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Monday 20.08.2018 | Name days: Bernhards, Boriss
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BNN summary of the week: cynical politicians, Latvia’s tax reform and weak presidents

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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: Change; Fight; Truth; Business; Future and Growth.

CHANGE: Martins Bondars confident he should «step aside»

Martins Bondars has decided to step down as chairman of Latvian Association of Regions. According him, recent decisions made by members of LAR have not been ones he would personally support.

When asked how he intends to continue working in the party, Bondars said leaving the post of chairman of LAR means he is formally not part of LAR. Except he remains a deputy in Riga City Council elected from the party’s list. He has confirmed that he plans to continue working in the city council’s opposition.

When asked about the possibility of Latvijas Krajbanka case’s influence extending to political decisions, Bondars said this political case will not affect his decisions.

Full article here

BUSINESS: Government allows Bite Lietuva to become the owner of TV3, LNT and Star FM

On Tuesday, 25 July, the Cabinet of Ministers permitted Lithuanian company UAB BITE Lietuva to acquire decisive influence in Latvian media companies TV 3 Latvia, LNT and Star FM.

Permission from the Competition Council is still necessary for the deal to complete.

According to government representatives, the three Latvian media companies own a major share of the country’s mass media market. They are also important from the perspective of protection of interests of national security. In accordance with requirements of the National Security Law, acquisition of 100% of capital shares in such companies requires permission from the Cabinet of Ministers.

To make a decision, the Cabinet of Ministers took into account reports from state security institutions on this deal, as well as information from Bite Lietuva about its owners and all other information regarding this deal from the perspective of protection of national security.

Full article here

FIGHT: Unity believes electing Sudraba to the committee causes trust in politicians to go down more

Inguna Sudraba’s approval for the oligarch talks parliamentary investigative committee’s board would the equivalent of the parliament deciding not to permit searches in Slesers’ home, Unity members say.

By electing Sudraba in the parliamentary investigative committee when there has been information that Sudraba was mentioned in Ridzene talks in relation to the possible illegal influence of a third country in political processes in Latvia, Saeima deputies demonstrate cynical attitude towards society and actively act against the goals of the investigative committee, Unity states.

The vote for her approval as head of the committee is the equivalent of the Saeima’s decision to prohibit the search in Ainars Slesers’ home in 2011, which resulted in the Saeima being dissolved in the end.

Unity had previously proposed rejecting Inguna Sudraba for the committee and picking each member individually, but the parliament rejected this proposal.

Full article here

DECLINE: candidates of the last presidency have all been intellectually weak

One of this summer’s hottest and most discussed piece of news was the proposal to allow residents to elect the country’s president. Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis’ 22 June speech to the parliament, in which he proposed allowing the people to elect the president in 2019, caused even more discussions.

BNN has compiled opinions of multiple publicly well-known people on this matter.

When asked about the idea of a president elected by the people in Latvia, Skaidrite Lasmane, leading researcher of Social Science Faculty of the University of Latvia, said: «I think it would be better waiting a bit longer for society to get used to democracy.»

Continuing the conversation, Lasmane admits being sceptical of a future in Latvia where the president is elected by the people: «I would support a president elected by the people more than I would the last weak and intellectually weak presidents».

Lasmane is also harsh towards Latvia’s current president: «I would go as far to say that our current president is also intellectually weak, as were the two that came before him. They were unable to offer a single worthwhile project or form a correct sentence properly. A president should be clever, like Vaira Vike-Freiberga was.»

Full article here

TRUTH: Antane says excise tax for diesel fuel should be reduced, not increased

«Unfortunately, when making the decision to increase excise tax rate for diesel fuel, the government did not consider all possible risks this decision could bring to the transport and logistics industry and the country’s economy as a whole,» BNN was told by President of Baltic Association – Transport and Logistics Inga Antane.

BALT has turned to all factions represented in the Saeima, as well as independent deputies, with a request to prevent the increase of excise tax for diesel fuel. At the same time, BATL proposes reviewing its proposal to decrease diesel fuel excise tax rate for railway transports by 50%.

«The proposal to review the plan for raising excise tax would be a notable gesture to the industry and society that the government thinks about the development of Latvia’s national economy in a long-term perspective, not just in relation to patching holes in the budget,» said BATL President Inga Antane.

She emphasizes: «Every ton of transit cargo brings our economy up to EUR 15, and this amounts to more than EUR 1 billion over the course of a year. This is why further development of this industry is vital.»

Full article here

GROWTH: where is the piece of land Duklavs’ associates wanted 15 million for?

Ir magazine has surveyed several hectares of land on Daugava River’s left bank, specifically within the territory of Riga Freeport, to find the piece of land that was mentioned by Agriculture Minister Janis Duklavs during his conversation with other politicians in Ridzene hotel.

Ir has identified the piece of land within the port’s territory for the sale of which Duklavs asked Ainars Slesers for help in 2010. Duklavs owns 10% of the piece of land. In addition, his associates wanted to get 15 million from the buyer. Ir found the piece of land based on clues mentioned by Duklavs in the conversation.

According to Ir, the piece of land in question is indirectly by two Latvijas Gāze board members Gints Freibergs and Liga Berga through two firms.

When asked to explain his association with this piece of land, Duklavs continued denying ownership. He did, however, admitted sharing ties with one of the Bergs family members, Ir reports.

The piece of land is located on the left bank of Daugava River, not far from Latvian Propane Gas export base – those are two pieces of land have an area of 8 ha and were owned by Kremeri firm since 2005. Since 2008, this firm is owned by Vilandres, whose owners consist of LG board members Gints Greibers and Liga Berga. Berga’s daughter, Elina Berga, is a board member in the company.

Full article here

FUTURE: Saeima supports tax reform laws in final reading

Saeima’s Budget and Finance Committee has concluded work on tax reform laws, supporting them in the final reading. Part of the proposals on additional benefits and multiple other matters will be put off for a later date.

Members of the committee concluded assessing all legislative drafts associated with the reform. Saeima’s Social and Employment Matters Committee supported the Law on State Social Insurance on Wednesday, 26 July.

Budget committee started assessing proposals for legislative projects for the final reading this Tuesday, when proposals for possible changes were reviewed by the government. On Wednesday, the committee worked all day – with several breaks over the course of 13 hours. In total, the parliament received around 350 proposals for reform laws.

When assessing proposals, the opinion of deputies coincided with decisions of the government. Many of the supported proposals were editorial. Nevertheless, there were multiple conceptual matters in which deputies changed their previous decision about possible amendments.

Part of the proposals on additional benefits and multiple other matters is planned to be put off for a later date. Decisions are planned to be made during budget review period. Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola says this decision is only logical, because there are matters that are not associated with the reform. The budget review is the right time to review them, because then it will be possible to balance desires with opportunities, said the minister.

Reviews of tax reform are planned to commence at the next Saeima meeting this Thursday.

Full article here


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

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Seven previously convicted candidates crossed from Saeima election lists

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

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

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CEC to decide on four candidates’ possible relation to KGB

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

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