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Wednesday 24.05.2017 | Name days: Marlēna, Ilvija, Ziedone
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BNN summary of the week: the dark side of construction and the level of state control over gas

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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; Business; Fight; Decline; Truth and Growth.

Change: Latvian state should take over Conexus Baltic Grid

Latvian state should buy the controlling package of shares in gas transmission and storage operator Conexus Baltic Grid, says Latvian MEP Krisjanis Karins.

He emphasizes that Latvia’s gas market was dominated for a long time by Latvijas gaze and Gazprom. This is why it should be viewed as an opportunity for Latvia to recover control over critical infrastructure – Incukalns gas storage facility and gas pipeline.

When asked if it is not enough for Conexus Baltic Grid’s largest shareholders to sell their shares in the company before the end of the year and the state has pre-purchase and veto rights, and that regulations already govern the function of Conexus Baltic Grid on the free market, Karins said no, emphasizing the importance of having a capable company contribute to the function of the free market and the creation of a unified Baltic market.

Full article here

Business: Five European companies agree to finance Nord Stream 2

Nord Stream 2 and five European energy companies have signed the project’s financing agreement and have shown their readiness to provide funding equal to 50% of the project’s total costs, as confirmed by the company.

Current estimates state the project’s costs may be around EUR 9.5 billion. Each European company participating in the project will invest EUR 950 million.

Although funding for Nord Stream 2 will be secured by Engie, OMV, Shell, Uniper and Wintershall, Gazprom will remain the only shareholder in the project, as stated in the company’s announcement.

Company representatives note that the readiness of European companies to finance the project is proof of Nord Stream 2 project’s strategic importance for Europe’s gas market. It will benefit competition and ensure long-term and medium-term energy security, especially considering the expected decline in gas production in Europe.

Full article here

Fight: Work safety at a construction field: problem, myth or unnecessary extra

The matter of work safety in construction remains a topical and complex matter. One of the examples is the construction process of Kekava primary school, in relation to which residents have voiced serious concerns for the safety of the people at work there. Construction firm Abora, meanwhile, says there is nothing to those rumours, and that those are merely «foolish words» coming from dissatisfied workers.

BNN decided to dig into this matter.

The second stage of the construction process of Kekava primary school commenced in January 2015. After all the necessary documents and technical specifications were prepared, a tendering process was announced for the third stage of the construction process.

Abora won the tender. This company was also responsible for the previous two stages of the construction process. The contract was signed by Kekava City Council Chairman Andis Damlics and Abora board member Juris Kravalis on 18 August 2015, according to information available on the website.

BNN has since acquired photos from Kekava residents, showing that workers at the construction field have insufficient equipment. On top of that, workers themselves have expressed serious concerns about their own safety when working there.

Full article here

Truth: Lembergs continues prolonging court process; prosecutors concerned

Aivars Lembergs’ criminal case remains in court for the ninth year. The past seven months have been spent solely on listening to Aivars Lembergs’ testimony. Prosecutors are concerned that the accused may be using his testimony to prolong the court process, as reported by Latvijas Radio about the state of the criminal case and prosecutors’ opinion of it.

Prosecutors have amended charges a little bit in the criminal case revolving around Aivars Lembergs. The accused believes prosecutors are the ones who have been delaying the court process for years. Prosecutors, on the other hand, say: «The court is not the party that breaches the established term. Aivars Lembergs is the one who breaches the term.»

Lembergs has noted on Twitter that prosecutors have softened the charges against him and part of the charges has been lifted completely. «Thereby charges have been left considerably flatter». Lembergs added that this is the third variant of the charges presented in the past nine years and that prosecutors have been delaying the case for years.

Full article here

Growth: number of Baltic tourists’ trips to USA increases

In the summer season, Baltic tourists prefer to travel by air to Asia and UAE. The most popular destinations reachable by land include Italy, Spain and Germany, according to information compiled by travel agency Estravel and car rent company Budget.

