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Monday 21.08.2017 | Name days: Linda, Janīna
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Latvian Finance Minister appoints new representative to the Board of Riga Free port

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RULatvian Finance Minister Andris Vilks has appointed the Deputy State Secretary Baiba Bane as the ministry’s representative in the Board of Riga Free port.

Bane has been Deputy State Secretary to the Finance Ministry since 2009. From 2007 to 2009, she was deputy state secretary to the Regional Development and Municipal Affairs Ministry. Before then she was also the deputy state secretary at the Agriculture Ministry and the director of the ministry’s budget and finances department, as reported by the Finance Ministry.

BNN previously reported that the previous representative of the Finance Ministry in the Board of Riga Free port Eriks Skapars has submitted his resignation after the recent working visit to Kazakhstan.

Two weeks ago, the businessmen who accompanied Latvia’s State President Andris Berzins during his visit to Kazakhstan gathered at Riga International airport. Even then Skapars seemed to stay close to businesswoman Maija Mikenena. According to information from De facto programme of LTV, everything Skapars did after the delegation had departed for Kazakhstan showed he was more interested in spending time with Mikena than actually defending the interests of Riga port.

The delegation had a strict schedule of events: meetings, business forums and welcoming committees. One of the most important matters to be discussed during the meetings was the interest Kazakh business have in the possibility of investing money in Latvian ports, including that of Riga. Skapars’ presence was clearly needed. Kazakhstan is interested in the economic development of Riga port, as the President of Kazakh Temir Zholy Company Askar Mamin said. According to him, the company plans to help develop one of China’s ports. This would allow them to create a transit corridor from Europe to Asia.

President of LDz Ugis Magonis seemed more interested in developing ports than Skapars, who was not seen attending the business forum in Astana or Almata, or any other notable business event. According to sources of the programme, the only event Skapars had attended during the working visit to Kazakhstan was the welcoming ceremony held by the Latvian ambassador in Kazakhstan. Judging from the photos taken during the event, Skapars was more interested in staying close to Mikenena than making business contacts with Kazakh businessmen and officials.

The three-day working visit concluded on June 4. However, unlike the rest of the delegation, Skapars and Mikenena decided to stay in Kazakhstan for two more days, until June 6. On top of that, they decided to stay at a five-star hotel – Rixos Almaty Hotel.

The costs of Skapars’ working visit were covered by Riga Free port. According to financial documents acquired by the programme, LVL 669.03 were paid to the Latvian Investment and Development Agency for the delegation, tickets and technical assistance. Hotel bookings cost LVL 1 122. Skapars also required money for a ticket back to Riga (LVL 475), pocket money (LVL 100), insurance (LVL 8.43) and transport from the hotel to the airport (LVL 40). In total, Skapars’ trip cost the port LVL 2 414.46.

Last year, Skapars was paid LVL 41 007,19 (LVL 3.5 thousand per month) from the port. It is not like he could not have afforded the trip on his own. This is why the programme decided to contact him in the middle of the week. De facto wanted to learn from him why he had to stay in Kazakhstan for two more days, as well as the impressions he got after not attending a single important business event.

However, the entire phone conversation lasted a mere 45 seconds. Skapars nervously tried to explain how he was busy driving somewhere: either Riga or Tukums. He then promptly dropped the call. His mobile phone remained switched off for the duration of the rest of the week. De facto’s team, on the other hand, received a large number of calls from politicians, wanting to know about the story so far. A decision was made: Skapars submitted a resignation before the story aired. He was the representative of Finance Minister Andris Vilks in the Board of Riga Free port. According to De facto, Vilks is going to accept his resignation.

A few months ago, Vilks openly told the media that he is dissatisfied with his representative at the port. Nevertheless, he doubted that his party would support him if he decided to remove Skapars from the post. It seems that Skapars’ political tourism was the last straw.

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