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Sunday 18.08.2019 | Name days: Liene, Helēna, Elena, Ellena, Liena
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BNN summary of the week: Cutting a pie. Minimal wage. Dangerous games

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

Is there a pleasant aroma of a fresh pie in the air? Judging by events of the past week, the tasty smell of the 2020 budget has already spread across government corridors even though the dough is not ever ready.

Latvia’s Welfare Minister Ramona Petraviča has already told everyone how big a pie piece she wants. National Electronic Mass Media Council member Patriks Grīva has also said the council wants some, too.

The next year’s budget will also have to take into account plans for minimal wages. During the meeting of the coalition’s tax policy committee no one objected to raising minimal wages in Latvia to EUR 500. Although no meeting has been made so far, Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš mentioned in the middle of the week that it would be more reasonable to raise non-taxable minimum.

Meanwhile, in spite of experts’ concerns about Russia collecting user data, people continue using FaceApp to see how they might look after they grow old and retire. Security experts say the app is no more dangerous than Facebook. Still, users are advised to be more careful with their personal data.

BNN offers you a summary of the most topical developments of the week, including topics such as: Shame brand; Minimal wage; Pie sharing; Dangerous games; Wedding bells; Great hopes and Funding.

SHAME BRAND:

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

New York Times: stakes are high for Latvia in the fight against money laundering

US newspaper New York Times has published an article detailing problems with Latvia’s finance system, admitting that stakes are especially high in the fight against money laundering in this Baltic country.

«For years, according to the authorities in Europe and the United States, some banks in the drowsy Baltic port city of Riga specialized in helping these and other criminals wipe their fingerprints off dirty money before it was moved to offshore havens,» NYT writes.

As examples, NYT mentions the investment consultant whose financial pyramid had stolen from Russian residents USD 10 million, the Taiwanese businessman who helped North Korea acquire precision tools to advance its nuclear arms programme, as well as the corrupt Ukrainian politician who tried to launder millions stolen from his country.

Recent scandals involving Scandinavian banks Swedbank and Danske Bank revealed that accounts in Baltic States were used to process millions of euros of dubious origin. This is why USA decided to increase pressure against Baltic States to prevent Russian citizens from circumventing sanctions, NYT writes.

Latvian officials have promised to take measures against banks that have breached the law and have «made the country one of the world’s pre-eminent money-laundering centers», NYT adds.

Full article here

MINIMAL WAGE:

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

Latvian tax policy committee not against raising minimal wages to EUR 500

On Monday, 15 July, Latvian coalition tax policy development committee conceptually outlined support for the proposal to increase minimal wages in the country to EUR 500 in 2020. No one objected to this option, journalists were told by Krišjānis Feldmans.

At the same time, the politician said the decision is not yet made as more discussions are planned.

According to the Development Committee meeting chair Ints Dālderis, the meeting addressed Finance Ministry’s scenario on raising minimal wages to EUR 470, EUR 500 or EUR 550. At the same time, no decisions have been made so far.

Dālderis notes that the development does not make decisions, as this task is in the hands of the government. The topic has been discussed in order to pave way for discussions by political parties and the government in September with involvement from social partners.

Full article here

PIE SHARING:

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

Welfare Minister Ramona Petraviča

Welfare Ministry requests EUR 54 million for welfare priorities in Latvia

Next year’s welfare priorities in Latvia will require additional funding of EUR 54 million, says Welfare Minister Ramona Petraviča.

Among the ministry’s priorities are different initiatives, including the increase of minimal pensions, improvement of the pension indexation mechanism, state support for the poor who have disabled children, and others.

Petraviča admits that most likely there will not be enough funding for all priorities. This is why the first and main priority is raising minimal pensions and improving the minimal state support system.

This will require EUR 27.5 million, for which the minister is prepared to fight.

According to the minister, there are many different needs, including Latvia’s Castle of Light and the expensive bridge. There is also the need for an acoustic concert hall in Riga. Nevertheless, Petraviča believes a situation when pensioners have to survive with EUR 64 a month just because officials want bigger wages is unacceptable.

The minister notes that a conceptual agreement has been reached with municipalities in regards to raising GMI level next year from EUR 53 to EUR 64. On top of that, if minimal pensions and social insurance benefits are increased next year, it may be possible to increase GMI to EUR 99 a year after, said the minister.

She believes increasing minimal pensions is the first step for reducing poverty, because pensioners are the most at risk to the risk of poverty, especially lonely pensioners.

Full article here

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUMedia Council: increased funding will be needed for public media and NEPLP next year

More than EUR 6 million will be needed to finance Latvia’s National Electronic Mass Media Council (NEPLP), Latvian Television and Latvijas Radio, said NEPLP member Patriks Grīva.

Grīva said that NEPLP has submitted to the government a list of the main priorities for 2020. A total of 14 priorities are listed. All of them cover the needs of Latvijas Radio, Latvian Television and NEPLP. One priority requirement is aimed at content creation and distribution for Latvijas Radio. This includes capacity enhancement activities by means of increasing wages of Latvijas Radio journalists and other workers.

