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Sunday 18.02.2018 | Name days: Kintija, Kora
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BNN summary of the week: parties’ illegal donations, Rubesa’s future

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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; decline; growth; criticism; opinion; injustice.

CHANGE: prices in stores have to reduce more rapidly

Current market analysis shows that certain retail traders have followed Maxima Latvia’s performed price decline at the beginning of the year by creating changes to prices of certain products. Still, higher activity is expected from industry players, company representatives say.

«Although previously we predicted a price decline of 15%, the current analysis shows that market players have responded slowly so far. As demonstrated by a number of studies, the price aspect is very important to Latvian residents. Rapid development of technologies and innovations, which goes hand in hand with efforts to make processes more efficient, allows us to make offers to fit their expectations. Perhaps other market players still have a lot of homework left to do,» says Maxima Latvia corporate relations department’s director Jānis Beseris.

Full article here

FIGHT: Lithuanian and Estonian prime ministers have no plans to discuss Rubesa’s future

Before Latvian Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis’ proposal, Lithuanian and Estonian prime ministers had no prior plans to discuss the future of RB Rail chairperson Baiba Rubesa after the vote in which their country’s shareholders voted in favour of her dismissal, as BNS was told by representatives of both officials.

«Nothing of the sort is planned at this time,» the agency was told by Estonian government’s representative Trīna Opi, answering the question as to whether or not Jüri Ratas has any plans to discuss this matter with his other Baltic colleagues. «As far as I know, they have yet to communicate on this matter,» she added.

Opi reminds that the three Baltic prime ministers have a meeting scheduled for 8th and 9th March in Vilnius. It is unknown, however, what they plan to discuss.

Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis’ advisor Deivids Matuļonis told BNS that no extraordinary meeting of Baltic prime ministers is planned for the near future. Basically, he said, this matter is in the hands of the company.

Full article here

DECLINE: Corruption watchdog spots prohibited donations in Latvian political parties’ expenditures

After checking declarations and pre-election campaigns of political parties in Latvia, authorities have found no records regarding EUR 80,592 in election expenditures and EUR 37,857 in restricted donations, according to data from the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (CPCB).

Last year, political parties spent a total of EUR 2.7 million in municipal election expenditures. Approximately half of this amount was spent on different advertisements. The largest expenses were for advertisements on radio, magazines, newspapers and other publications, as well as public locations.

19 parties and their associations stated false information in their declarations, avoiding declaration of finances worth EUR 80,592. The largest amount was ‘omitted’ by For Latvia’s Development – EUR 34,394.

Among the 19 parties in question are political forces like the Union of Greens and Farmers, Latvian Farmers Union, Latvian Green Party, Unity, Latvian Association of Regions, New Conservative party, Harmony, and the National Alliance.

CPCB has found that six parties accepted restricted donations from legal persons worth a total of EUR 37,857. Union of Greens and Farmers and the National Alliance are especially guilty of this. Those donations now have to be paid back to the state budget.

Full article here

GROWTH: Tax burden comparison in Baltics: Latvia remains in the lead

Although the massive tax reform has brought about considerable innovations in tax legislation, Latvia remains the country with the highest labour force tax burden among Baltic States, as concluded in a comparison performed by Swedbank’s Institute for Finances.

Latvia’s tax policy is neither employer nor employee friendly, as it creates the highest costs per worker among Baltic States.

What will 2018 bring taxpayers in Baltics?

Swedbank analysts say that 2018 has brought many changes to Latvia’s legislation. Because of that, employers and employees have a lot to ponder. In an attempt to reduce social inequality, minimum wages have been increased (from EUR 380 to EUR 430), non-taxable minimum application and calculation principle (from EUR 60 to EUR 115 last year and from 0 to 200 euros this year). This year has also seen introduction of a progressive PIT rate (from 23% to 20%, 23% or 31.4% depending on income). In accordance with changes brought about by the reform, benefits for dependents have been increased (from 175 euros to 200 euros), as have rates for state social insurance fees (from 10.5% to 11% for employees and from 23.59% to 24.09% for employers).

Tax changes have been noticed in Latvia’s neighbouring countries – Lithuania and Estonia. Compared with Latvia, similarly large changes have been registered in Estonia, whereas changed in Lithuania have been more moderate. For example, minimal wage in Lithuania has been increased by 20 euros (from 380 to 400 euros), whereas in Estonia the increase was 30 euros (from 470 euros to 500 euros). More considerable changes in Estonia are associated with a major increase of non-taxable minimum from 180 euros to 500 euros. Similarly to Latvia and Lithuania, it is differentiated based on income. In Lithuania, non-taxable minimum amount has grown and its maximum amount reaches 380 euros a month instead of 310 euros.

