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Friday 24.11.2017 | Name days: Velta, Velda
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BNN summary of the week: reduced VAT for Latvian fruits; Bordans expects UGF to collapse

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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; Truth; Business; Future; Growth and Opinion.

CHANGE: VAT to be reduced for fruits and vegetables characteristic for Latvia

Parties of the ruling coalition agreed to support Agriculture Ministry’s proposal to reduce VAT from 25% to 5% for fruits, vegetables and berries characteristic for Latvia.

This decision was later confirmed by Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis after the meeting of the ruling coalition.

This matter will be later viewed by the government and the Saeima.

Full article here

BUSINESS: Funding for demographic measures may be found by freezing Liepaja prison project

Latvian Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis and Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola propose freezing Liepaja prison project and diverting this project’s funding for measures intended to resolve demographic problems.

On Wednesday, 6 September, journalists asked Kucinskis after his meeting with social partners about the possibility of putting off Liepaja prison construction project in favour of diverting funding to measures aimed at resolving demographic problems. Kucinskis said different options were discussed. He admitted that one possible solution was putting off some investment project. «I am open to discussions,» said the prime minister.

Reizniece-Ozola mentioned that she would support the idea regarding the halt of Liepaja prison construction project. «If we were to choose between supporting families or paying double for construction of a prison, I would support such an idea,» said Reizniece-Ozola.

Full article here

FIGHT: does Latvia need railway as a mode of transport?

«I have always agreed with the medieval belief that it is not possible to escape from taxes and the plague. This is why Finance Ministry’s tax reform or ‘game rules’ should be accepted. It is not worth questioning. Instead, we should search for ways to work in the business environment more efficiently,» said Baltic Express Chairman Maris Bremze in a conversation with BNN about decisions made in the transit industry.

LatRailNet’s decisions to raise railway infrastructure costs

Industry expert Bremze notes that one of the most topical problems in the industry is LatRailNet’s decision to raise the cost of using railway infrastructure by 7% in 2018.

«This decision is proof than our country’s railway system is not friends with the term ‘cost effectiveness’. That’s the problem. The country’s railway system has become three times larger in the past decade. This is because the fixed assets volume has tripled, whereas supply volumes, the number of workers and the amount of work performed using Latvia’s railway system have not changed much. With that, it can be safely said that transit volumes have declined,» says Bremze.

Full article here

DECLINE: four million allocated to ‘cemetery tram’ project without document assessment

At a meeting of Riga City Council Finance and Administrative Affairs Committee, the ruling coalition decided to allocate EUR 4 million to Rīgas satiksme’s ‘cemetery tram’ project without first performing an economic and financial assessment of the project, says chairman of joint Latvian Association of Regions/For Latvia’s Development faction Juris Puce.

He says the decision was made on Wednesday, 6 September. Members of the committee discussed the matter of providing guarantee to the scandalous ‘cemetery tram’ project. The total amount of the loan exceeds EUR 4 million.

LRA/LA reports that this matter was added to the meeting’s agenda one hour prior to the beginning of the meeting. The legislative draft did not include any financial justification, conditions for the loan, or any kinds of calculations on how it would affect Riga municipality’s budget.

Full article here

TRUTH: railway electrification is one of the biggest crimes being planned

The railway electrification project in development by LDz is potentially lethal for Latvia’s national economy, says former head of Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau’s Operative Investigations Office Juris Jurass, adding that it may be one of the biggest crimes currently being planned in the country.

In the 1:1 programme, Jurass asked Aivars Lembergs if talks similar to those that took place in Ridzene Hotel in 2009, 2010 and 2011 continue to this day.

«I would like to emphasize this specifically in relation to LDz’s planned electrification project, the total estimated worth is EUR 1.8 billion.»

He says the cargo volume is critically below the level that would be necessary to sustain it on at least a zero level.

«Unless this project has significant economic justifications behind it, I can say that this particular project is one of the biggest crimes that is possibly being planned at the moment,» Jurass said during 1:1 programme.

Full article here

GROWTH: Consumption of renewable energy resources grew 14.1% in the past ten years

In 2016 gross consumption of renewable energy resources in Latvia constituted 68.7 petajoules (PJ).  Compared to 2015, the consumption of renewables has risen by 5.7 %, whereas over the past ten years – by 14.1 %.

As the gross consumption of renewable resources (mainly formed by domestic energy resources) increased, Latvian dependence1 upon imported energy resources reduced – from 66.7 % in 2006 to 51.2 % in 2015, according to data from the Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia.

Significant increase was recorded in consumption of biogas (landfill gas, sewage sludge gas, other biogas) – 12.7 times during the decade, reaching 3.8 PJ in 2016.