When picking their destinations, people from Baltic States most often prefer countries with a warm climate. «Thailand, UAE, Canary Islands and USA are all popular destinations. The summer season begins in May, when people mostly want to travel to Greece, Turkey and Spain,» says Estravel representative, adding that Baltic resident also often travel to neighbouring countries.

The choice of a destination depends on convenient flight routes and the overall safety level of the chosen destination. Estravel representative notes that the number of travel arrangements made to Egypt has declined. Instead, Baltic tourists more often decide to travel to United Arab Emirates.

International car rent company Budget reports that this year’s observations show that the most popular destinations reachable by land in Europe from Baltic States include Italy, Spain and Germany.

Full article here

Decline: Last year foreign travellers stayed in Latvia for longer, but spent less money

In 2016, foreign travellers crossed the border of Latvia 6.8 million times, which is 0.7 % less than during the previous year. Last year foreign travellers spent EUR 645.2 million in Latvia – EUR 97.0 million or 13.1 % less than in 2015.

In 2016, Latvia was visited by 1.8 million foreign overnight travellers (11.4 % less than in 2015), spending 12.3 % less and the expenditure amounting to EUR 474.4 million. Latvia was visited for the first time by 30.1 % of the foreign travellers. As compared to the previous year, the total number of nights spent increased by 7.6 %, reaching 8.8 million nights. Visitors stayed in Latvia for 4.9 days on average – 0.9 days more than in 2015, according to data from the Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia.

Compared to the previous year, there was an increase in the number of foreign overnight travellers from Poland – of 8.6 %, Lithuania – of 8.5 %, Germany – of 6.7 %, and the United Kingdom – of 4.8 %. In turn, there was a decrease in the number of foreign overnight travellers from Sweden – of 37.1 %, Belgium – of 34.6 %, the Czech Republic – of 23.4 %, Russia – of 20.3 %, and Estonia – of 7.0 %.

Full article here

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Interest of Indian youth for study opportunities in Latvia increases year after year

Indian Foreign Affairs Minister Mobashar Jawed Akbar emphasized during his meeting with Latvian Foreign Affairs Minister Edgars Rinkevics that India has experienced very rapid economic growth in the past year. He added that the upcoming Latvian-Indian business forum will be an important step towards closer cooperation in economy.

Latvian government reduces administrative burden on amelioration

Latvian government has agreed to support Agriculture Ministry’s prepared amendments to requirements that dictate construction requirements for waterworks and amelioration systems, as well as cadastral rules. Changes were prepared to reduce administrative burden, Agriculture Ministry reports.

Survey: 32% of Latvian residents have no savings

Losing their income, 23% of respondents would not be able to cover everyday expenses, 5% would be able to maintain payments for less than a month and 20% of respondents would be able to cover a whole month’s worth of expenses, shows the survey performed by Nordea on personal finances.

Producer prices in April grew 0.1% in Latvia

Compared to March, the level of producer prices in Latvian industry grew by 0.1 % in April 2017. The prices of products sold on the domestic market increased by 0.5 %, whereas the prices of exported products dropped by 0.2 %.

LSBA: closure of gambling halls is an attempt by officials to promote their image for elections

Latvian Association of Gaming Business asks deputies of Riga City Council to reconsider their actions in relation to the planned decision to prohibit gambling halls in Riga’s historic centre.

More people have moved to Estonia than left it in 2016

13,792 people have emigrated from Estonia in 2016 and 14,822 have immigrated, Estonian statisticians have estimated, concluding that net migration in the Baltic country has been positive for the second consecutive year.

Saeima to discuss the role of the Security Department of the Bank of Latvia

Saeima’s Defence, Internal Affairs and Corruption Prevention Committee will visit the Bank of Latvia on Wednesday, 24 May, to discuss the role of the bank’s Security Department, as BNN was informed by Saeima’s press-service.

Razuks hints healthcare budget’s increase would require new fees

Sides involved in discussions about finding additional finances for healthcare have yet to reach a definite agreement. It is possible there may be a new fee introduced, said Saeima Public Health sub-committee chairman Romualds Razuks told Rīta panorama on Tuesday, 23 May.

