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Saturday 29.02.2020 | Name days:

BNN summary of the week: budget-cutting; doctors’ strike; SIF posts in sights

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUSome people put on costumes and masks to partake in Halloween festivities, whereas others were forced to slave over piles of papers, calculating next year’s expenditures in Latvia.

Latvia’s Saeima supported in the first reading the country’s budget for 2020. Government representatives reminded that they divided money to ensure everyone would get something, whereas the opposition did what it usually does – remind the government that everyone received not enough.

Meanwhile, Latvian doctors announced plans to take it to the streets on 7 November. Many have taken unpaid leaves to protest outside the Saeima. Prior to the protest, doctors plan to meet with Latvian President Egils Levits to discuss the shortage of funding.

Riga City Council was also busy cutting the budget pie this week. Unfortunately, there is no money for development initiatives. Riga City Council Finance Department’s Municipal Budget Office Uldis Rakstiņš admits that the municipality’s financial capital is not sufficient to afford any surprise initiatives.

Long-standing NGO sector employee Zaiga Pūce, meanwhile, has won the personnel selection process in the Social Integration Fund. She has become a candidate for the post of the fund’s secretariat director. She has no shortage of ideas to improve the fund’s operations and she is prepared to take action. Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) has taken notice of this situation and whether or not there is a conflict of interests.

The BNN gives you a summary of the key events of the past week, told in news stories of the following topics: Budget; Development; Strike; Minister’s Wife; Ceiling, Waste Saga; Borders; Burnout and Criticism.


Latvia’s Saeima approves budget plan for 2020 in first reading

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUThe Saeima has conceptually approved the 2020 state budget project, medium-term budget plan for 2020, 2021 and 2022, as well as 26 accompanying legislative drafts associated with the budget, as confirmed by the parliament’s press-service.

Next year’s consolidated state budget revenue is planned at EUR 9.9 billion and expenditures – at EUR 10 billion. Base budget revenue in 2020 is planned at EUR 6.9 billion, whereas expenditures – at EUR 7.2 billion.

Budget deficit next year is planned at 0.3% of GDP, whereas GDP growth is expected to be 2.8%, which is the smallest in recent years.

Ministries have reviewed their expenditures, and money saved this year will serve as boost for all sectors. The government plans to increase the lowest wages in the country, as well as maximum differentiated non-taxable minimum to EUR 300. A year from now it is planned to increase minimal wages to EUR 500 a month, as explained by Saeima’s Budget and Finance Committee chairman Mārtiņš Bondars.

Next year it is planned to divert EUR 228.7 million to the social sector. One of the main planned activities there is the increase of the state social guarantees. It is planned to be set at EUR 80 instead of the current EUR 64.03. This will also increase benefits for disabled people, as well as minimum amounts of disability pensions.

Full article here


Riga City Council’s budget for 2020: no money for new development initiatives

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUThere will be no money for new development initiatives in Riga City Council’s budget for 2020, admits head of the city council’s Finance Department’s Municipal Budget Office Uldis Rakstiņš.

Commenting on the municipality’s budget for 2019, Rakstiņš admits that the section for PIT is implemented well, as collected amounts are higher than expected.

As for at whose expense the municipality’s expenditures have decreased, he says the municipality is not doing well with different projects. These include Riga City Council Transport Department’s organized reconstruction of A.Deglava overpass and Brasas Bridge. As a result of this it has been decided to divert money to another year.

Construction of the Eastern Highway has stopped because the city council failed to complete its obligations on time. This is why the money provided by European funds for this project has been instead transferred to Transport Ministry for use on other projects.

Full article here


Latvian healthcare workers to hold protest in November

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUIn hopes of securing larger state funding for healthcare industry’s workers, doctors and other medical staff plant to take unpaid leave and organize a protest outside the Saeima building on 7 November, as confirmed by healthcare workers organizations’ representatives.

Doctors and nurses, who have taken unpaid leave, will gather at the protest. This means all planned medical examinations will not take place 7 November.

