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Saturday 19.08.2017 | Name days: Melānija, Imanta
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Opinion: Ushakov’s attempts to scam Latvia’s residents continue

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU‘Are you starting to forget the Soviet times? Mayor Ushakov reminded us of them recently. The long queues for Riga Resident Cards were the Mayor’s Christmas gift to residents of our capital,’ – says the head of Unity’s Riga City Council faction Sarmīte Ēlerte.

‘People were told that public transport fares would go up next year. At the same time, registered residents of Riga who own a Riga Resident Card would only have to pay 50%. This was done in spite of Riga City Council officials’ knowing that the new tariffs have not come into force, nor will they. They will not come into force on March 1, 2014. Regulations proposed by Riga City Council will only come into force if they are approved by the Environmental Protection and Regional Development Ministry. And the ministry does not support this initiative,’ – says the politician.

‘Residents of our capital had the pleasure to find another ”pleasant” surprise on the first day of 2014: residents, even those who had their Riga Resident Card with them, had to pay EUR 1.20 for their tickets. Why EUR 1.20? No reason, really. But the fact remains, and no one had the presence of common sense to explain this,’ – she continued.

According to her, Ushakov has yet to provide explanations to this whole mess. ‘He has disappeared for the most part. He has not been seen since the airing of the very optimistic Riga Resident Card advertisements on television last year. This campaign cost taxpayers EUR 213,431. He had accused the government in the chaos he himself manufactured, provided no apology for the ruined Christmas time, put off the dates for the reception of these cards and simply vanished. Should have been expected – it is no ribbon-cutting business,’ – she added.

Ēlerte mentions that Riga City Council’s Public Transport Licensing Committee approved the public transport fare amount at EUR 0.70 on September 17, 2013. The head of Riga City Council’s Transport Committee Vadims Baraņņiks had previously told the press that the transition to euro had allowed Rīgas satiksme to find a way to reduce public transport fare even more. Rīgas Satiksme’s proposed rate of 50 santim or 71.14 euro cents have been rounded down. Nearly two weeks later, that same licensing committee suddenly approved the new public transport fare – EUR 1.20.

‘What exactly happened during those 12 days? Why was there suddenly the most rapid increase in public transport fares in Latvia’s history – 71%? Because a grandiose plan was born: to unite voters under Ushakov’s banner for election purposes using public transport fares,’ – Ēlerte says.

In spite of Unity and the National Alliance voting against it, Harmony Centre and Honour to Serve Riga coalition made the decision to divide and pit against each other Latvia’s residents on October 7, 2013. As a result of this decision, registered residents of Riga are to be presented with a 50% discount on public transport services; everyone else is expected to pay EUR 1.20 per trip. It should be said, that residents of Riga pay for all of their discounts from taxes. This also applies to residents who do not use public transport services. Riga City Council’s regulations did not come into force because the Environmental Protection and Regional Development Ministry ordered officials of Riga City Council to cancel this initiative. Then the minister Edmunds Sprūdžs said: ‘These regulations are a mess from a logical and legal standpoint.’

In order to prevent manipulations with the law and unjustified interpretations of regulations, Unity’s Saeima faction called to apply additional clarification to Public Transport Services Law Section 14. It was then decided to vote for the following amendment: ‘A person’s declared permanent residence cannot serve as the only criterion when deciding on public transport benefits.’

Harmony Centre and Honour to Serve Riga decided to look for a new law to circumvent. On November 19, with Unity and NA voting against, the ruling parties of Riga City Council introduced and amended the once halted discriminating regulations with only one additional criterion – the much debated 50% discount is to be provided to all residents under the age of 75 who have their permanent residence declared in Riga.

These regulations were halted as well, because Daniels Pavluts – acting Environmental Protection and Regional Development Minister – requested to cancel them on December 19.

‘The language referendum of 2012 reminded Ushakov that he lives in Latvia. EPRDM also reminded him that Riga is a part of Latvia. What else could future bring us? It is likely that there will be other attempts to scam residents in the future. We should all keep in mind the only place where we can find free cheese before we decide to hop on the free benefits train,’ – she concluded.

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