He adds that EUR 989 321 is needed to improve Latvijas Radio content and working conditions next year. This amount may increase in the coming years, however.

When asked about the possible wage increase for journalists and other Latvijas Radio employees,

Grīva explained that NEPLP’s main objective is supporting Latvijas Radio and ensuring the government plans next year’s budget amount in a way to afford increasing wages for Latvijas Radio employees.

Full article here

DANGEROUS GAMES:

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUNATO StratCom does not consider FaceApp more dangerous than Facebook

The US Democratic Party is concerned about Russian-made FaceApp, which allows its users to imagine how they might look like when they are old and retired. NATO StratCom, however, does not consider the app to be more dangerous than other apps users entrust their personal data with, as reported by Latvian public media.

Latvia-based NATO StratCom has told public broadcaster LTV programme Panorāma that it is currently not possible to tell if FaceApp supplies its user data to the Russian government or other third parties. The centre does not want to dissuade residents from using the app, but it is still advised to consider if it is worth handing personal data over to an unknown third party.

Cert.lv security incident prevention institute urges users to consider the risks that come from using free apps. Nevertheless, according to specialists, FaceApp is no more dangerous than Facebook.

Full article here

WEDDING BELLS:

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU260 more marriages than last year registered in Latvia so far in 2019

In the six months of 2019, a total of 4 730 marriages were registered, and that is 260 marriages more than during the same period of the previous year.

During the last three years the number of marriages has become stable, and on average 13 thousand marriages are registered a year, according to data from Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia.

The number of live births in Latvia is decreasing for the fourth year already. In 2018, as compared to 2017, 1.5 thousand children fewer were born. Also, in the first six months of 2019, 8 927 children were registered, which is 891 newborn fewer than in the same period of 2018.

Full article here

GREAT HOPES:

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUOpen arms for Lidl – Estonian competition watchdog predicts lower prices

Expecting the entry of the German supermarket chain Lidl on the Estonian market, the country’s Competition Authority expects healthier competition and lower prices.

Estonian public broadcaster ERR reports on Thursday, July 18, that Katrin Tasa, deputy director of the Supervisory Department of the Estonian Competition Authority said in an interview with Vikkerraadio that currently, 70 percent of Estonia’s retail market is controlled by four retail chains.

«The retail market is highly competitive, and with the arrival of Lidl, it will become even more competitive,» Tasa evaluated.

«The Competition Authority is happy about every newcomer. Considering Lidl’s concept, they should also be bringing lower prices with them.»

Full article here

FUNDING:

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RULatvian government approves funding for procurement of new electrical trains

Latvia’s government has approved state budget long-term commitment of EUR 255 888 753 to finance railway passenger transport company AS Pasažieru vilciens (PV). This means PV might sign a contract with Škoda Vagonka soon, as confirmed by Transport Ministry.

Funding is planned to be allocated from 2019 to 2024. When compared to the funding approved by the Cabinet of Ministers on 5 November 2018, it is three million euros smaller. Money will be used for the procurement of 32 new electric trains, spare parts and train maintenance equipment, as well as personnel training with help from Škoda Vagonka.

It is expected the contract will be signed before the end of July 2019.

Transport Ministry notes that the chosen funding model for the new trains is the cheapest available to the country. It will not create additional costs in the form of interest before commercial banks. «This train financing model, according to the clarified business plan project, will not provide compensation from the state budget for PV starting with 2025.»

Full article here


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Week in Lithuania: PM Skvernelis undergoes surgery, Nausėda meets Merkel, rebukes Latvia

Last week, President Gitanas Nausėda rejected the government’s candidate for EU judge, hints of big changes at Šiaulių Bankas ahead

Independent Deputies Faction joins forces with Honour to Serve Riga

Riga City Council’s Independent Deputies Faction has signed a cooperation agreement with Honour to Serve Riga political party, pledging support for the party’s mayoral candidate Oļegs Burovs, as LETA was told by the faction’s leader Valērijs Petrovs on Monday, 18 August.

Saeima’s MPC investigation committee requests information on every issued license

The parliamentary committee formed to investigate the mandatory procurement component has requested access to information regarding every issued MPC license and decision made by officials in regards to this field, says the committee’s representative Ilze Vanaga.

Latvian athlete receives two-year disqualification

Former Latvian long jumper Ineta Radeviča has received a two-year disqualification, as confirmed by International Association of Athletics Federation’s Athletics Integrity Unit.

Minister: state budget funds will not be used to compensate PNB Bank’s clients

The Deposit Guarantee Fund is sufficient to pay compensations to affected PNB Bank clients. This means not a cent from Latvia’s state budget will be used, said Latvia’s Finance Minister Jānis Reirs in a telephone conversation with public broadcaster LTV programme Rīta Panorāma on Friday, 16 August.