Prior to the protest, organizations representing medical personnel plan to organize a meeting with Latvia’s President Egils Levits on 5 November.

If efforts to secure funding bring no results, there will be a Latvia-wide event «Pull down the flag, light a candle!» between 8 and 14 November.

Full article here


Corruption watchdog to investigate possible conflict of interest at Social Integration Fund

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RULatvia’s Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) plans to investigate Ascendum manager and Latvia’s Environment Minister Juris Pūce’s wife Zaigas Pūce’s candidacy for the post of director of the Social Integration Fund’s secretariat (SIF).

KNAB has taken notice of this situation and plans to assess publicly available information.

As previously reported, the person who was picked in the personnel selection process to fill the post of the director of SIF secretariat is the manager of Ascendum association Zaiga Pūce, who is also the wife of Latvia’s Environment Protection and Regional Development Minister Juris Pūce.

She received the highest score in all three stages of the selection process, as well as unanimous support from members of the personnel selection committee. Her candidacy is under approval by SIF council.

Full article here


Funding for parties: is state pocket money enough for Latvian parties?

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUTogether with the plan for Latvia’s budget for 2020 the idea to increase state funding for political parties next years has caused blood to boil in the veins of many residents. Especially because budget formation this year was accompanied by the phrase «No money!» – no money for doctors, no money for teachers, no money for anyone. Will changes to the law help parties «drop their addiction to sponsors» or will they only increase «pocket change» from the state budget?

Distrust of politics

It would seem the quickest way to lose friends in Latvia is joining a political party. Soon enough, friends, acquaintances and even family members voice their honest opinions about such a person’s personality, work ethic and lacking trustworthiness.

The low indexes of society’s involvement in politics and equally low trust towards parties, the parliament and government paints a picture that Latvian residents are confident – nothing good can come from political parties and people only join them to secure benefits for themselves, not society.

Because of that it is no surprise your average Latvian citizen is not particularly eager to join political parties and pay membership fees voluntarily and support their and the country’s values. Judging by this situation, the belief of Latvian residents is roughly the follows – only wealthy people join political parties to pave the way for their personal interests. It should be no surprise there are parties associated with very specific and powerful groups, such as insolvency administrators and «local rulers».

Full article here


To improve competition, Saeima supports amendments to Waste Management Law

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUOn Thursday, 30 October, Latvia’s Saeima conceptually supported amendments to the Waste Management Law to help promote competition among waste management service providers, as reported by Saeima’s press-service.

«We have concluded that one of the significant factors to help resolve problems associated with waste management is listening to the Competition Council. This is why the legislative draft compiles proposals from the Competition Council to finally resolve one of the most significant tasks in the industry – promote competition,» said chairman of Saeima’s National Economy Committee Jānis Vitenbergs.

«Healthy competition would benefit every Latvian resident. Under such conditions services become of higher quality and prices become more attractive,» adds the deputy.

Amendments to the law state that municipalities or municipalities with shared waste management services whose total population exceeds EUR 50 000 are to divide their territory into at least two zones and have at least two service providers operate there.

Full article here


Latvia’s Saeima to limit officials’ activities in foundations and associations

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUOn Thursday, 31 October, Latvia’s Saeima supported in the final reading a legislative draft that is intended to ensure officials who have jobs in associations, foundations and social companies are allowed to keep their jobs only if there are not paid wages, as reported by Saeima’s press-service.

Restrictions will apply to Seaima deputies, prime minister and his deputy, ministers, and parliamentary secretary.

Legislative amendments provide for the aforementioned state officials are allowed to work in associations, foundations and social company only under the conditions they are not paid wages.

Full article here


Lithuanian doctor’s suicide sparks openness over workloads, abusive management

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUA doctor of leading Vilnius hospital has committed suicide prompting colleagues to speak out about systemic problems and their psychological effects on the working conditions of medical workers in the country.

