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Wednesday 17.01.2018 | Name days: Tenis, Dravis
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BNN summary of the week: is Unity’s fractured state over? Minister promises better healthcare

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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; Future; Decline; Promise, and Opinion.

CHANGE: Unity’s parliamentary faction picks a new chairman

Hosams Abu Meri has been picked as the new chairman of Unity political party’s faction in the Saeima. The previous head of the faction – Solvita Āboltiņa – has decided to put down her mandate as member of the parliament and instead return to diplomatic service.

Abu Meri was recommended for this post by the board of Unity to replace Āboltiņa. This decision was made on 6 November.

Full article here

FIGHT: Estonia in UN Jerusalem vote to ignore U.S. warning

Regardless of U.S. government’s warning urging countries that receive its financial support not to back a UN resolution on the contentious issue of Jerusalem in the Middle East Peace Process, Estonia would support decades-long policy of Jerusalem to be the capital of both Israel and Palestine.

Estonian public broadcaster ERR reports, citing Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sven Mikser as stating on Thursday, December 21, that Estonia would go along with the position of the European Union concerning current matters in the Middle East, and that he wasn’t afraid of potential retaliation on the part of the U.S. government.

Full article here

FUTURE: Important 2017 decisions of the European Parliament that will affect your life

In 2017, the European Parliament approved and signed 74 new legislative acts associated with protection of the external border and security, trade agreements, energy security and cancellation of roaming, said Antonio Tajani, who was elected chairman of European Parliament in January 2017.

Full article here

BUSINESS: exports of Latvian food products up by more than 20%

Exports of Latvian food products industry has grown by more than 20% when compared with the previous year, says council chairperson of Latvian Federation of Food Companies (LFFC) Ināra Šure.

She said that 2017 was a positive year for food production. This especially applies to exports. «The most positive development for Latvia’s food production industry in 2017 was the export growth – by more than 20%,» said Šure, adding that Latvian food companies have been working tirelessly for years to explore new markets and secure results.

LFFC Council chairperson expressed hope that this year’s import/export balance in food production industry turns out positive. If this is achieved, it will be possible to say Latvia’s food industry has succeeded reorienting its focus from Russia to other countries.

Full article here

DECLINE: rail freight volume has dropped to fifteen-year minimum

In 2017, Latvijas dzelzceļš transported 43 million tonnes of cargoes, which is the lowest freight volume in the past fifteen years. On top of that, there are no preconditions for the cargo decline to stop. This means the lowest point has yet to be reached, says president of Baltic Association – Transport and Logistics (BATL) Inga Antāne.

She mentions the seriousness of the situation in the industry and invites responsible ministry to act because unemployment already affects Latvia’s national economy. This is expected to affect not only people working in the industry but also all other residents.

BATL president says: «2017, as predicted, was the worst for the country’s railway freight in the past 15 years. Next year is expected to demonstrate an even more rapid decline even though in its letter to Saeima’s National Economy Committee, LDz mentioned that the expected volume for 2018 may reach 49 million tonnes. In the current situation, this is an impossible and utopian goal. No one can say that talks about a crisis in the transit industry are exaggerated. The crisis is here, and we will feel its consequences in 2018.»

The most realistic scenario for the situation’s stabilization is increasing freight volume with Belarus, where China has built a major logistics centre. Until now, we have not benefited from it much, because this centre has active cooperation established with Klaipeda port. For Latvia to attract cargoes from Belarus, the country has to do its homework and resolve problems that affect its competitiveness.

Full article here

PROMISE: Latvian Healthcare Minister promises to slash queues for healthcare services by half

With a major increase in funding it will be possible to reduce queues for healthcare services by half, Latvian Healthcare Minister Anda Čakša promised to Rīta panorama programme.

The politician says that 2017 has been a turning point for Latvia’s healthcare – the government has dramatically changed its views towards healthcare and has secured a nearly EUR 200 million increase for the healthcare budget.

As for the Healthcare Funding Law, Čakša mentioned that the proportion of residents that may end up without state-funded healthcare services is ‘very small’. From the perspective of the general division of services covered by the budget, the law is very loyal to Latvian residents. Still, it does motivate responsible payment of taxes, added the minister.

Full article here

OPINION: list of Lembergs’ committed crimes continues expanding

«During his rule in Ventspils, Aivars Lembergs performed so many illegal and criminal acts that investigation and judicial institutions still haven’t sorted things out,» said Ventspils City Council opposition member Valdis Kristovskis in an interview to BNN.

He says there is no doubt – during the period of Ventspils and state capture, Lembergs has managed to spend enough time imitating work in the interest of the city and society, whose portion of reasonably-minded people he calls ‘lumpen-proletariat’. «Something like that is only possible in conditions of a cult of personality. Unfortunately, there are people, whole parties, who do not seem all that worried about that,» says Kristovskis.

He notes that people are inspired by this approach. It eats away the country’s democracy and rule of law. «It is the duty of politicians to maintain standards and establish requirements, because if you’re not caught committing a crime does not mean a crime was not committed! Politicians have to oppose corruption and crime on a state level even if investigation and court processes require time. If politicians wait for crimes to be proven in court, then, I’m sorry, people like that should not work in state administration and act as people’s representatives,» said Kristovskis.

Full article here

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Maxima Latvia expects price decline up to 15% in 2018

Following Maxima Latvija’s decision to reduce prices for nearly 1,000 important goods, it is expected that a similar step will be made by other players in the industry. This could mean prices for everyday goods could decline by up to 15%, as BNN was informed by the company.

