Pierīga administrations about the fractured public transport system in the region, says the administration’s chairman Kristiāns Godiņš.

Mass Ryanair cancellations expected

Irish airline Ryanair has warned that due to an internal planning problem up to 400 000 flights could be cancelled in the European Union.

Legislative draft proposed to simplify referendum procedure

The Central Election Commission has registered Open Management Partnership in Latvia signature collection association’s legislative draft submitted for the fourth time. This legislative draft proposes cancelling amendments of 8 November 2012 to the Law on National Referendum, Legislative Initiative and European Citizens’ Initiative, as reported by the commission.

Greece to lift wine tax due to low revenue

The government of Greece plans to submit draft amendments to lift the country’s year-old excise tax on wine, Greek Minister for Agricultural Development and Food has stated.

Reirs: pension budget will increase by EUR 160 million next year

Next year, pension budget will increase by more than EUR 160 million, says Latvian Welfare Minister Jānis Reirs. He explains that the total pension budget will be EUR 1.93 billion, which means funding for next year’s pensions will be 9.19% higher.

Oligarch case’s parliamentary committee settles disputes with shouting

During a meeting of Saeima’s committee entrusted with investigating Oligarch case, a loud argument broke out between Unity faction member Andrejs Judins and publicist Imants Liepiņš.

IDB: it is too soon to expect corruption to go down in traffic monitoring field

Society’s condemnation of bribery is positive, but it is currently too soon to expect the problem of bribery in road traffic monitoring field to go down, admits Internal Security Bureau chief Valters Mūrnieks.