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Saturday 18.08.2018 | Name days: Liene, Helēna, Elena, Ellena, Liena

BNN summary of the week: 13th Saeima candidates; Europe’s G-Spot; Latvia’s digital government

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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: Announcement; Proposal; Expenses; Change; Opposition; Accusation.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Sixteen parties and party union candidate lists to participate in 13th Saeima elections

Submission period for candidate lists for 13th Saeima elections has officially concluded in Latvia. Latvia’s Centrist Party and Par Alternatīvu were the last parties to have submitted their candidate lists.

With that, a total of sixteen parties and party unions have submitted candidate lists for 13th Saeima elections. This is also three more candidate lists when compared to 2014 Saeima elections.

Latvia’s Centrist Party has 23 deputy candidates and Par Alternatīvu party has 37 candidates. Both lists were submitted in all regions included in Saeima elections – Riga, Vidzeme, Latgale, Kurzeme and Zemgale.

Central Election Commission reports that a total of 1,470 candidates will be taking part in upcoming elections. Fifteen candidates will be competing for each of the 100 seats in the Saeima. Compared to the previous elections, the number of candidates has increased – 1,156 candidates participated in Saeima elections in 2014.

Among the 13th Saeima candidates 68.3% are men and 31.7% are women. 79.2% of candidates have higher education, 20.3% have secondary education, and 0.5% of candidates only have primary education.

24.3% of candidates are aged 31 to 40 and 23.7% are aged 51 to 60. The average age of 13th Saeima candidates is 44.6 years. The oldest candidate is 88, and the youngest is 21.

Full article here

PROPOSAL: Apostolic visit to Lithuania: calls for Church to reveal expenditure now

Ahead of the papal visit on September 22-23, Lithuanian authorities and the Lithuanian Catholic Church have started putting together a budget for the event to make sure it goes smoothly. Most of the Lithuanian institutions in charge of it have already delivered initial estimates, however the Catholic Church insists it will make its financial reports public only after the visit.

Vilnius Archdiocese argues that the calculating of the costs is tentative and is subject to change. However, Diana Vilytė, head of Lithuania’s Public Procurement Office, exhorts the Church to reveal the numbers now.

In early July, the Lithuanian government decided to remunerate 1.75 million euros of costs related to preparations for the upcoming two-day visit of Pope Francis.

The bulk – over 1.2 million euros – will be allocated to the Catholic Church of Lithuania via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. And the VIP Protection Department will receive up to 248,000 euros via the Ministry of the Interior.

Vilnius authorities are set to get up to 109,000 euros, and Kaunas authorities – up to 163,000 euros. Over 28,000 euros will be allocated to the Ministry of Health.

Government Vice Chancellor Alminas Mačiulis, who chaired the papal visit’s working group’s meeting in late July, expressed hope that the apostolic visit will cost less.

«We are trying to specify and discuss things, based on tender results and market prices, what we should spend the money on and what would be excessive,» Mačiulis said.

Meanwhile, the Lithuanian Catholic Church has said in a statement that the Government’s foreseen amount of 1.7 million can be «too big for a pope who is modest and shying any luxury».

Full article here

FUTURE:  LMT says digitizing paper documents cannot be considered digital state management

Transforming paper documents to electronic format cannot be considered digital state management, says Latvian mobile communications operator Latvijas Mobilais Telefons president Juris Binde.

He says the idea for digital state management is a matter of understanding. «Many officials believe that if we transform paper documents in electronic format, we will get digital state management. This does not work in reality, because we would require changing processes, not documents. Transferring paper documents to the electronic environment does not change a thing,» explains Binde.

Binde says it is necessary to raise ICT competence in state administration. «Most e-project failures are directly associated with incompetence of the client and oddities of the procurement system. If one large system is divided into four parts and auctioned off to different developers, it should come as no surprise when those four systems become incompatible with one another. It is a miracle when they do, however,» says Binde.

Full article here

EXPENSES: Latvian government promises higher pension indexation for 2018

On 1 October, pensions and benefits or their parts that do not exceed EUR 382 will be increased, says Latvia’s Welfare Ministry.

This means all pensions and benefits that are not larger than EUR 382 will be indexed. Pensions and benefits larger than EUR 382 will be indexed only for part of the paid amount – EUR 382. The increase will depend on the pension and benefit amount, as well as the applied index. Exceptions include politically repressed persons, Group 1 invalids and participants of Chernobyl disaster cleanup operation. Their pensions will be indexed for the full amount, the ministry explains.

Welfare Ministry notes that the index to be applied for retirement, invalidity, survivors’ pensions and insurance indemnities will be 1.0590.

«One novelty is that with 2018 onward, retirement pension indexation will be using different indexes that will depend on a person’s work history. The larger the work history, the larger the index will be applied and the larger pension increase people can expect,» the ministry explains.

Full article here

CHANGE: «G-spot» of Europe» – Vilnius’ new tourism slogan

Vilnius, the capital of mostly Catholic Lithuania, has launched a new, sexually-coloured tourism campaign, where the city is compared to a hidden point of female sexual pleasure.

