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Sunday 18.03.2018 | Name days: Ilona, Adelīna

BNN summary of the week: name-calling in Transport Ministry and rushed tax reform

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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: Fight; Truth; Business; Future; Growth and Opinion.

BUSINESS: SRS to present parliamentary investigators materials associated with oligarch case

Members of the parliamentary investigative committee will be presented with materials associated with the infamous oligarch case, as confirmed by Chief of State Revenue Service’s Finance Police Edijs Ceipe.

Initially SRS had informed the committee that materials would be given to the prosecutor responsible for the case, not the committee. However, after evaluating applicable regulations, it has been decided to allow deputies to go through those materials in the presence of SRS employees.

Members of the committee did not mention which exact case is in question, but TV3 programme Nekā personīga reported on 10 September that Finance Police ended the criminal case regarding VAT fraud in relation to the construction of ex-politician Ainārs Šlesers’ house. The programme mentioned that Finance Police had decided to end the case. However, authorities did not provide proof that ‘there had been no tax fraud or at least an intention to cause damage to the state’.

The whole situation started when SIA Avadel, a company owned by Šlesers family, turned to SRS and requested repayment of more than EUR 225,000 in VAT, which was a result of construction and maintenance work associated with construction of said building. This raised a certain degree of suspicion within SRS that Šlesers was thereby trying to avoid paying all the necessary taxes. An audit was organized in Avadel as a result. SRS officials were confident the company had no rights for VAT return because ownership rights over the building are owned by Šlesers family, not the company, Nekā personīga reports.

Full article here

FIGHT: Antāne: I will talk about Transport Ministry without name-calling, I am above that

Baltic Association – Transport and Logistics organized a press-conference at Bergs Hotel on Wednesday, 13 September. During this conference, the association reported on the proposed action plan with specific objectives and deadlines for the government.

Members of the association also invited Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis to take charge in talks with industry representatives, considering that talks with Transport Ministry and minister Uldis Augulis have reached a dead end.

After the official portion of the conference, in which BATL president Inga Antāne, Ventbunkers economy and budget office manager Ivars Landmanis, Baltic Expresis chairman Māris Bremze and Ventspils Commercial Port board member Jānis Hāze discussed topical problems in the industry and answered questions from the audience.

It is important to emphasize that Antāne, opening the discussion about the industry’s problems, said: «It is not just about transit, but also about Latvia’s economy as a whole. The industry provides 8,000 jobs and brings the state budget around one billion euros every year.»

The conference pointed to the trend for processed cargo volumes to decline. «This is the reality,» said BATL president. She added that it is necessary to review costs, the current loan volume and the tariff, which is set to grow by 7% next year.

Full article here

TRUTH: for tax reform to yield results, it should have been given three years to develop

For it to yield tangible results, the tax reform should have been given at least three years to develop, says financial and legal affairs consultant, Latvian Tax Consultant Association’s chairman Ainis Dābols.

He is confident that any tax reform’s introduction period should be longer than what Latvia has now.

«I was present at the meeting with Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola. She said there is no more room for delays – elections are around the corner. On top of that, she said there is a number of European Commission requirements and other reasons why it should be done this year. Perhaps she is right. Nevertheless, but if the effect from the reform would have been better if it had been in development longer,» said Dābols.

According to him, it would have been better if the reform had been in development for at least three years. «It is easy for politicians to say – let’s introduce some new rules and then see how things go. I would rather the State Revenue Service not tell me out of the blue in 2020 that I owe something from 2018. Who would pay the tax debt for me – the prime minister?» said the tax consultant.

He believes it would be best to have a transition period so that businesses would not be applied with full-sized sanctions for problems with SRS. Unfortunately, because there is no transition period, businesses and private persons can expect some unpleasant surprises and even penalties.

Full article here

GROWTH: Latvia attracts half a billion euros from Juncker’s investment plan

Latvia has attracted approximately half a billion euros from the so-called Juncker investment plan, as confirmed by head of Latvia’s representation in the European Commission Inna Šteinbuka in an interview to Rīta Panorāma.

She says that Jean Claude Juncker’s speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg was optimistic. There was no optimism a year ago: his main concern was Brexit at the time. And a year before then, the migrant crisis was the biggest problem for Europe.

This is why his latest speech was optimistic – Europe and Latvia both demonstrate growth, unemployment continues to decline and investments continue flowing into economies.

