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Monday 20.01.2020 | Name days: Aļģirds, Orests, Oļģerts, Alģis

BNN summary of the week: elections in Riga and Ušakovs’ return. Craze at Rīgas satiksme. Average wages in the country

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Latvia, busness, wages, OECD, mathematics, rabies, Rail Baltica, recommendedHave you prepared for election of a new Riga City Council? Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry has decided to request Riga City Council’s dismissal over failure to provide waste management for residents. It is expected that if the city council is dismissed, snap elections could be organized at the end of February 2020.

Last week Saeima committees received a proposal to allow city councils picked in snap elections to work longer than five years.

Meanwhile, the new vice-mayor of Riga Druvis Kleins has begun actively sorting things out in Rīgas satiksme, where he has become a shareholder. He has partially replaced the company’s council. Additionally, lawyers have been asked to consider options to terminate the contract with Rīgas karte. Kleins has also decided to touch the holy cow – discounts for public transport services – and has mentioned that maybe it is time to review them. Soon after, Riga’s Mayor Oļegs Burovs stressed that no one has any plans to cut discounts. Kleins later withdrew his statements. Look before you jump, friends!

Last week, the ruling coalition in Latvia reached an agreement about a joint candidate for the position of government of the Bank of Latvia – economist Mārtiņš Kazāks.

Continuing on the topic of economics – the average wage in Latvia in Q3 2019 was EUR 801 after taxes. The most rapid rise of wages was observed in Pieriga region and the slowest was observed in Vidzeme.

The BNN gives you a summary of the key events of the past week, told in news stories of the following topics: Election breeze; Perestroika?; Candidate; Rabies; Delays; State of Emergency; Average wage; Mathematics; Rank.


Environment Protection Minister to request Riga City Council’s dismissal

Juris Pūce, Oļegs Burovs, Riga City Council, dismissal, waste management

Environment Protection Minister Juris Pūce (L) and Riga Mayor Oļegs Burovs

Latvia’s Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry has decided to request dismissal of Riga City Council because according to the ministry the municipal administration has failed to perform one of its autonomous functions – provide carrying of household waste.

This was announced by minister Juris Pūce at a press-conference on Friday, 6 December.

He also said: «I don’t feel happy having to submit such a decision project to the Cabinet of Ministers for review.»

In response to Riga City Council’s inability to settle waste management matters, the ministry made several requests to the city council to provide explanations as to how the local administration plans to resolve the situation, but no answers were received, said Pūce.

He also said that instead of sorting the waste management situation, the city council has spent the last several months in political games, position swapping and discussions as to who should perform management of shares.

Full article here


Kleins: we may have to review who receives public transport discounts in Riga

discounts, public transport, Riga, Druvis Kleins, Rīgas satiksme

Druvis Kleins

Considering the complicated financial situation at Rīgas satiksme (RS) public transport company, it may be necessary to review which groups of people receive discounts and benefits, said Riga City Council’s vice-chairman Druvis Kleins in an interview to Latvijas Radio on Wednesday, 4 December.

He says the next steps that will follow this week’s partial replacement of RS council members may include discussions about reducing the company’s dependence on overdraft and making sure expenses do not exceed revenue. Kleins wants to hear RS board’s opinion on this.

Additionally, the vice-mayor and coalition cooperation partners will try to understand what the municipality’s strategy is when it comes to setting public transport benefits.

«Every year we invite RS to carry more groups of residents for free. This time the topic of the discussion is carrying staff of the Children’s Clinical University Hospital, which is a good idea on its own, but requires EUR 170 000 a year. And if we politically announce that we will not increase grants for RS, I have to ask how this municipal company will recover from debts and restore its financial state?» said the vice-mayor.

Kleins admits the desire to carry more social groups for free and resolving the public transport company’s financial problems «are two controversial topics to which I have no solution at the moment».

Full article here


Latvia’s ruling coalition officially agrees on Kazāks as chosen Bank of Latvia governor

Bank of Latvia, governor, Saeima, candidate

Mārtiņš Kazāks

Parties of the ruling coalition in Latvia have agreed to pick the central bank’s council member Mārtiņš Kazāks as their chosen candidate for the posting of governor of the Bank of Latvia, politicians told journalists on Tuesday, 3 December after a meeting of ruling parties.

As reported by Attīstībai/Par! Saeima faction chairman Daniels Pavļuts, the necessary ten signatures from deputies have been collected in favour of Kazāks. The vote is scheduled for 12 December Saeima meeting.

As previously reported, it took coalition parties several weeks to reach an agreement on a single candidate. Prior to the agreement, parties met with multiple potential candidates.

Full article here


For the first time since 2003, woman possibly infected with rabies dies in Latvia

topical, rabies, Latvia, death, infection, SPKC

Illustrative image

A woman that was possibly infected with rabies has died in Daugavpils, as reported by Disease Prevention and Control (SPKC). This may be the first death caused by rabies in Latvia since 2003.

Initial results of laboratory tests performed by SPKC and Institute of Food Safety, Animal Health and Environment BIOR show signs of rabies.