Lithuanian public broadcaster LRT reported on Thursday, October 31, that the doctor, a traumatologist in his 30s and a father of two, was found dead at home following a weekend shift at Vilnius University Hospital in mid-October.

A number of the man’s colleagues and doctors from other hospitals have come forward with stories of abuse by superiors, unreasonable working conditions and absence of any support from hospital management.

«Doctors are under a lot of stress at work. Workloads and responsibility are huge, but no one is offering any help,» commented Danguolė Survilaitė, a psychiatrist at Vilnius Psychiatry Hospital. «We’ve been talking about the need of psychotherapeutic help for doctors for a long time.»

Full article here


Ratas against Estonian EKRE’s criticism of funding to LGBT+ organisations

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU

Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas

Estonian government hotheads, the Conservative People’s Party of Estonia (EKRE), have publicly criticised the increase in public funding to LGBT+ organisations, prompting a strongly worded statement from the Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre Party).

Estonian public broadcaster ERR reports on Monday, October, 28, that EKRE had a council meeting on weekend, and also issued a public statement slamming the growth in funding for LGBT+ groups and other organizations it described as ideological.

The party’s members and others recently stormed an event organized by LGBT+ activists in Pärnu, forcing the gathering to reconvene at another location, ERR wrote.

Ratas got involved by stating on this social media page:

«Political statements, declarations or petitions on controversial issues in no way contribute to the achievement of shared goals and substantive cooperation».

Full article here

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Gints Miķelsons put in charge of Latvian Construction Contractors Partnership

From 1 March 2020 onward Gints Miķelsons, who has been the head of Latvian Sustainable Construction Council will be in charge of the Latvian Construction Contractors Partnership, as confirmed by construction contractors.

While Latvia’s GDP grows 2.2%, other Baltic States experience more rapid growth

In 2019, Latvia experienced the slowest GDP growth among Baltic States, according to data from Latvia’s Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia.

Latvia’s GDP growth reportedly 2.2% in 2019

Compared to 2018, the economic growth continued and Gross Domestic Product increased by 2.2 %. In 2019, GDP at current prices amounted to EUR 30.5 billion. Compared to Q3, in Q4 2019 GDP at constant prices grew by 0.1 %, according to seasonally and calendar adjusted data.

Retail trade turnover in Latvia up 2.6% in January

Compared to January 2019, total retail trade turnover rose by 2.6 % in January 2020. Turnover of retail trade in food products grew by 4.4 %.

Vilnis Ķirsis to remain in charge of Unity’s faction in Riga

On Thursday, 27 February, Vilnis Ķirsis was once again picked as the head of Unity party’s faction in Riga, as confirmed by the party.

Latvia and USA sign joint declaration to enhance 5G network security

On Thursday, 27 February, Latvia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sign a joint US-Latvian declaration on 5G network security, as reported by Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Estonian Tallink Grupp sees profit growth of EUR 9.7 million on year

Estonian provider of ferry transport and related services Tallink Grupp has worked in 2019 with a net profit of 49.7 million euros, according to its unaudited financial results of the year, as reported by Estonian public broadcaster ERR.

Jakrins reportedly a beneficiary in a company that organizes Brasas and Deglava bridge repairs

Long-standing Riga City Council official Emīls Jakrins, who was in charge of the Transport Department not long ago, is beneficiary and factual owner of LLC TecPro Construction, which is a contractor to Lithuanian company Kauno tiltai, which has been hired by the city council to repair Brasas and Deglavas bridges, as reported by Diena newspaper, referencing unofficial information.

UK ready to switch to WTO trade rules if no EU by end of year

The British government has declared that unless concessions are made by Brussels in EU-UK talks on their future cooperation, the former EU member would trade with the bloc on WTO rules from 2021, British news portal The Guardian reports.

Residents able to submit compulsory income declarations by 1 June; VID urges using EDS

March 2020 will mark the beginning of the three-month period within which all residents for whom it is compulsory will be able to submit their income declaration for 2019. This period will last three years for residents for whom this process is voluntary, as reminded by the State Revenue Service.

