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Saturday 19.10.2019 | Name days: Drosma, Drosmis, Elīna
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BNN summary of the week: cut support; concert hall dreams; infection in Sigulda

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUEveryone will have to tighten their belts in the budget formation process – ministries and residents. Welfare Minister Ramona Petraviča announced plans to reduce unemployment benefit payment term from nine to eight months. She stressed that unemployment benefit is normally paid for four and a half months.

Additionally, the construction of the long-expected National Acoustic Concert hall has been put on hold and its EUR 23 million has been divided for other needs. Culture Minister Nauris Puntulis remains optimistic and hopes the concert hall will open its doors in seven years or so. It is worth mentioning that Latvia’s construction sector is currently mired in a cartel scandal.

Following the numerous E. coli infection cases in Sigulda’s kindergartens, the Food and Veterinary Service performed inspections at all education institutions there. Different violations were found in nearly all of them. On top of that, catering services were being provided illegally in some of them. PVD concluded that catering service provider Baltic Restaurants Latvia had failed to comply with hygiene requirements. Results of most samples that had undergone laboratory tests for E. coli came out negative.

Lithuania, meanwhile, is concerned about closer cooperation between Russia and Belarus, which is described by Komersant as cooperation tighter than the European Union’s. This creates concerns that ‘Europe’s last dictatorship’ could become part of Russia. President Gitanas Nausėda has said he does not want an even longer border with Russia.

BNN provides a news summary about the key events of the week, including such topics as: Support; Violations; Pause; Anxiety; Candidate; Arbitration; State of Emergency; Irresponsibility and Penalty.

SUPPORT:

Unemployment benefits in Latvia to be paid for eight, not nine months

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

Latvian Welfare Minister Ramona Petraviča

From now on unemployment benefits in Latvia will be paid for eight, not nine months. The total amount is cut, thereby allowing Welfare Ministry to save EUR 12 million, said minister Ramona Petraviča in an interview to LTV programme Rīta panorama.

The size of paid benefits is also changed: 100% for the first two months, 75% for the following two, 50% two months that follow, and 45% in the last two months.

Petraviča hopes this change will motivate people to return to the labour market as soon as possible. At the same time, the average length for the use of unemployment benefit will be four and a half months.

Petraviča mentioned in her interview that next year’s budget will allocate EUR 201 million for pension indexation.

She noted that this will be felt by both the country’s budget and pensioners. The minister also said pension indexation will take place 1 October 2019 and that pensions or pension amounts that do not exceed EUR 420 will be indexed.

Full article here

VIOLATIONS:

Baltic Restaurants Latvia breached hygiene standards in Sigulda’s kindergartens

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

Catering service provider Baltic Restaurants Latvia did not follow personal hygiene standards and committed numerous violations for cleanliness and disinfection activities at kindergartens Ieviņa and Saulīte in Sigulda, as reported by Food and Veterinary Service (PVD).

The service reports that results from smears taken at the two aforementioned kindergartens this week showed presence of golden staphylococcus bacteria. Smears taken from washed and disinfected equipment at Saulīte kindergarten and Sigulda 1st Primary School revealed the presence of E. coli.

«Baltic Restaurants Latvia, the company that provides catering services at the aforementioned education institutions, failed to follow personal hygiene requirements. They also committed violations in cleaning and disinfection activities,» PVD stresses.

The service also mentions that all other samples showed negative results in regards to the presence of bacteria. 80 out of 177 collected samples were tested in a laboratory for E. coli and came out negative – no bacteria found. Samples from 28 food products were also sent for laboratory tests to check the presence of E. coli. 11 of them have been checked and came out negative – no bacteria found.

20 smears were sent for tests. All of them have been tested and only four showed positive results – E.coli and staphylococcus bacteria. The other 16 smears showed negative results.

Full article here

PAUSE:

Millions intended for National Acoustic Concert Hall to be spent for other needs

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUThe EUR 23 million allocated by European structure funds for the construction of the National Acoustic Concert Hall, and which were planned to be used for the reinforcement of AB Dam, have been divided for other needs, said Latvia’s Culture Minister Nauris Puntulis after a meeting of Latvian Music Council on Wednesday, 18 September.