Full article here

CRITICISM: Minister criticizes state child care institutions’ funding system

It would be worth considering a change of funding models for child care institutions to make funding independent of the number of clients and prevent the interest  towards sending children from one institution to another based solely on available funding, says Latvian Welfare Minister Jānis Reirs in an interview to Rīta panorama on Thursday, 8 February.

The minister says that the least socially protected children in Latvia are subjected to a «carousel system». This system revolves around putting children in orphanages that receive state funding for each child. However, orphanages can send children away to boarding schools and still continue receiving funding. Boarding schools are also paid state funding. In addition, the boarding school, while being provided with funding for each child, can also send youngsters to psycho-neurological hospitals for treatment. The hospitals are also paid funding from Healthcare Ministry. With such a funding system, institutions are not motivated to do any actual work with children, rather just send them away and still receive money for them, the minister explains.

Full article here

OPINION: after euphoria from economic growth, countries should prepare for sudden drop

The global economy is pushing forward with confidence. Optimism is noticed in all countries considered to be the engines behind the global economy. This trend will create a positive vector in Latvia as well. We can expect a rise in wages, reduction of unemployment and growing export indexes in the near future.

However, it is highly important to prepare for an unavoidable period of economic decline, which always follows up periods of rapid economic growth, as concluded in SEB Bank’s latest Nordic Outlook.

«Last year, Baltic States demonstrated stable economic growth, which relied largely on good export results. This year’s GDP growth will continue at a healthy rate, largely thanks to active consumption and beneficial situation on export markets. The largest problem is associated with the tense situation with the labour market, which could limit potential growth. Latvia’s GDP outlook is 4.1% for 2018, whereas outlooks for Lithuania and Estonia are 3.2% and 3.5%, respectively,» says SEB Bank’s macroeconomic expert Dainis Gašpuitis.

«Although perspectives are positive for the next two years, it is important to consider preparations for the inevitable decline,» adds the economist.

Full article here

INJUSTICE: Riga Mayor refuses to comment on investigation regarding free Bi-2 concert

Chairman of Riga City Council Nils Ušakovs has decided not to comment on the investigation launched by Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (CPCB) regarding possible misuse of administrative resources on pre-election promotion, which took place before the last municipal elections when a free concert featuring famous Russian Bi-2 band was organized in Lucavsala, said the politician’s press-secretary Laila Ivāna.

The mayor was asked if he has been asked to come to CPCB to provide comments, and if he would be ready to pay back the money used on the concert if authorities find violations and decide that the money has to be paid back.

Ušakovs’ advisor emphasized that until CPCB has finished its inspection, he will not provide any comments.

As it is known, CPCB has commenced an administrative violation case in relation to the aforementioned concert. CPCB Political Organizations Funding Monitoring Office manager Amīlija Jaunskunga explains that investigators continue going through evidence and interviewing involved persons.

«Administrative responsibility for misuse of administrative resources is intended for persons who use state or municipal resources to finance pre-election promotion. We have commenced administrative cases against officials who made decisions on using administrative resources on pre-election promotion,» said Jaunskunga.

Full article here

Ref: 224.109.109.2409


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Week in Lithuania. Lithuania celebrating centennial of statehood

Leaders of European countries gathered in Vilnius on Friday, February 16, to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of restored statehood, and festive events were taking place in many cities and towns of Lithuania.

BNN summary of the week: minister threatened with dismissal; ABLV Bank scandal

BNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Change; Fight; Court; Problem; Decline; Commentary; Future; Proposal

SRS uncovered violations in 169 inspections at catering companies last year

In 2017, the State Revenue Service (SRS) performed a total of 989 inspections at 212 catering companies. This includes 182 thematic inspections for 125 taxpayers. Violations were uncovered in 169 inspections. The most common violation was manipulation with cash registers, according to information published by SRS.

Russian tourists often decide to celebrate International Women’s Day in Riga

To satisfy growing demand for bus tickets from Russia to Latvia for the week when 8 March is celebrated, Lux Express plans to organize additional buses between St Petersburg and Riga.

FCMC to investigate ABLV Bank again; no operational restrictions applied to the bank

Latvia’s Finance and Capital Market Commission (FCMC) has plans to perform an additional investigation at ABLV Bank in the next couple of weeks, says the commission’s manager Pēters Putniņš, adding that no operational restrictions have been applied to the bank so far.

Study: overall sense of happiness in Latvia is record-low

60% of Latvian residents feel happy. Although this is a good index, there has been a general decline of the sense of happiness, according to a study performed by Amigo mobile network operator and SKDS to assess the level of happiness of Latvian residents.