Šteinbuka said that even though initially there was scepticism in Latvia upon the unveiling of Juncker’s plan, current estimates show that approximately half a billion euros have entered Latvia’s economy thanks to this plan.

Full article here

FUTURE: Smiltēns may cooperate with another party to participate in Saeima elections

The now former Unity member Edvards Smiltēns does not exclude the possibility of cooperating with any existing Saeima party to participate in upcoming elections.

As reported by Diena, Society for Positive Changes will discuss plans for the future this week. One of the variants on the table is foundation of a new party. However, Smiltēns believes it is necessary to consolidate political forces, not create new ones. This is why a different option is in consideration – Society for Positive Changes may sign a cooperation agreement with some party prior to Saeima elections to delegate candidates, «which would be better from the opinion of state interests».

Smiltēns did not mention which party he may cooperate with. He only said that he has spoken with multiple parties. The association currently has around 50 members, some of whom are former Unity members.

Full article here

OPINION: can an official survive in Latvia without Lembergs?

The general impression in Latvia is that most politicians believe that life without Aivars Lembergs would mean the same as what is implied in by Christianity – living without God means subjecting oneself to hell.

Perhaps Latvian politicians also think that it is better to not live is such a ‘hell’ and instead believe what ‘paradise’ can give them. In such a case, you would not be a ‘political prostitute’, ‘corrupted politician’ or even ‘an international criminal’ in Lembergs’ eyes. Those were just some of the things Lembergs loves to mention in relation to his opponents.

Lembergs’ influence on many of Latvia’s politicians hardly surprises anyone at this point. However, it is rumoured that Saeima’s parliamentary committee for the investigation of the infamous oligarch case has members loyal to Lembergs. If this is true, it is worth considering just how «high and mighty» he is.

On Monday, 11 September, Saeima deputy Artuss Kaimiņš announced that there are four people associated with Lembergs or his family that take active part in the parliamentary investigation. According to Kaimiņš, such a situation means open mocking of Latvia’s society.

Spitting the face of Latvia’s society can also be attributed to journalist, member of Latvian Association of Journalists and the National Alliance, Riga City Council member candidate Imants Liepiņš, who, it seems, is not shy to apply for Saeima’s Parliamentary Investigative Committee and voice his readiness to voice proposals on how to best «improve Latvia’s information space free of propaganda and false news».

Full article here


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Remembrance day of Latvian Legionnaires passes with shouts and two arrests

The Legionnaires’ remembrance procession in Riga on Friday, 16 March, passed peacefully. Nevertheless, several conflicts did take place among differently-minded people near the Freedom Monument. Two individuals were arrested by police.

Influenza intensity in Latvia – moderate when compared to other European nations

A comparison of influenza activity in Europe shows that it is high or very high in several countries. Latvia’s influenza intensity is considered moderate, as noted by epidemiologist Raina Nikiforova.

Hourly labour costs in Latvia grew 7.3% in 2017

Compared to Q4 2016, in Q4 2017 hourly labour costs rose by 54 cents or 7.3 %, reaching EUR 8.02. Seasonally adjusted data show identical changes – rise of 7.3 %.

Rietumu Banka claims it has not worked with high-risk clients for years

Rietumu Banka has been steadily rejecting high-risk clients for years and has significantly reduced the volume of transactions, as mentioned by the bank’s representatives.

Lithuanian and Estonian businessmen are ahead of Latvia in terms of investments

In Latvia, 36% of small and medium-sized companies have plans to invest in the development of their business this year. In Estonia and Lithuania, on the other hand, the proportion of businesses with development plans is 42% and 46%, respectively, according to results of a recent study performed by SEB Bank.

Russia pledges maximum pressure on UK amid ex-spy poisoning row

Russian top diplomat in the UK has envisaged on Friday, March 16, that the Kremlin would use maximum pressure on London as Moscow insists it has not been involved in the poisoning of a former Russian-British double agent with a Russian-made chemical weapon, as has been found by British investigators.

Latvia’s ministry: Crimea’s annexation is illegal

18 March 2018 will mark four years since the Russian Federation violated Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity by annexing the Crimean Peninsula and causing military aggression in the country’s eastern region. With its actions the Russian Federation has violated international law and basic principles of international relation, says Latvia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Building gas pipe to Finland, Estonia to organise works for EUR 135 million

Continuing the works on the Balticconnector gas pipeline between Estonia and Finland, the Estonian natural gas network company Elering has stated that around 135 million euros, including a 98-million-euro funding from the European Union, will be invested in the project.