He explained that approximately EUR 9 million of this funding will be in the hands of the Culture Ministry. For example, EUR 5.5 million is planned to be used to finance repairs in the Large Guild, which is currently in a critical state. According to Puntulis, there is a plan to use funding worth more than EUR 9 million.

Puntulis said the other funding from structure funds has been diverted to the state budget to expand fiscal space.

According to what Puntulis said, AB Dam can no longer be considered an option for the concert hall’s construction. The minister added that it is possible that a new design contest could be organized.

He admits that the project designed by architect Andis Sīls could be theoretically moved to a new location. Nevertheless, he says it would be better to announce a new contest.

Full article here

ANXIETY:

Lithuanian analysts on Russia-Belarus unification plan: actions louder than words

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

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (R) and his Belarusian counterpart Sergei Rumas (L)

The announcement by Belarus and Russia this week of their entering into an economic confederacy by 2022 did not go unnoticed in Vilnius, which is courting the idea of recharging its dusty relations with Minsk. Is it just the Slavic countries’ new attempt to fulfil the endeavour?

Or, to believe some, is it a complicated scheme to help Russian president Vladimir Putin clear the Constitutional barrier and aim at re-election in 2024 as head of a unified state? Most importantly, if Belarus and Russia do finally unify, what it means for Lithuania?

A new round of unification talks

As talks of a Russian and Belarusian confederacy resurfaced, most Lithuanian analysts rather play a waiting game and see how it will play out at the end of day.

«Indeed, Belarus’ union with Russia is one of the ways in which President Vladimir Putin could clear constitutional term limits that bar him now from re-election in 2024. But that would be an astonishingly complex scheme involving many risks,» Povilas Gylys, Lithuania’s former Foreign Minister and ex-MP, told the Baltic News Network (BNN).

According to him, the idea of a single Russian and Belarusian state has been brought up so many times over the last 20 years that now «few» believe in it.

Full article here

CANDIDATE:

Candidate: FCMC team should learn to work substantially, not formally

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

Santa Purgaile

The team of Latvia’s Finance and Capital Market Commission (FCMC) should learn to work substantially, not formally, said the candidate for the post of chief of FCMC and Citadele Bank board member Santa Purgaile at a press –conference on Thursday, 19 September.

She says she has worked in the finance sector 25 years. It is over the court of these years she has got a certain impression as to what has been accomplished so far and what can still be accomplished.

«Latvia’s finance sector represents an important factor for the country’s economy. This is why it is necessary to do everything to restore the reputation of Latvia’s finance sector and make sure our country is not added to any grey or black list. There are changes expected for FCMC,» stresses Purgaile.

«A team of professional and talented people will be composed and competences of existing FCMC employees will be evaluated. The team needs to learn to work and think substantially, not formally. The team needs to be serious and talented – people have to be able to not only promise but also be able to cooperate and discuss,» stresses Purgaile.

She also says Latvia’s finance system should become more predictable and stable in the long term, as well as cooperate with local and foreign investors focused on innovative financial services.

Purgaile predicts changes for the finance sector and enhancement of monitoring mechanisms.

Full article here

ARBITRATION:

Competition Council: Riga City Council takes no responsibility for its own mess

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU«It is unfortunate that Riga City Council has involved others in resolving its own negligent problems without taking any responsibility. Competition Council has issued multiple warnings to make Riga City Council to prepare and prevent the very situation we are in now,» says Competition Council chairperson Skaidrīte Ābrama in regards to the state of emergency declared in Riga.

Looking back a couple of years at waste management businesses and how this sector was narrowed and restricted for a long time, Ābrama reminds that the Competition Council started talking about it as far back as 2007-2008, when the council voiced objections against creation of municipal businesses.

«Municipalities had simply told us – there will be a company, and so private businessmen will no longer have anything to do,» says Ābrama. According to her, there was no market insufficiency, nor were there any strategic or security reasons for Riga City Council to enter the market.

