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Ceturtdiena 14.12.2017 | Name days: Gaisma, Auseklis
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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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Turkey and 56 other countries recognise East Jerusalem as capital of Palestine

In a summit of the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation, held in reaction to Washington’s decision to recognise the city of Jerusalem as only the capital of Israel, Turkey and 56 other Muslim countries have called on the rest of the world to recognise «the State of Palestine and East Jerusalem as its occupied capital».

Ventspils City Council opposition member sees possibility of working with Unity

«If Unity is interested, and wants to come back to the values it once had, we may consider working with this party. My knowledge and experience from the past 5-6 years may be useful in restarting political cooperation and restoration of lost influence,» said Ventpils City Council opposition member Ģirts Valdis Kristovskis.

FM mentions progress in combating grey economy; prime minister expects more

Latvia will continue combating grey economy in construction field and fight envelope wages, said Latvian Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola during the ministry’s Taxpayer Forum 2017 organized by the ministry on Wednesday, 13 December.

EP agrees to EU moving on to phase II of Brexit talks

Members of the European Parliament have overwhelmingly supported what has been negotiated upon in the joint EU-UK progress report in Brexit talks and have recommended Brussels to move on to phase two negotiations on the future relations of the parties.

Businessmen share stories: ‘surviving’ and taking risks in Latvia when starting a business

The silent period – the time for Christmas wishes – has begun. Snow covers Tukums, and the city slowly becomes white. Everything is quiet at Pils ielā. The phone rings, interrupting a quiet moment of watching snowflakes fall under the light of a lantern. «You’re here for us, aren’t you?» BNN goes to interview manager of Merci Cafe Anija Rabkeviča (23) and cafe’s founder Rinalds Pluģis (22). They tell about their experience of ‘surviving’ in Latvia.

BATL: Transport Ministry plans to increase burden on taxpayers’ shoulders

Latvian Transport Ministry’s developed development plan for the transit industry, which was presented to Saeima’s National Economy Committee this week, states that raising competitiveness in the country requires subsidizing railway cargo transports.

Croat soldier dies in Lithuania barracks

A soldier from the Croat contingent in Lithuania, who served in the Rukla military town as part of NATO international forces, has passed away.

LMP President: proposal for LMT and Lattelecom merge was only politically discussed

Only political discussions were held proposal on the merge between Latvijas Mobilais Telefons and Lattelecom, and it is good that this matter has been taken off the agenda, said LMT President Juris Binde in an interview to Rīta Panorāma programme of LNT.

Survey: 55% of employed people are not paid for overtime

More than half of employed people work overtime. On top of that, 55% of them are not paid for working overtime and 45% are paid, according to results of a survey performed by CV Market.

Estonian military receives anti-tank missiles, bought with U.S. funding

The Estonian military has acquired another lot of missiles for the American-made man-portable Javelin antitank system bought with U.S. money allocated for supporting European defence measures.

Tallinners can claim millions for overpriced water, says competition watchdog

In the Estonian capital, the result of a legal dispute between water utility company Tallinna Vesi and the Estonian Competition Authority is that consumers are considered to be able to claim tens of millions of euros in compensation for overcharged water tariffs that have been in place for a number of years.

Latvian Association of Regions decides against working with For Latvia’s Development political party

It was decided at a meeting of representatives of Latvian Association of Regions (LAR) that the party will not work with For Latvia’s Development. The party has also decided to start in 13th Saeima elections with its own list of candidates.

Italy in state of emergency after fire at Austria gas hub

Italy has declared a state of emergency in its natural gas sector as a large explosion at a major natural gas hub in Austria killed one person, injured at least 18 and is prone to affect supplies in central Europe.

LEC: more expensive MPC is a serious burden for international competition

«To maintain GDP growth rate, the government should address priority matters like prevention of mandatory procurement component costs and electricity price rise to reduce costs for both businesses and residents. It is very important for employers to have the energy policy closely tied with production, because processing industry is the main driving force behind development of Latvia’s national economy,» says Latvian Employers’ Confederation (LEC) Director General Līga Meņģelsone.

Pilots of Ryanair expected to strike prior to Christmas

The clients of Irish low-fare airline Ryanair will face inconvenience before Christmas as pilots and crew announced industrial action seeking to achieve union recognition and better conditions in the company, which is criticised by unions that it fails to offer pilots the same pay and conditions as its rivals.

Corruption in public sector remains a major problem in Latvia

Money laundering activities and grey economy are in decline in Latvia. However, corruption in the country’s public sector and smuggling activities remain serious problems for the national economy, as noted in the report on unaudited economy, corruption in the public sector and money laundering activities in Latvia published by Latvian Chamber for Commerce and Industry on Tuesday, 12 December.

Saakashvili released from detention in Ukraine

Former Georgian President, now opposition activist in Ukraine, Mikheil Saakashvili, has been released from arrest by a judge, who denied a request from prosecutors to subject him to house arrest, but the case against him continues.

Justice Minister: Latvia will continue supporting Macedonia’s judicial sector

Latvia’s Justice Minister Dzintars Rasnačs has met with his Macedonian colleague Bilen Saliji, who arrived in Latvia to sign the Memorandum for Cooperation between Latvian Justice Ministry and Macedonian Justice Ministry.

Survey: 65% of Latvian travellers avoid regions at risk of terrorist attacks

The majority or 65% of Latvian respondents mentioned that whenever they make travel arrangements, they try to avoid regions in which there is a high probability of terrorist attacks or natural catastrophes, according to the latest Latvia Tours Travel Index.

Ex-Interior Ministry’s state secretary offered becoming a candidate to manage Eastern Hospital

The only offer extended to the now former state secretary of Latvia’s Interior Affairs Ministry Ilze Pētersone-Godmane to help her stay in state administration was the offer to become a candidate for the most of head of Riga Eastern Clinical University Hospital, as reported by Latvijas Avīze.

Ministry’s parliamentary secretary emphasizes EU’s unity in the Middle East process

«Latvia continues supporting the solution that can be achieved through direct talks between Israel and Palestine with compliance of interests of both sides and making Jerusalem the capital of both countries. The European Union has to remain a reliable partner for Israel and Palestine. We have to continue the open dialogue with both sides and ensure EU’s unity in the Middle East peace process,» says Latvian Foreign Affairs Ministry’s parliamentary secretary Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica.

Estonian entrepreneur in Russia convicted to 12 years in prison

A court in Russia has convicted an Estonian aviation technology entrepreneur to a 12-year prison term in a high-security prison, Russian media report.

Countryside tourism may be threatened by unfair competition

Countryside tourism businesses are threatened by unfair competition and growing bureaucracy, as emphasized by Latvian Countryside Tourism Association Lauku ceļotājs after discussing this season’s results at four regional business seminars.

Estonia fights marginalisation pushing for relocation of 13 institutions to regions

As Estonia seeks to relocate part of government agencies out of the capital Tallinn, Estonian government ministers have been reminded that by the middle of January an action plan is required from them on the relocation of the central offices of 13 Estonian state institutions.

Finance Ministry: exports of goods reached a new record in October

The volume of exports continued growing in November, reaching EUR 1,070,600 at the end of the month and setting a new record for exports for one month’s time. This export index is the highest in the history of statistical records in Latvia, Finance Ministry stated in its report, commenting on data from the Central Statistical Bureau.

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