Replacement of cash registers rejected by SRS would cost half a million euros

The State Revenue Service has declined 18,000 cash registers as unfitting for requirements established by the Cabinet of Ministers. Fixing the problems found in them would cost half a million euros, as reported by LNT News.

Latvian Anti-Nazi Committee presented with protest restrictions on 16 March

Administrative District Court has compiled a shortened ruling, in which it rejected Latvian Anti-Nazi Committee’s application and preserved the decision imposed by Riga City acting CEO on 13 March 2018 on establishing restrictions on the planned gathering and protest act for 16 March unchanged.

U.S. introduces Russian sanctions for election meddling and cyber-attacks

Washington has introduced sanctions against 19 Russian individuals and five entities blaming them for attempts to sway the 2016 U.S. election and perceived cyber-attacks.

Slovakian PM Fico replaced with fellow party member

Slovakian head of government Robert Fico has stepped down after the murder of a journalist shed light on corruption in Slovakia, prompting nationwide protests. The long-standing Prime Minister had offered to resign earlier this week if the ruling coalition was allowed to finish its term.

Weekends will be cold and sunny in Latvia; next week will have volatile weather

Starting with Sunday, 18 March, air temperature in Latvia will rise above zero in most of the country, as reported by State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Lithuania’s ruling LFGU party remains unscathed by scandals

It seems that, for now, Lithuania‘s ruling Farmers and Green Union has been nearly damage-proof despite the lambasting.

Latvian Civic Alliance: non-government sector should aim towards cooperation

Latvian Civic Alliance has invited the management of Latvia’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry to meet to discuss ongoing cooperation between organizations representing the business sector and the NGO sector.

Saeima rejects National Alliance’s proposal to make 16 March an official remembrance day

Latvia’s Saeima has decided to reject the proposal submitted by the National Alliance on making 16 March an official remembrance day.

43.6% of Latvian households have difficulties with making ends meet

In 2017 the share of households admitting that pay for usual necessary expenses with difficulty or great difficulty constituted 43.6 %, which is 1.5 percentage points more than in 2016.

Saeima voices support for Rail Baltica project’s progression

On Thursday, 15 March, the Saeima made a decision to support Rail Baltica project’s progression. In its decision, the parliament invited Latvia’s Cabinet of Ministers to provide all the necessary support for the project’s successful realization to ensure the project is realized in accordance with established terms and does not lose funding or support from the European Union, as reported by Saeima’s press-service.

Fast snow shovelling linked to cardiac fatalities, Finnish study finds

In Finish doctoral study, it has been concluded that snow should be shovelled calmly, not provoking stress and increased adrenaline in human blood that could lead to cardiac arrest.

Riga’s mayor spent at least eight million euros of residents’ money to promote himself

Over the course of the past three years, at least EUR 8 million of residents’ money has been used to promote the image of the Mayor of Riga Nils Ušakovs. This money was used to buy media, employ young members of Harmony, and finance ‘in-house protestors’ and using social networks, as estimated by Re:Baltica research journalism center.

Slovenia's head of government resigns amid protests and struggling railway investment

The Slovenian head of government Miro Cerar has stepped down from office in reaction to troubles with an expensive railway project and mounting opposition by trade unions.

NAF Commander: Latvia and Estonia have joint military procurements planned

Latvia and Estonia have joint military procurements planned, Commander of Latvia’s National Armed Forces Leonīds Kalniņš told journalists after his meeting with Commander of Estonia’s Defence Forces Riho Terras.

Estonia's switch to free higher education proved right choice, says Ratas

The switch to free higher education made by Estonia in 2013 has proved to be the right choice for a small country, even though critics have pointed to potentially less motivated students, has stated the Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas.

President: we will not give away our scientists’ ideas for free

It is necessary to concentrate all resources on research performed by Latvian scientists with patent potential. This will help secure returns for Latvia’s national economy, said President of Latvia Raimonds Vējonis during his meeting with rector of Riga Technical University Artūrs Zeps.

Members of the European Parliament propose avoiding «trade wars»

MEPs emphasized in debates regarding the trade restrictions imposed by USA that European Union should not get involved in a trade war, and be ready to protect its citizens, as BNN was told by EP Information office in Latvia.

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