«Nobody knows where it is but when you find it – it’s amazing,» reads the expanded slogan on the web site, where visitors are invited to build their «personal pleasure map» of the Lithuanian capital.

British news portal The Independent reports that critics from the Catholic clergy have questioned the timing of the campaign in a country where the majority of residents identify as Catholic.

Full article here

OPPOSITION: Minister refuses to meet with Vairāk saules restaurant owners; representatives dissatisfied

Latvian Interior Affairs Minister Rihards Kozlovskis believes he has no right to become involved in State Police’s handled criminal case launched against Vairāk saules restaurant network. Because of that, he has decided to not meet with owners of the network and representatives of Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry to discuss this matter.

Representatives of Vairāk saules network say by doing this the minister is trying to avoid his direct duties.

One of its members turned to LCCI, requesting assistance in resolving the situation that formed in relation to investigative measures performed by State Police – the company’s inability to recover documents and information previously confiscated during searches and needed to perform business activities. LCCI told the minister that it is necessary to search for solutions to avert risks for the restaurant network’s continued function and discuss the possibility of amending some regulations in the process.

Interior Affairs Ministry explains that the minister values the support LCCI provides to Latvian businessmen by representing their interests in efforts to sort out the business environment. Nevertheless, the ministry notes that criminal investigations are governed by law, and the minister is not authorized to supervise the criminal process.

The minister also added that the judge who authorized the search details in documents the items confiscated during the search and their relation to the case. This means the judge is the one responsible for explaining what is and what is not important to any specific criminal case.

The minister has no reason to doubt if actions performed by the investigator and supervision provided by the judge over the criminal process were in accordance with requirements of the law, the interests of the national economy, and without unjustified interference in the company’s economic activities.

The minister believes necessary criminal procedure activities in the aforementioned criminal process should be performed as quickly as possible.

Full article here

ACCUSATION: SES chief accused of hiding transactions worth EUR 300,000 from her income declaration

State Environment Service manager Inga Koļegova failed to disclose transactions worth EUR 300,000 in her income declaration, according to information the prosecutor’s office.

The prosecutor’s office has submitted the criminal case to Riga City Latgale Suburb Court. The viewing of the case is scheduled for 27 September.

The prosecutor office told the press that the person is accused of detailing false information in their income declaration.

According to the decision to submit the criminal case to the court, in their income declarations for 2013, 2014, and 2015, the state official did not include information regarding their real estate property, transactions worth more than 20 minimal monthly wages, as well as other information associated with the official’s material state.

The official also did not detail large transactions worth more than EUR 300,000 in their income declaration. In their declaration for 2014 and 2015, the official detailed false information regarding transactions worth more than EUR 600,000, the prosecutor’s office report.

As previously reported, an inspection was commenced on 7 September 2016 in relation to problems with Koļegova’s income declaration and possible violations.

Because of Unity’s opposition, the government postponed Koļegova’s approval as SRS director general. She was proposed for the post by the Union of Greens and Farmers and the National Alliance. Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis announced later that he will check Unity’s submitted information regarding Koļegova and the dividends she received from Pallogs. On 12 August, Koļegova announced her decision to withdraw her candidacy.

Full article here

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Eurostat: Latvia had inflation rate higher than average in EU and Eurozone

In July, Latvia’s inflation rate was higher than the average in Europe and Eurozone, according to data published by Eurostat.

Presence of Latvian milk reduces, whereas presence of imported milk increases in Latvia

The proportion of milk produced in Latvia is starting to lose to imported milk, as concluded by Central Union of Latvian Dairy Farmers chairman Jānis Šolks.

Seven previously convicted candidates crossed from Saeima election lists

On Friday, 17 August, the Central Election Commission decided to cross out seven previously convicted deputy candidates. The decision regarding one more candidate has been postponed until the next meeting, as confirmed by the commission.

Aspiring prosecutors «drop out» in tests – half of contenders fail second stage of tests

Approximately half of aspiring prosecutor candidates has failed the second portion of tests for general and judicial knowledge.

Riga International Airport concludes first half-year with turnover increase of 13%

Riga International Airport concluded the first half-year of 2018 with turnover increase of 13% when compared to the same period of 2017, according to the airport’s unaudited and shortened account for the six-month period before 30 June 2018.

New tender announced for post of SRS director; first requirement – spotless reputation

Latvia’s State Chancellery has announced an open personnel selection process for the post of director of State Revenue Service. Application submission process will last until 14 September.

CEC to decide on four candidates’ possible relation to KGB

Latvia’s Central Election Commission has received results of investigations of all 13th Saeima election candidates from Interior Affairs Ministry’s Information Centre and Latvian Centre for the Documentation of the Consequences of Totalitarianism.

Concord will have to include bread distribution costs in kebab café in its pre-election expenditures

Political party Concord will have to include in its 13th Saeima pre-election campaign expenditures the money spent by one of its candidates on distributing bread to pensioners free of charge in a kebab café in Bolderāja, as reported by TV3 news.