Estonia to invest 22 million in construction of a new TV house

Estonian government has set aside EUR 22 million for the construction of a new public television building, as reported by Estonian public media ERR.

Another one falls – Latvian FCMC halts PNB Bank’s operations

Operations of PNB Bank [formerly Norvik Banka] have been halted in Latvia, as confirmed by Finance and Capital Market Commission.

Unemployment index in Latvia drops – rate down to 6.4% in Q2

In Q2 2019 Latvian unemployment rate constituted 6.4 %. Compared to the previous quarter, unemployment rate fell by 0.5 percentage points, and compared to the rate recorded a year ago, it dropped by 1.3 percentage points.

64.7% of Latvia’s population reportedly employed in Q2 2019

905.6 thousand people or 64.7 % of Latvia’s population aged 15–74 were employed in Q2 2019.

Lithuanian Conservatives’ tensions: can the party split?

The Conservative Homeland Union - Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD) have risen to unseen heights lately – although in the opposition now, in 2016 parliamentary election the party racked up a record support in its 30 years’ history.

Minister: Latvia’s social budget surplus has reached one billion

The surplus of the state social budget has come close of the pre-crisis level – EUR 1 billion, said Latvian Welfare Minister Ramona Petraviča in an interview to LTV programme Rīta panorama on 15 August.

Riga City Council permitted to elect mayor after two-month deadline

In spite of the fact that 21 August will mark two months of Riga City Council working without a mayor, a condition that permits Latvia’s Saeima to dismiss the entire city council, deputies of the municipality will nonetheless have the right to elect a mayor after the deadline, says Environment Protection Minister Juris Pūce’s advisor for legal affairs Valdis Verners.

Lithuanian president unhappy with Latvia’s decision to purchase energy from Belarus

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda has voiced sadness over Latvia’s decision to purchase electrical energy produced at Astravets nuclear power plant in Belarus not far from the Lithuanian border. He admits, however, that this decision was not unexpected for him.

State Real Estate claims ReRe Būve 1 may be trying to circumvent the law

Construction company Rere Būve 1 publicly voices desire to continue implementing the construction contract. However, the construction company’s submitted work schedule for reconstruction of New Riga Theatre has everything changed – volume of work, terms and budget, Latvian State Real Estate reports.

Lithuanian mountaineer dies climbing French Alps

Lithuanian 38-year-old mountaineer Vytautas Mažeika died in a 50 m fall in the French Alps, Lithuanian public media LRT reports with reference to 15min.lt.

Estonia decides to reform pension system; increase not promised

Helir-Valdor Seeder, leader of Estonian coalition party Isamaa, has confirmed that the government has agreed on his proposed pension reform, as reported by Estonian public media ERR.

Ruling party in Lithuania promises national agreement for education affairs

While more and more small town schools close down in Lithuania, the leader of the ruling party promises a «national agreement» for education affairs, as reported by Lithuanian public media LRT.

Viesturs Zeps’ has yet to convince NCP and Unity to support him as mayoral candidate

Mayoral candidate in Riga Viesturs Zeps still has not convinced New Conservative Party and Unity to support him, according to what he said in an interview to public broadcaster LTV programme Rīta panorama on Thursday, 15 August.

Audit: planning problems impede growth of Latvia’s defensive capabilities

Problems with planning are the main reason why Latvia’s defensive capabilities are developing slowly, as concluded by State Audit.

Minister: increase of doctors’ wages is a priority over all other promises

First it is necessary to increase doctors’ wages. Then it will be possible to tackle all other promises, said Latvian Healthcare Minister Ilze Viņķele during a meeting of the Saeima’s Social and Employment Matters Committee on Wednesday, 14 August.

Is Latvia becoming more hospitable? Tourist upturn observed

A total of 781.1 thousand visitors stayed at Latvian tourist accommodation establishments in Q2 2019, which is 1.1 % more than in Q2 2018.

Village in Russia to be evacuated following nuclear accident

Russian authorities have announced evacuation of Nenoksa village, as it is the closest to the military area where a nuclear accident recently happened. This may mean the situation there is far more dangerous than initially reported, as reported by New York Times.

Lithuania’s president says he sees no reason to meet with Putin

A meeting with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is unlikely and would be pointless, said Lithuania’s President Gitanas Nausėda in an interview to public media LRT.

Shadow of political dealings over SRS. ZZS people – Knoks, Podiņš, Vaivars

Although the State Revenue Service has never had a truly spotless reputation, there is now a much bigger and darker shadow hovering over the service’s director general Ieva Jaunzeme. Serious concerns have been voiced in regards to possible employment of «chosen people» in important posts, which allows them to either halt or push criminal processes forward in order to make life difficult for their political opponents, pretending to fight the good fight while, in reality, realizing some «political hit».

Prime Minister: 2020 budget will be Latvia’s largest one yet

The next year’s budget will be the largest in the history of Latvia and will exceed EUR 10 billion, said Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš in an interview to public broadcaster LTV programme Rīta Panorāma on Wednesday, 14 August.

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