Raid reveals some taxi drivers in Riga do not have valid driver’s license

A raid was performed by the State Revenue Service and Riga Municipal Police to check taxi service providers in the capital. Authorities uncovered a total of 81 violations in 48 cases, BNN was informed by SRS.

Estonia sea ice crash: last missing body found

Nine days after a van with six people inside drove onto the ice of the Baltic Sea in south-western Estonia, the body of the last victim has been found.

Delna invites immediate investigation of claims about ABLV Bank’s money laundering schemes

The decision by US Finance Ministry’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) to apply sanctions against ABLV Bank for involvement in money laundering schemes and bribery of officials was not a surprise. It is a sign for acute need to continue improving investigative and supervisory institutions’ ability to prevent money laundering through Latvia, as noted by Delna – Society for Openness.

Estonian income tax should be simplified, parties believe

The existing income tax scheme in Estonia should be simplified, three parties in the Estonian Riigikogu find, but there are differences in opinion as to maintaining the current state budget income. Meanwhile, the opposition Reform Party has voiced backing for an annual tax-free income of 6,000 a year to every earner.

Baltics propose increasing member states’ contributions to EU budget after Brexit

Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia invite European Union member states to increase contributions to the EU budget after 2020 in order to make sure available funds do not drop after UK’s exit.

Instagram obeys Russian internet censor to block content on corruption allegations

In the atmosphere of the March Russian presidential election, social network Instagram has submitted to the demands of Russia's internet censorship body and blocked in the country content with corruption claims voiced by Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny.

Teenager charged with U.S. school shooting has confessed

A day after a tragic school shooting in Florida, the U.S., where 17 people have been killed, the suspect 19-year-old Nicolas Cruz has confessed to police.

Snowfall expected for weekends in Latvia; sky to become clear again next week

On Friday, 16 February, weather in Latvia will be dictated by a small cyclone, which will approach the country from Sweden. Because of that, the sky will be cloudy and snowfall will come to many areas. The cyclone will not be strong. With that, wind speed will remain relatively slow, as reported by Latvian State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

How will Lithuania look like in another 100 years?

In order to tell it, one needs to know the past and the presence. Yet the predicting how the centennial celebrations-engulfed Lithuania will look like in another hundred years is not easy at all even for political and business pundits.

Minister: Latvian authorities will perform an investigation about FinCEN report

Responsible Latvian institutions will perform an investigation in relation to the report from US Finance Ministry’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). In this report, the institution accuses ABLV Bank of bribing Latvian officials, says Foreign Affairs Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs.

Party calls for extraordinary meeting of Riga City Council’s Transport Committee

To invite officials to explain the illegal decision in regards to the mutual agreement between Rīgas satiksme’s and Rīgas mikroautobusu satiksme’s, political party For Latvia’s Development urges opposition factions of Riga City Council to call an extraordinary meeting of the Transport Committee, as confirmed by the party.

Meteorologists warn about -25° C frost in Latvia in March

Global Forecast System predicts a possibility of -25° C frost in Latvia’s eastern parts at the beginning of March.

Latvian residents remain dissatisfied with their families’ financial state

For several years in a row the majority of Latvian residents remain dissatisfied with their families’ financial state, according to results of Baltic International Bank Latvian Barometer.

Latvia’s cosmetics market – 160 million euros

Latvia’s cosmetics market is worth approximately EUR 160 million. Similar to Europe, skin and hair care products are the most popular ones. The smallest market proportion is occupied by decorative cosmetics, according to data from Latvian Cosmetic Manufacturers Association (LCMA).

RB Rail CEO says interference «from above» has been in line with the law so far

We have seen interference «from above» in RB Rail’s activities. The law was not breached, however. With that, there was no need to report anything to law enforcement institutions, RB Rail CEO Baiba Rubesa told Ir magazine.

15 Estonians die in flu period from complications

The number flu patients in Estonia is currently increasing. So far during this year's flu season, 15 people have passed away with flue-related complications.

Economy Minister asked to fix increasing electricity bills; parties threaten with dismissal

Latvian Economy Minister Arvils Ašeradens has to fix the mistakes that have caused electricity bills to increase, said chairman of Free Trade Union Confederation of Latvia Egils Baldzēns in an interview to 900 seconds programme of LNT.

Third of beer consumed in Estonia in 2017 bought in Vidzeme, Estonian factory breweries evaluate

Saku and A. Le Coq, two largest beer makers in Estonia have not published their exact sales numbers for the last year, but have been quick in stating that about one third of all beer drunk in Estonia was purchased in Latvia.

U.S. hit by another mass shooting at school

In the U.S., a high school has been attacked in the state of Florida, where gunshots have taken the lives of 17 people. Local police has detained a suspect – a 19-year-old man, who had been expelled from the same school.