Weekends expected to be warm and at times hot in Latvia

On Friday, 17 August, the sky will partially cloudy again in Latvia, but no major precipitation is expected. Fog may form is certain regions at night thanks to slow wind speed. Maximum air temperature is expected to be around +22° C… +26° C. Night-time air temperature will stay at +11° C… +16° C, as reported by State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Latvia’s State Audit requests additional funding to invest in workers

State Audit has requested additional funds in next year’s budget to invest in employees, as head of the institution Elita Krūmiņa mentioned in an interview to Latvijas Radio.

Nearly half of children born in Latvia in 2017 were delivered by mothers with higher education

20,828 children were born in Latvia in 2017. Almost half of them were born to mothers having higher education. Out of the total number of newborn children mothers, 7,229 or 34.7 % had acquired upper secondary general or vocational education and 2,775 or 13.3 % had basic education or lower.

«Steel Magnolia» named Lithuania's most influential politician for fourth consecutive year

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė, dubbed as «Steel Magnolia» by foreign press, remains the most influential politician in the country for the fourth consecutive year. In two separate polls, one by the popular ratings magazine Reitingai and the other by pollster Spinter Tyrimai, she appeared on top, being followed by Saulius Skvernelis, Prime Minister, Ramūnas Karbauskis, the leader of the ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union (LFGU), Valdas Adamkus, ex-president, and Vytautas Landsbergis, Lithuania's first post-independence leader.

Ex-director: Rundale Castle Museum should be managed with the same ideals as before

In the years to come Rundale Castle Museum should be managed with the same ideals as before, says the soon ex-director of the museum Imants Lancmanis, who intends to retire at the end of this year.

Star Rating determines the best schools in Latvia

According to the 2018 Star Rating, Riga State Gymnasium No.1 remains in the lead among Latvia’s schools. Daugavpils Russian Secondary School – Lyceum is second, and Riga State Gymnasium No.2 is third.

ABLV Bank assets worth EUR 21.052 million were recovered in July

Liquidators of ABLV Bank have recovered assets worth EUR 21.052 million in July. This includes EUR 11.602 million recovered from issued loans, EUR 7.644 million from recovered/sold securities, EUR 1,792 million from loans provided to credit institutions, and EUR 14,000 from sales of real estate and other types of property, according to the account published in Latvian Herald.

Concerns over Turkish crisis cause world stock market decline

Stock prices around the world took a massive dive on Wednesday, 15 August, as concerns over Turkish crisis’ possible influence and investors’ attempts to get rid of risky assets surfaced again.

Election commission receives word some candidates’ possible non-compliance with the law

Latvia’s Central Election Commission has received information regarding possible non-compliance of multiple deputy candidates with requirements of the Saeima Election Law, says CEC chairman Arnis Cimdars.

African swine fever found in domestic pigs in Saldus; inspectors investigate illness in Unguri

African swine fever has been found in domestic pigs in Saldus Country’s Zaņa Parish. The infection was found in four domestic pigs. It cannot be excluded that ASF may have entered SIA Druvas Unguri farm’s pig enclosure along with sawdust or cars, as reported by Food and Veterinary Service Public Relations Office manager Ilze Meistere.

Lithuania lays symbolic rail on restored Mažeiķi–Reņģe railway line

Lithuania’s Lietuvos geležinkeliai railway company’s director general Mantas Bartuška and Polish oil concern Orlen manager Daniel Obatjek laid a symbolic rail on the restored railway route connecting Orlen Lithuania owned Mažeiķi oil processing plant in Lithuania and Reņģi in Latvia this Tuesday, 14 August.

Unemployment level in Latvia down to 7.7% in Q2 2018

In Q2 2018 Latvian unemployment rate constituted 7.7 %. Compared to the previous quarter, unemployment rate fell by 0.5 percentage points, while over the year it dropped by 1.2 percentage points.

Saeima approves stricter requirements for fast loans

On Tuesday, 14 August, Saeima’s Economic Committee supported in the second reading amendments to the Consumer Rights Protection Law. The legislative draft states that total loan costs that exceed 0.07% a day from the loan amount are unacceptable and non-compliant with good practice, as reported by Saeima press-service.

Noord Natie develops a new business niche – attracts cruise ships for Ventspils

The first of the cruise ships attracted from SIA Noord Natie Ventspils Terminals will arrive at Ventspils port this week. NNVT stresses that development of cruise business as a new product will help develop tourism in the city and region, as well as provide a contribution to economic development and raise recognition of NNVT terminal and the city.

Culture Ministry announces open contest for post of director of Rundale Castle Museum

Latvia’s Culture Ministry invites contenders to apply for participation in an open contest for the post of director of Rundale Castle Museum. Contenders can submit their applications before 14 September.

Lithuania’s Central Bank to assess information about Latvian VIA SMS Group

Lithuania’s Central Bank has promised to assess information regarding Latvian VIA SMS Group working in the country. This decision is a reaction to the statement made by Seimas National Security and Defence Committee member Arvydas Anušauskas that people associated with former Parex Banka owners work in that company.

Small wineries in Latvia will be allowed to use only local products

Members of Saeima’s Economic, Agricultural, Environmental and Regional Policy Committee supported amendments to the Handling of Alcoholic Beverages Law, stating that small breweries will be allowed to use products grown only in Latvia.

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