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Saturday 23.09.2017 | Name days: Vanda, Veneranda, Venija
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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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Kariņš: Unity started drifting when Valdis Dombrovskis left is management

Unity should seriously consider the option of starting in Saeima elections alongside other parties, said MEP Krišjānis Kariņš in an interview to Latvijas Radio.

CSP: average size of agricultural areas increases in Latvia

In 2016 the average size of agricultural holding constituted 43.2 ha, which is 15.5 % more than in 2013 when the average land area per holding accounted for 37.4 ha. The total standard output has risen by 24.5 %. Nevertheless, the number of economically active farms has reduced by 14.5 %.

Antāne forms a new political party in Ventspils with more than 350 associates

A new political party was founded in Ventspils this Thursday, 21 September. The name of this new party is Laiks Pārmaiņām (Time for Changes). The initiator of the founding of this new party is Baltic Association – Transport and Logistics President Inga Antāne.

NATO: suspicions about Zapad 2017 were justified

NATO views its suspicions about Russian-Belarusian Zapad 2017 military exercises as well-justified, because their scale and geography were larger than what was officially stated.

Expert: Latvia’s electronic industry productivity index on a rise

Electronics industry is the most rapidly growing processing industry in Latvia. This industry’s turnover growth in Latvia has been more rapid than that of Europe and the rest of Baltic States, says manager of wholesale trade company Lemona Latvija Sergejs Nikiforovs.

Video: How to make white-water rafting more dangerous?

If you think white-water rafting is a piece of cake, you can try getting over some rapids on six rafts.

Kaimiņš: Lembergs is Latvia’s biggest misfortune

It is no secret to anyone that the parliamentary committee in charge of investigating Oligarch case has so-called experts that are closely associated with infamous Ventspils politician Aivars Lembergs or his family. In an interview to BNN, Saeima member Artuss Kaimiņš shared his opinion about the latest scandalous development associated with Oligarch talks. He calls Lembergs Latvia’s biggest misfortune.

EC: Money for Rail Baltica in next period will be negotiated

Funding of the Rail Baltica railway project after the year 2020 will be negotiated upon as part of the EU's financial plan for the next period, has stated the European Commissioner for Mobility and Transport.

Sudraba published «false information» on parliamentary committee’s website

Parliamentarian Andrejs Judins asks to evaluate Inguna Sudraba’s possible breach of ethics with the publication of ‘false information’ on the website of Saeima’s parliamentary investigation committee responsible for the investigation of oligarch case.

Estonia plans to direct 300 million euros to healthcare

With the aim of improving the quality and access to Estonian healthcare, the country's government has backed amendments, which set forth increasing healthcare funding by 300 million over a period of five years

HTC agrees to sell part of its innovators and intellectual property to Google

U.S. computer technology firm Google has reached a deal with Taiwanese smartphone-maker HTC so that the latter would share part of its product development team and allow using HTC intellectual property.

22-year sentence for Imanta paedophile comes into force

With the Supreme Court of Justice abandoning the review of Riga Regional Court’s ruling, the 22-year sentence for the man prosecuted in the so-called Imanta paedophile case has come into force, as reported by the court.

Weekend in Latvia expected to be warm and sunny

The sky in Latvia will become clear during the day on Friday, 22 September. Rain is only expected to come to certain western areas. Air temperature will likely reach +16° C… +20° C, whereas air temperature at night will drop to +9° C… +14° C, as reported by State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

UK to offer EU 20 billion euros, if it can remain in single market

British Prime Minister Theresa May plans to offer a transitional agreement with the European Union that would concern a two-year period until the country leaves the bloc in 2019.

Number of bankruptcies down in Latvia and Estonia but up in Lithuania

Last year, the number of bankruptcies declined 12.4% in Latvia and 10.9% in Estonia. Lithuania, on the other hand, had experienced a 35.2% increase in the number of bankrupt companies, according to information compiled by Coface.

Lithuania sets off alarm bells over quality of international brands' foods

What Lithuania‘s State Food and Veterinary service announced last Tuesday was big news in Lithuania, but not so of a discovery to the majority of Eastern European consumers - food of international brands sold in Western Europe and in Eastern Europe, and Lithuania, are not just the same.

Saeima forms a group to support HIV and tuberculosis patients

On Thursday, 21 September, Latvia’s Saeima agreed with deputy Hosams Abu Meri’s proposal to form a deputy group to support HIV and tuberculosis patients, as confirmed by Abu Meri’s assistant Edgars Ikstens.

Politologist comments whether Vējoņis’ authority is at risk or not

Saeima’s vote in which Latvian President Raimonds Vējoņis’ proposal on the status of non-citizens’ children was not pushed forward was as though a strike against the president’s authority, comments Filips Rajevskis.

In pictures: Mexicans rush to find quake survivors

A massive rescue effort is continuing in Mexico City and other areas in Mexico to find possible survivors caught under buildings that collapsed in the September 19 earthquake, which has killed no less than 237 people.

Producer prices in industry grew 0.1% in August

Compared to July, the level of producer prices in Latvian industry rose by 0.1 % in August 2017. Prices of products sold on the domestic market, as well as those of exported products grew by 0.1 %.

Saeima supports simplification of investigation of less serious crimes

On Thursday, 21 September, Latvia’s Saeima conceptually supported changes to the Criminal Process Law that provide for simplification of investigation procedures of less serious crimes.

Ozoliņš: transit and logistics industries should communicate more actively

Mutual communication and information exchange among businesses working in the industry is the pre-condition for improvement of Latvia’s transit industry, said Transport Ministry’s state secretary Kaspars Ozoliņš at a meeting of the Logistics Council.

As Estonia mends ID cyber vulnerability, officials recommended mobile ID

As Estonia tries to solve potential security risks found in the chips of 750,000 national ID cards, state officials using e-services have been recommended to Mobile-ID in addition to ID cards.

Vējonis: peaceful resolution of Ukraine’s conflict is Latvia’s priority

«Russia’s unjustified aggression towards its neighbours is a serious breach of international law. Any aggressor who begins and continues such conflicts should be brought to justice for breach of international law,» says Latvian President Raimonds Vējonis.

Authorities apprehend criminal group that caused 1.7 million euros worth of damage to the state

Latvian State Revenue Service’s Finance Police in cooperation with State Police anti-terrorism unit Omega neutralized a criminal group that specialized in VAT fraud and money laundering, as confirmed by SRS representative Evita Teice-Mamaja.

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