Over the decade, the gross consumption of fuel-wood has increased by 9.3 %, reaching 54.3 PJ in 2016, whereas compared to 2015 it has gone up by 3.2 %. In 2016, the share of fuel-wood in the gross energy consumption accounted for 29.4 %, which is 0.8 percentage points more than in 2015. In the same time, the exports of fuel-wood rose.  In 2016, Latvia exported 37.9 PJ of fuel-wood, which is 12.6 % more than in 2015.  Wood pellets constituted 29.3 PJ of the total volume of fuel-wood exported in 2016, which is 4.7 % more than in 2015, whereas the volume of wood chips exported rose by 79.4 %.

Full article here

FUTURE: Skvernelis invites Polish supermarkets to Lithuania, seeks to overcome Polish differences

It seems that Lithuania’s Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis, who paid this week a visit in Poland, wanted to catch up with – and cheer up – his Polish counterpart, Beata Szydlo, and Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of the ruling party Law and Justice, on all hot mutual issues.

Chalking some of them up to «wrong stereotypes», the Lithuanian premier expressed confidence that both neighbours can improve the relations and work in lockstep.

Latvia’s PM, Maris Kučinskis, also attended the meeting, meanwhile Estonia’s PM Juris Ratas did not make it to the Polish capital due to a crisis stemming from a glitch in the country’s e-ID cards.

For now, however, the tensions between Lithuania and Poland seem to be a little eased. Summing up his meeting with Kaczynski, Skvernelis emphasized that the Poland’s ruling coalition leader sees Lithuania as «a strategically friendly country.»

«Some stereotypes probably keep us from emotional reloading today. He (Kaczynski) was provided first-hand information about the situation of the Polish ethnic minority. Now there is a huge opportunity to solve the problems,» Skvernelis underscored after the meeting.

He brought Kaszynski’s attention to the fact that Lithuania has the biggest network of Polish-language schools in Lithuania outside Poland.

Full article here

OPINION: the war between the people and oligarchs will end if UGF ceases to exist

There is a war going between the people and oligarchs. It will end with the Union of Greens and Farmers falling apart, believes New Conservative Party’s leader, Riga City Council opposition deputy Janis Bordans.

According to him, «all of the foolish and illegal activities performed by oligarchs, launch of criminal cases and the farce of the parliamentary investigation committee – are all components of the same counter-action. At the end of the day, it is just the agony of UGF,» the politician says. He predicts UGF will meet its end will be same the Communist Party did in the ‘80s.

«People will open their eyes and turn away from this party. Members of UGF and voters will have to make a choice. Many of them have a practical mindset. I’ve been told they would gladly get rid of Aivars Lembergs’ influence. These people should be prepared for active measures. I hope sooner or later they will start acting and decide to leave UGF. Of course, people who committed crimes will have to answer for their actions,» said Bordans.

Full article here

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Saeima approves next year’s budget; more funding for health and defence

On Thursday, 23 November, the Saeima approved Latvia’s budget for 2018. Next year’s budget revenue is planned at EUR 8.75 billion, whereas expenditures are planned at EUR 8.95 billion. The largest increase of funding is planned for healthcare. Latvia’s defence budget is set to reach 2% of GDP

Ķuzis: 94% of sex crimes against children are committed by people they know

Approximately half of sex crimes committed against minors take place on the internet, said Chief of State Police Ints Ķuzis at a press-conference on protection of children against sexual violence.

European Parliament approves use of EU Solidarity Fund’s advance payments

European Parliament’s Budget Committee has approved MEP Inese Vaidere’s submitted report on the use of advance payments from the EU Solidarity Fund in 2018, as reported by European People’s Party group Latvian press and communication advisor Ģirts Salmgriezis.

Authorities unmask illegal trade of products made from protected animals

Nature Protection Office and State Police have stepped up their efforts to increase control over trade of products made from endangered and protected species in the past month. Authorities have already confiscated different goods made from animals protected in Latvia and the world.

Swedbank survey: youngsters want stability; belief in Latvian labour market grows

Stability and income predictability are two of the most important values for Latvian youngsters when planning their future jobs. According to a survey performed by Swedbank, 53% of youngsters would gladly start working in an existing company.

Myanmar and Bangladesh to sigh refugee return agreement

In South-Eastern Asia, Myanmar plans to sign an agreement with neighbouring Bangladesh on the return of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees, who have fled to the latter, while rights organisations point to atrocities committed by Myanmar's military.

Polish shipbuilder accused of bribing Port of Tallinn management

A senior executive of Remontowa Shipbuilding, a Polish shipbuilding company, is facing accusations of handing large bribes to former senior figures Port of Tallinn, the Estonian state-owned port operator.