According to the chairperson for the Competition Council, municipalities are moving towards a monopoly because in previous years there had been a very strong lobby of municipalities.

«Many initiatives were shot down in the Saeima and elsewhere, because municipalities wanted far more freedom, justifying it with allegedly ‘very logical’ arguments that do not fit anywhere in the topic of economic problems.»

Full article here

STATE OF EMERGENCY:

Saeima says state of emergency in Riga’s waste management sector is justified

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RULatvia’s Saeima has approved the decision made by the Cabinet of Ministers on declaring a state of emergency in Riga’s waste management sector.

This means that last week’s declared state of emergency remains in force.

59 deputies voted in favour of the state of emergency and 24 voted against. One Saeima deputy abstained in the vote.

In his speech addressed to the Saeima, Environment Protection and Regional Development Minister Juris Pūce recounted the reasons why the state of emergency was declared. According to him, the state of emergency should be maintained; otherwise emergency measures lose their power.

Saeima deputy Artūrs Toms Plešs comments: «If Riga City Council failed to take care of residents, then we have to do it in the Saeima.»

Deputy Sandis Riekstiņš stresses that the situation in Riga is not an emergency, because problems have been known for years and no action was taken, allowing the situation to escalate. His party member Krišjānis Feldmans bashed the situation in the capital, which emerged as a result of monopoly. He also bashed the management of Riga City Council.

Non-party Saeima deputy Didzis Šmits also referenced the alleged desire of certain politicians to take revenge against Riga City Council management. «As a result, they take revenge against Riga’s residents,» said Šmits. He stressed that Riga and Naples should not compete waste-wise, saying that he will support the state of emergency.

Full article here

IRRESPONSIBILITY:

State Audit bashes Latvian municipalities for irresponsible loans and massive projects

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUThe practice when many Latvian municipalities borrow money from the state budget to finance excessive and unnecessary construction projects demonstrates short-term thinking and irresponsible attitude towards their future costs, as concluded by State Audit’s report on economic justifications of infrastructure projects in 15 municipalities.

SA concluded that the majority of sports and leisure projects will unlikely repay their investments, increasing municipalities’ maintenance costs year after year.

The State Budget Law provides for allocation of EUR 118 million in the form of loans for municipalities. Activity of municipalities with submission of loans is very high and the volume of requested loans also often exceeds the limit outlined in the budget.

SA notes – experience shows that 99% of all loan requests are approved – even if municipalities failed to properly assess the necessity of projects.

As a result, a number of municipalities have ambitious and expensive projects that are unlikely to return investments and will likely create an additional burden for their budgets for decades, the institution notes.

Full article here

PENALTY:

Finance and Capital Market Commission applies a considerable fine on PrivatBank

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RULatvia’s Finance and Capital Market Commission (FCMC) has applied a fine of EUR 1.019 million on AS PrivatBank for violation of the Law on the Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorism and Proliferation Financing, as confirmed by FCMC Communication Office.

The bank has been given multiple other tasks. This includes submitting to FCMC a plan of actions for prevention of uncovered violations and performing an independent assessment of the bank’s internal control system.

FCMC performed an inspection at PrivatBank. During this inspection the commission found a number of violations associated with the internal control system, client base risks and management of the database. Violations point to serious flaws with the bank’s internal control system in regards to prevention of money laundering and terrorism and proliferation financing, because of flaws with client evaluation and transaction supervision.

FCMC notes that the bank has failed to create an appropriate internal control system that would ensure effective compliance with regulations. For example, the work performed by PrivatBank’s committee for supervision of measures to prevent money laundering and terrorism financing was ineffective and certain decisions made by the committee were beneficial for certain shareholders of the bank. PrivatBank’s internal control system does not provide continuous evaluation of clients across all stages of cooperation.

Full article here


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Saeima greenlights opening of regional gas market

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Fragile, new Brexit deal reached between EU and UK

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Court proceedings of Lembergs could restart only in 2020

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Latvia decides: Non-citizen children to receive citizenship from 2020

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