Latvia’s economy reaches highest peak since 2015

Residents’ mood has improved for most positions of the study. Residents were positive the most about ongoing changes for Latvia’s economy, the value of which has reached its peak since July 2015. In spite of optimistic changes, however, 30% of respondents are critical about ongoing economic changes in Latvia, according to results of the latest Baltic International Bank’s Latvian Barometer.

Riga exchange hopes for new securities issuers this year

There are hopes to see new Latvian businesses release shares on the stock market this year, says chairperson of Nasdaq Riga Daiga Auziņa-Melalksne.

Latvian universities to offer students an innovative grant system

To help develop students’ innovative and business abilities, Latvian Education and Science Ministry has developed a new student grant system, which will focus mainly on supporting innovative projects and research and further improve cooperation between universities and leading businesses to attract human resources, the ministry reports.

Russian sociologists fear closure, quit publishing election polls

Russian leading independent polling organisation Levada Center has stated it has quit releasing results of polls on the country’s spring presidential election citing concern that the authorities could close it down for what they see as meddling in politics.

Court maintains pledge on former LAR leader’s bank accounts and owned property

Court has applied pledge status on property and bank accounts owned by Riga City Council member Mārtiņš Bondars to enforce EUR 15 million from him as part of Latvijas Krajbanka criminal case, as reported by TV3 News.

McDonald’s to use unrecycled packaging for 7 more years

World’s largest catering chain McDonalds has set the aim of ensuring that by 2025 all its packaging would be from either from recycled or renewable materials, which would be an increase current proportion of a half.

Saeima speaker: Judicial Affairs Council’s work should be more apparent

Work performed by the Judicial Affairs Council should be made more apparent, said Saeima speaker Ināra Mūrniece during her meeting with Supreme Court chairman Ivars Bičkovičs.

Mass protests in Greece do not hold back new bailout reforms

The parliament of Greece has adopted a large set of reforms pushed for by international creditors in return for more bailout money, despite approximately 20 000 people protesting outside the parliament and brief clashes with riot police breaking out.

Foster families in Latvia to receive larger benefits

Municipal administrations have a duty to pay larger benefits for child care when children are put in foster families, Latvian Welfare Ministry reports.

Government plans to improve anti-doping measures in Latvia

During a meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers, a legislative draft developed by Healthcare Ministry on adding changes to the Sports Law for the improvement the country’s anti-doping measures was approved.

Only 12% of workers know their organization’s IT security policy

Businesses around the world still suffer from a catastrophically low level of awareness for IT matters, according to a study performed by Kaspersky Lab and B2B International.

Parents let children on ice in spite of temporary restriction

On Sunday, 14 January, officers of Riga Municipal Police observed with video-recording equipment how two people were skating on the surface of Victory Park’s pond. Because it is banned for people to remain on ice of large bodies of water in Riga, officers were sent in.

Czech President to be determined in duel between Zeman and Drahoš

In the Czech presidential election, no candidate has garnered a half of the votes and its result will be determined in a run-off between the current eursceptic President and a pro-European academic.

Aldaris: non-alcoholic beer market in Latvia grew 9% in 2017

Aldaris concluded 2017 with a significant increase in their non-alcoholic beer category of products. Demand for non-alcoholic beer has increased across all of Latvia – market growth was 9% in 2017, as reported by the company’s representatives.

Politician reports meddling with e-health system; prime minister parries

Last Thursday, 11 January, e-health system ‘suffered malfunctions’, which suggests that it may have been hacked, Saeima’s Social and Employment Matters Committee head Aija Barča mentioned in an interview to Latvijas Radio.

Pension fund cautious about 500-million-euro bridge project to Saaremaa

Commenting on the idea that Estonian pension funds could invest into the ambitious project of building a bridge from mainland Estonia to the country’s largest island, Swedish Swedbank has expressed caution.

Study: more than half of Latvians do not trust other people

52% of Latvian residents believe most people cannot be trusted. Only 5% of residents are ready to trust their fellow man. Less than one-fifth of Latvian residents trust decision-makers, according to results of a study performed by SKDS.

Economic expert: 2018 expected to be good for investors

«This year promises to be good for investors, because global economy is on a rise and profits of businesses have a tendency to grow,» says Luminor economic expert Gints Belēvičs.

Estonia counts more residents for 3rd consecutive year

Registering an increase in the Estonian population for the third consecutive year, Estonian statisticians have estimated that the population has increased by 3,070 people to 1,318,700 residents. They have also warned that this is preliminary data, which could still change considerably as unregistered immigration has not been included.

Russian school struck by teenager knife attack

In a knife attack on a school in Perm, Russia, eleven children and a teacher have suffered injuries.

NA: city council has to consider new partnership approach for Agenskalns market

Riga City Council members have to decide what is more important for Agenskalns market’s development: rate or quality. There are two options: force a closed market development with an auction of long-term lease or consider public private partnership option. Such a proposal was submitted to Riga City Council’s City Property Committee by the faction of the National Alliance.

Romania Prime Minister changed, second since June

Romanian head of government Mihai Tudose has lost the support of his own Social Democratic Party becoming the second Romanian Prime Minister to lose the seat in seven months.

Moderately rapid export rise recorded in Latvia in January-November period

Compared with the previous year’s period, a moderately rapid export growth was recorded in Latvia in the January-November period of 2017 when compared with other EU member states, according to data published by Eurostat.

Japanese R&I upgrades Latvia’s credit rating to A-

Japanese Rating and Investment Information, Inc. (R&I) has announced its decision to upgrade Latvia’s rating from BBB+ to A- with a stable outlook, as reported by Latvian State Treasury.

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