Lībiņa-Egnere may be appointed head of Saeima’s National Security Committee

Unity member Inese Lībiņa-Egnere may be appointed as the new head of Saeima’s National Security Committee, as reported by Latvijas Avīze.

Expert: real estate transaction volume this year may reach 100 million euros

The volume of commercial real estate transactions in Baltic States may exceed EUR 1 billion. Latvia, meanwhile, remains behind its neighbouring countries because the volume of transactions in the country may reach EUR 100 million, says CEO of Colliers International Deniss Kairāns.

Finnish medication prescriptions to be valid in Estonia

In Estonia, Finland's digital prescriptions of medications will be valid from summer 2018 and vice versa – from around mid-2019.

Talks commence on restoring ferry traffic between Ventspils and Saaremaa

On Wednesday, 22 November, a delegation from Saaremaa municipality arrived at Vetnspils Freeport to discuss with representatives of Ventspils municipality and freeport the proposal to restore ferry traffic between Saaremaa and Ventspils.

Family of killed Maltese journalist take police to court

The family of the killed Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia has sued police believing that it does not perform an impartial investigation.

Saeima reduces VAT for vegetables, berries and fruits typical for Latvia

Starting 2018, a reduced VAT rate will be applied for fresh fruits, berries and vegetables in Latvia. This is provided by amendments approved by the Saeima on 22 November for Law on Value Added Tax.

Georgian anti-terrorist raid ends tragically

In the Georgian capital Tbilisi, security officers have conducted an anti-terrorist raid in an apartment, where a shoot-out has started and three suspected militants and a special forces' soldier have been killed.

Jerošenko: Ušakovs offers unhealthy policy, Harmony is used as Lembergs’ «satellite party»

«Cooperation between Harmony and Aivars Lembergs’ Union of Greens and Farmers has always existed. It existed even before Harmony first appeared in Riga City Council. The situation is the same in the Saeima, even though Concord is in the opposition. Still, in situations when one or the other matter important to Lembergs appears, one does not have to be a great politologist to notice the ties between those parties...

Bosnian Serb commander punished with life imprisonment for Srebrenica

The UN the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia handed a life imprisonment sentence to Ratko Mladić after it found the former commander of Bosnian Serb forces guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity committed in the 1990s during the Bosnian War.

EC positive about Latvia’s 2018 budget project

Based on the conclusion from the European Commission, Latvia’s budget project for 2018 fully fits conditions listed in the Stability and Growth Pact. In accordance with EC’s estimates, the structural balance of Latvia’s general budget is viewed at -1.8% of GDP. Government budget expenditures, on the other hand, are expected to grow by 7.1 percentage points.

Producer price level in Latvia declined 0.2% in October

Compared to September, the level of producer prices in Latvian industry dropped by 0.2 % in October 2017. Prices of products sold on the domestic market decreased by 0.5 %, while prices of exported products went up by 0.1 %.

Vaškevičs feels «harsh but fair» attitude from court justice system in Austria

Former deputy director of Latvia’s State Revenue Service Vladimirs Vaškevičs, who is accused of bribery and whose extradition from Austria has been a priority for Latvian authorities for some time now, says he feels «harsh but, thank God, fair» attitude from the Austrian court justice system.

Antāne: lost Russian cargoes have cost Latvia nearly 50 million in nine months

Latvia’s economy has lost nearly EUR 50 million in nine months because of missed Russian transit cargoes. While Russian Railway had approved 90% of oil and coal cargoes for transit through Ventspils port at the beginning of the year, this amount had declined to a mere 5% by September, says Baltic Association – Transport and Logistics President Inga Antāne.

In pictures: Museum of painter, Holocaust survivor Bak opened in Vilnius

In Vilnius, a museum to Jewish-Polish painter Samuel Bak has been opened. During the occupation of Lithuania by the Nazi Germany, the artist survived the Holocaust in the country.

Ratio of old people and invalids on a rise among unemployed people

The total number of unemployed people has been decreasing in recent years. However, the ratio of old people and invalids continues increasing in the ranks of unemployed people. On top of that, the number of lasting unemployed people remains high and largely unchanged in the country.

Saaremaa looking into possible ferry traffic to Latvia

The local government of the largest Estonian island is looking into possible interest of five shipping companies in opening ferry traffic between Saaremaa and Latvia.

Balta: exhaustion and overload are the most common causes for accidents at work

More than EUR 20,000 has been paid in compensations for injuries acquired at work this year so far, according to information from insurance association Balta. Compared with the same period of last year, the number of accidents has grown 40%.

Estonian town tempts population to reregister with spa in Latvia and 100 euro payment

The town of Keila, located 25 kilometres away from Tallinn, has started a one-and-a-half month campaign to motivate its residents to register back in the town as many of them have registered in the Estonian capital, which grants free public transport to its population.