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Ceturtdiena 14.11.2019 | Name days: Fricis, Vikentijs

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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Municipalities to receive 5% instead of 25% from gambling tax revenue

On Wednesday, 13 November, Latvia’s Saeima approved amendments in the final reading to the Law on Lotteries and Gambling Fee and Tax. Amendments include a new proportion for the division of the aforementioned tax between the state and municipal budgets.

Video: Venice affected by highest flood waters since 1966

In Italy’s picturesque Venice, the water level has risen by 1.87 metres. Two people have died during the floods.

OECD: Lithuanians, among rich nations, having highest alcohol consumption

Alcohol consumption in Lithuania is the highest compared to other 43 countries in the world, found the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, also referred to as the «rich-nations club».

Minimal pensions to increase in Latvia next year

On Wednesday, 13 November, Latvia’s Saeima approved in the final reading amendments to the State Pensions Law. These amendments provide for increasing minimal retirement pension amounts in 2020.

Environment Ministry refuses to approve new waste management regulations in Riga

Latvia’s Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry has decided not to approve Riga City Council’s binding rules on waste management in the capital city, as confirmed by Riga City Council Housing and Environment Department’s Office for Environment head Evija Piņķe.

Harmony wants Honour to Serve Riga to cease working with independent deputies

Harmony political party may agree to continue working in the coalition of Riga City Council under the condition Honour to Serve Riga terminates cooperation with the Independent Deputies Faction, said vice-chairperson of Riga City Council Anna Vladova after meeting with Harmony’s faction on Wednesday, 13 November.

No legalisation. Estonia rejects calls for taking cannabis market in state’s hands

Over 1 000 activists in Estonia have signed a proposal for the state to tax and enforce its control over the illegal market of cannabis, by legalising it. Yet, legislators have not welcomed the idea citing health damage from the substance.

Elenger starts supplying Latvia with natural gas from Klaipeda terminal

Estonian Eesti Gaas subsidiary SIA EG Energija, which operates under Elenger brand, has commenced supplying Latvia with gas from Klaipeda floating gas terminal, as reported by Elenger Latvija board member Dāvis Skulte.

Harmony’s head promises constant control over party’s Riga City Council faction

The chairman of Harmony political party, Saeima deputy Jānis Urbanovičs promises to constantly control the party’s faction in Riga City Council. He wants certainty over the party’s ability to work.

Estonian minister’s actions to be investigated, says PM Ratas

Estonian ruling coalition has agreed that its Minister of Rural Affairs has to be investigated, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas has stated. The current situation is over alleged links to a conflict of interest involving farming subsidies,

Criminal process launched against Russian citizen for possible laundering of EUR 2.3 million

Latvia’s State Revenue Service has commenced a criminal process for possible laundering of EUR 2.3 million of illegally obtained funds by some Russian citizen, as confirmed by VID.

Tesla to build its Europe electric car factory in Germany

American electric carmaker Tesla will build a factory for the production of «batteries, powertrains and vehicles», its chief executive office Elon Musk has stated.

Netherlands planning lower speed limits to tackle pollution

In the Netherlands, the government seeks to considerably reduce the emissions of nitrogen oxide by reducing daytime speed limit on roads from 130 to 100 km/h, leaked government plans to the press say.

State Real Estate board member steps down over construction worker’s death

Following the fatal fall of a construction worker off the roof of Finance Ministry’s building, State Real Estate board member Kitija Gruškevica has stepped down.

Doctors: Healthcare Ministry’s offered wage increase model is unfair

Healthcare Ministry’s proposed model for wage increase for doctors is unfair is goes against the previously voiced desire to raise wages for all healthcare workers equally, said chairman of Latvian Young Doctors Association Kārlis Rācenis and Latvia Health and Social Care Workers Trade Union chairman Valdis Keris.

NATO planes intercept one Russian war plane

In the Baltics, NATO fighter jets from the air policing mission, were last week scrambled once to respond to an alert of a Russian military aircraft.

Proposal to merge FKTK and Bank of Latvia makes it to third reading in Saeima

On Tuesday, 12 November, Saeima’s Budget and Finance Committee decided to submit to the Saeima amendments to the Law on the Bank of Latvia for the third reading. These amendments, among other things, provide for the merging of the Bank of Latvia and the Finance and Capital Market Commission.

Estonian village for autism care under construction

In Estonia’s north-west, a village, where different forms of the care of persons with autism spectrum disorder is under construction.

Value of September’s exported goods in Latvia up 2.5% when compared to 2018

In September 2019 the foreign trade turnover of Latvia amounted to EUR 2.44 billion, which at current prices was 1.6 % less than a year ago, of which the exports value of goods was 2.5 % higher, but imports value of goods was 4.6 % lower.

Court declares Latvian cosmetics manufacturer Dzintars insolvent

On Tuesday, 12 November, Riga City Pardaugava Court declared Latvian cosmetics manufacturer AS Dzintars insolvent. Jānis Ozoliņš was appointed as the company’s insolvency administrator, as confirmed by the court’s representative Viktorija Mežance.

EU’s hand extended to Belarus as Lukashenko visits Austria

The President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko is on Tuesday, November 12, on a visit to Austria. It is his first foreign visit to an European Union member state in three years.

Latvia’s Healthcare Ministry proposes increasing wages for residents by 20%

Healthcare Ministry has come forth with a proposal to increase wages of local residents by 20% and wages of all other healthcare workers by 10%.

«The children arrive truly traumatised». Lithuania hosts 500 Ukrainian pupils

In Lithuanian schools, there currently learn more than 500 students from Ukraine, including the war-torn east of the country.

Internal Security Bureau’s investigations fail to improve situation in interior affairs services

Results of pre-trial investigations of the Internal Security Bureau (IDB) do not inspire improvement for the situation to improve within interior affairs services, which remain riddled with crimes of various categories, the bureau admits.

Ukrainian central bank ex-governor links attacks to oligarch over PrivatBank

Valeria Gontareva, whose family has been targeted in car and arson attacks, has linked the unclear events to an Ukrainian oligarch and the nationalisation of Ukraine’s largest bank PrivatBank.