Twelve million euros invested in creation of car wash network in Latvia

Wash & Drive opens the largest self-service car wash station in Riga. In cooperation with Citadele Bank, EUR 800,000 was invested in the creation of this seven-box car wash, as confirmed by the bank.

EC: Latvia’s tax system is less progressive than systems in other EU countries

The European Commission recommends Latvia to reduce the tax burden for small wage recipients and move it to other sources that are less impacting on growth and motivate people to pay taxes.

Latvia to lead joint air and land military exercises this year

Annual international military exercises Saber Strike will be taking place in Latvia from 3 – 15 June. Allied troops and armoured vehicles have begun arriving in Latvia for the upcoming exercises, as reported by Defence Ministry.

Tragic blast shakes Manchester, UK

In an explosion, which has occurred in a mass sports and music events venue in the British city of Manchester, 22 people have died and over 59 have suffered injuries.

Experts: Rail Baltica – connection that benefits everyone

The essence of Rail Baltica project is not combating the trends currently present in the world, but rather using them as an advantage, says advisor to the Bank of Latvia Andris Strazds. He adds that more and more economic and social development is centered in large and urban city centres.

Latvian companies ahead of neighbours in organization of business trips

Latvian businesses are more progressive in the organization of business trips than Lithuania. They do, however, spend a lot of money on planning and organizing of those trips. In addition, they also use inefficient financing methods – 20% of employees are forced to pre-finance their business trips from their own pockets, according to results of an international study.

Riga Eastern Clinical Hospital to identify patients using fingerprint data

Riga Eastern Clinical Hospital has introduced biometric data identification system that will be used to identify patients using fingerprint data, BNN was informed by the hospital.

FDC: micro-enterprise tax has created serious defects

The micro-enterprise tax has created serious defects for Latvia’s tax system, said Fiscal Discipline Council chairman Janis Platais in an interview to Latvijas Avīze.

Microsoft software licences cost Estonia millions each year

Estonian ministries and their subordinated institutions pay a total of under five million euros each year in Microsoft software licence fees.

Latvia’s unemployment rate was 9.4% in Q1 2017

In Q1 2017 the Latvian unemployment rate constituted 9.4 %. Compared to the previous quarter, the unemployment rate increased by 0.1 percentage points, whereas, compared to the same period of the year before, the rate reduced by 0.9 percentage points.

Pension expert: how far can index funds root themselves in Latvian pension plans?

Latvian pension plan clients can still pick existing pension plans with sufficiently flexible deposit policy and possibilities to receive consultations. It should be added, however, that pension plans based on index funds can find clients in Latvia for whom low-price guarantees is important the most, Nordea Pensions Latvia board member Ilya Arefjevs predicts.

Latvian Defence Ministry plans the largest tendering process in country’s history

This summer, Latvian Defence Ministry plans to announce the largest tendering procedure in the history of Latvia’s army. It is planned to procure heavy vehicles to transport armoured vehicles and troops. The total amount for the next ten years may reach EUR 200 million, as reported by Nekā personīga.

Study: engaging in business improves satisfaction with life

It has been concluded that psychological aspects are far more important than financial aspects in business operations – stability, family support, exchange of experience and realization of ideas are important for emerging businessmen, as concluded in a study performed by Altum.

Following use of EU funds, demand for loans increases in municipalities

Demand for loans from the State Treasury has increased after use of EU funds became more active, said Kaspars Abolins, chief of State Treasury, in an interview.

Swiss voters decide to move away from nuclear energy

Switzerland has decided to quit nuclear power stations and opt for renewable energy, show the results of a referendum held on Sunday, May 21, where 58% voters backed phasing out nuclear power.

Child vaccination made mandatory in Italy

Reacting to lower child protection against measles, the government of Italy has decided to make vaccination against 12 illnesses mandatory for children before they start going to state schools.

Deputies to decide on prohibiting gambling in Riga’s historic centre

On Monday, 22 May, deputies will discuss the matter on sorting out Riga’s historic centre. It is stated in new territorial plans that it will be prohibited for gambling halls to be located in this area.

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