Lithuanian border guards start informing travellers about the situation with Covid-19

As the new coronavirus Covid-19 continues spreading in Europe, Lithuanian border guards have begun informing travellers from Latvia and Poland about necessary protective measures.

Turkish soldiers killed in Syria, in regime airstrike, Ankara says

In the current epicentre of the Syrian civil war, 33 soldiers of the NATO member state Turkey have been killed as Syrian government military aviation carried out attacks on Turkish military posts set up in its neighbouring country, German broadcaster DW reports citing Ankara.

Weather in Latvia to be winter-like at week’s end

Weather in Latvia is expected to be winter-like at the end of the week – air temperature is expected to drop below 0° C at night in most of the country. In some areas cold snap may be felt during the day, as reported by Latvian Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

First coronavirus infection case found in Lithuania

The first coronavirus infection case is confirmed in Lithuania, as mentioned in Lithuanian government’s statement released on Friday, 28 February, as reported by

SPKC urges passengers of 26 February Istanbul-Riga flight to respond

Latvia’s Disease Control and Prevention Centre is looking for passengers who flew together with confirmed coronavirus patient from Istanbul to Riga on Wednesday, 26 February.

Regional hospitals in Latvia report high demand for protective clothing

Because of the outbreak of the new coronavirus Covid-19, demand has considerably increased for individual protective clothing, which forces prices to go up, as reported by heads of hospitals.

Rail Baltica not just marvelled, but cussed too in Lithuania

If implemented, the ambitious 5.8-billion euro Rail Baltica project aiming to build a nearly 1000-kilometer rail link from Helsinki to Poland through Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia will be a major infrastructural achievement of the Baltics, but the possibility of dashing at the now surreal speed of 250 kilometres per hour as soon as in 2026, when the project is slated for completion, comes at expense of many land owners in Lithuania’s six municipalities, which will be crossed by the European-gauge tracks.

Construction costs in Latvia up 2.8% in January

Compared to December 2019, the level of construction costs in Latvia fell by 0.2 % in January 2020. Labour remuneration of workers reduced by 0.9 %, prices of building materials – by 0.1 %, but maintenance and operational costs of machinery and equipment – rose by 0.2 %.

In Greece, violent protests against new migrant camps continue for 3rd day

In Greece, continued protests and clashes have resulted in over 60 people suffering injuries as people on the islands of Lesbos and Chios protest against the construction of new migrant centres, British public broadcaster BBC reports.

Minister says Latvia’s initiated territorial reform will create more sustainable municipalities

The report from the European Commission mentions that Latvian government’s initiated administrative territorial reform will create more sustainable municipalities with greater capacity and ability to provide services of comparable quality, as reported by Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry.

Latvian Saeima changes the prosecutor general’s selection order

On Thursday, 27 February, Latvia’s Saeima approved amendments to the order under which the country’s prosecutor general is selected.

Textile producer in Lithuania complies with Greenpeace standards in industrial textile making

Lithuanian textiles producer Utenos Trikotažas has been deemed by environmental protection organisation Greenpeace as complying with the standards of the later as to not using hazardous chemicals and being fair and transparent in its business, LRT reports.

From March onward prices of alcoholic beverages to increase in Latvia

Through a measured and gradual increase of excise tax rate policy, starting with 1 March 2020 the excise tax rate for alcoholic beverages in Latvia will increase, as confirmed by the State Revenue Service.

435 whistle-blower reports received in eight months in Latvia

In the first year of the Whistleblowing Law, Latvian central state institutions have received 435 reports from whistle-blowers, as reported by the State Chancellery.

Estonia finds first positive coronavirus case

In Estonia, the first case of a person being infected with the novel coronavirus has been found, stated Estonian Social Affairs Minister Tanel Kiik on Thursday, February 27, as cited by Estonian public broadcaster ERR.

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