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Tuesday 24.04.2018 | Name days: Nameda, Visvaldis, Ritvaldis
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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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Ušakovs invites colleagues from Russia to attend centenary festivities in Riga

Mayor of Riga Nils Ušakovs has invited mayors from 56 cities to attend festivities organized for Latvia’s centenary. This includes mayors of Moscow and St. Petersburg, as confirmed by Ušakovs’ press-secretary Laila Ivāna.

Estonian President sees no return from e-governance

Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid has discussed with Christine Lagarde, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, the Baltic country's experience in providing public e-services to the population.

Norway interested in developing cooperation with Latvia in tourism industry

«Latvia welcomes successful regional and economic cooperation with Norway. Our countries have common values and goals – developing Baltic and Nordic countries as a wealthy and secure European region,» said Latvia’s Economy Minister Arvils Ašeradens during his meeting with Norwegian State Secretary for Trade, Industry and Fisheries Roy Angelvik.

Finland not to continue its basic income scheme

The basic income scheme in Finland that has been tested in the Nordic country since 2017, will not be continued as the Finnish government has decided to look into other schemes for reforming the Finnish social security system

MEP: New Unity may be in the government with other parties that have similar goals

After Saeima elections, New Unity will cooperate with parties prepared to work with the association to accomplish specific goals, says leader of New Unity and member of the European Parliament Krišjānis Kariņš.

Canada experiences tragic attack on pedestrians in Toronto

In the Canadian city of Toronto, a driver has been driving onto pedestrians taking the lives of 10 people and injuring 15 more.

Latvian residents spend an average of EUR 81 on cosmetics every year

Latvian residents spend an average of EUR 81 on cosmetics every year, which is one of the lowest indexes in Europe. Compared to other Baltic States, Latvian residents spend less money on cosmetics, according to data compiled by Latvian Cosmetic Manufacturers Association.

Armenian Prime Minister Sargsyan resigns unexpectedly

The Prime Minister of Armenia, Serzh Sargsyan, has unexpectedly stepped down from office after ten days of protests in the Armenian capital Yerevan.

Baltic Express: Europe has already invented the bicycle; we just have to adopt it

13 March marked a historic event for Ventspils railway hub – for the first time in the history of Latvia’s railway a private cargo carrier – Baltic Express – delivered wagons to Ventspils 1st station and private infrastructure’s railway terminal. Why is this event so important and what is the future for Latvia’s cargo railway system? – Baltic Express chairman Māris Bremze told ventspilnieks.lv.

Reduction of employees in state administration went the smoothest in finance sector

Measures to reduce the number of employees in state administration last year went the smoothest for the State Revenue Service and the entire finance sector, said Latvia’s State Chancellery’s Director Jānis Citskovskis.

Alleged Paris terrorist Abdeslam convicted of attempted murder

The lone Paris attacks' suspect Salah Abdeslam has been found guilty of attempted terrorist murder of police, when taking part in a shootout with police in the Belgian capital Brussels in March 2016.

Rail Baltica’s infrastructure management model to be studied by British company

On 8 November 2017, RB RAIL joint Baltic company announced the winner in the tender for the study of Rail Balica’s infrastructure management model. The winner was British design, engineering and project management consulting company: Atkins and SNC-Lavalin Group.

Harmony and UGF have their sponsors, whereas Sudraba’s party relies on donations

Since the beginning of the week, Latvia’s political parties have received more than half a million euros in donations and membership fees. According to the database of the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau, pockets fill up the fastest for political parties in power in the country and Riga.

Chemical weapons investigators have taken samples in Doma, Syria

In Syria, the scene, where according to the UK, U.S. and France, an attack with chemical weapons was conducted earlier in April, has after delays been visited by inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, who have managed to collect samples.

Estonia and Finland to share patient data over innovative «secure» data highway

The Estonian-developed international data exchange technology X-road, said to be hacker-proof is to be the basis for a new Estonia-Finland system of linked doctor prescription registers that would make prescriptions issued in one country available in pharmacies in the other.

Prime minister: Linužs’ dealings with offshore business warrants an investigation

Latvia’s Transport Minister Uldis Augulis refused to comment on information reported by De Facto programme one week ago – that Rail Baltica organized Andris Linužs had signed a deal with an offshore company based in Seychelles and used by influential businessmen from St. Petersburg. Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis, on the other hand, told the programme that «deals associated with state security had been recorded in the past and represent a matter that warrants an investigation».

Afghanistan hit by tragic terror attack

In Kabul, Afghanistan, a suicide bomber has killed not less than 57 people and injured 119 more as the attack with explosives targeted a queue of people outside a voter registration centre, Afghan officials have stated.

Armenia mass protests continue as opposition leader Pashinyan detained

In Armenia, mass protests against ex-President Serzh Sargsyan being elected as Prime Minister, have continued over the weekend marking over a week of protests in the capital Yerevan.

Weather in Latvia to be cold; air temperature to rise at week’s end

This week will be slightly colder for Latvia. Rain is expected in almost all regions every day. It will start getting warmer on Saturday and Sunday, when daytime air temperature is expected to rise again, as reported by State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Week in Lithuania. Economists, trade unions cautious about tax, pension reform plans

Lithuanian economists and trade union officials say that the government's planned tax and pension system reform unveiled on Monday, April 23, will lead to a rise in wages, but will not help drastically curb emigration.

BNN summary of the week: prime minister without solutions; birth rates down; organic food rules

BNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Change; Growth; Business; Assessment; Fight; Future.

Economy Ministry: producer prices will affect dynamics of raw material prices

Producer prices in industry will grow in 2018 similarly as they had in 2017. Producer price level is largely affected by fluctuations of raw material prices in the world, as noted by Latvia’s Economy Ministry.

PUC: Gaso’s separation from Latvijas Gāze was legal

After examining documents submitted by the transmission system’s operator, the Public Utilities Commission concluded that activities performed by AS Gaso as part of reorganization of Latvijas Gāze were sufficient to ensure compliance with requirements for independence, as reported by PUC representatives.

Industrial producer prices in Latvia up 3.5%

Compared to February, level of producer prices in the Latvian industry rose by 0.2 % in March 2018. Prices of products sold on the domestic market grew by 0.1 %, but prices of exported products went up by 0.4 %.

Municipality: after meeting in summer, British Steel refused to buy KVV Liepājas metalurgs

After the meeting that took place at the end of August 2017, British Steel, which had previously voiced an interest in KVV Liepājas metalurgs, refused to purchase the bankrupt company, says Liepaja City Council chairman’s advisor for public relations matters Andrejs Rjabcevs.