In cooperation with Food and Veterinary Service, SPKC has commenced determining the cause of the infection, because based on initial information the woman may have been infected with rabies in Latvia or abroad.

Currently nothing is off the table, SPKC reports.

SPKC epidemiologists continue surveying people who have had contact with the patient. In cooperation with doctors, experts perform a possible infection risk and, if need be, perform vaccination against rabies. Vaccination against rabies has been commenced for 60 people. SPKC has organized additional vaccine supplies to healthcare facilities in Daugavpils.

Vaccination against rabies is needed after contacting an infected or possibly infected animal (animal bite, scratch, infected animal saliva ending up on damaged skin, etc.), SPKC reminds.

Full article here


Estonia’s prime minister: Rail Baltica project unlikely to be finished on time

Jüri Ratas, Rail Baltica, Estonia

Estonia’s Prime Minister Jüri Ratas

It is unlikely European standard railway width project Rail Baltica will be finished on time – by 2026, admits Estonia’s Prime Minister Jüri Ratas.

According to what he said during a post-government meeting press-conference on Thursday, 5 December, this project is massive, which is why there are many problems and obstacles. As an example he mentioned the EU budget, adding that discussions regarding the project’s funding are expected anxiously.

The prime minister also mentioned that in Estonia this railway line will require more stops that planned.

«Ülemiste, Rapla and Pernava – they are not enough,» he said.

As previously reported, Estonia’s State Audit found mentioned in a report that Rail Baltica project is being implemented with delays and costs are higher than expected. This is why it is likely Rail Baltica construction will take longer.

Full article here


Latvian government extends state of emergency with waste management in Riga

Riga, waste management, VARAMAlthough Riga City Council has stated multiple times that it is not necessary to extend the state of emergency with waste management, Latvia’s government has nevertheless decided to extend it until March 2020.

Opponents of the initiative prepared by Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry included Economy Minister Ralfs Nemiro, Welfare Minister Ramona Petraviča and Interior Affairs Minister Sandis Ģirģens.

Riga City Council chairman Oļegs Burovs had sent a letter to the prime minister and environment protection ministry, informing the two that what was previously ordered to do in regards to waste management has already been accomplished and that provision of waste management services continues unhindered.

«What is happening right now is an attempt to divert society’s attention from true problems in the medical sector, the administrative territorial reform and other problematic issues. There is no waste management crisis in Riga – it is obvious to any resident. Waste management is performed and will continue being performed after 11 December. The rest is political rhetoric,» stresses Burovs.

Full article here


Average salary in Latvia reportedly EUR 801 in Q3 of 2019

topical, wages, gross wage, quality of life, money, net wageCompared to Q3 2018, the average monthly gross wages and salaries grew by 8.3 % or EUR 84, reaching EUR 1 091 for full-time work in Q3 2019. In Q1 and Q2, the growth rate was slower – 7.8 %.

Compared to Q2 2019, gross wages and salaries grew by 0.7 % in Q3 2019.

In Q3 2019, the average net wages and salaries (calculated based on the labour taxes applicable at workplace) constituted EUR 801. Over the year, net earnings rose by 7.7 %, while compared to Q2 2019 they rose by 0.3 %, according to data from the Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia.

Considering annual consumer price growth of 2.9 %, the real increase in net wages and salaries comprised 4.7 %.

In Q3, median gross wages and salaries constituted EUR 848, and compared to Q3 2018 (EUR 779) they grew faster than mean arithmetic earnings (rise of 8.8 %). Over the quarter, net median earnings (after taxes) comprised EUR 623 and rose by 8.3 % over the year.

Median is calculated based on the information available in statistical surveys and administrative data of the State Revenue Service.

Full article here


Latvian pupils’ mathematics score above average among OECD member states

topical, Latvian pupils, mathematics, PISA 2018Latvian pupils’ mathematics skills are reportedly higher than average among member states of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, according to results of OECD PISA 2018.

The average results of Latvian pupils were scored 496, which is statistically higher than the average OECD level – 489. Authors of the study say this is the highest result in mathematics Latvian pupils have achieved in seven cycles of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).

Accomplishments of Latvian pupils are not statistically all that different from accomplishments of pupils from Sweden, Britain, Norway, Germany, Ireland, Czech Republic, Austria and France.

Mathematics score is the highest for pupils from China – 591, Singapore – 569, Macao – 558, Hong Kong, Taiwan – 531, Japan – 527, Estonia – 523, Netherlands – 519 and Poland – 516. Among EU member states, accomplishments of Estonian pupils in mathematics are the highest, researchers stress.

Authors of the research say Latvian pupils’ mathematics competence in PISA 2018 has statistically increased by 14 points when compared to results of PISA 2015.

Full article here


In spite of suspicions of fraud in VID, government promotes Kaspars Podiņš to general

Dīlers, Dinaz, VID, Kaspars Podiņš, Cabinet of Ministers, Latvia, Ieva Jaunzeme, Ilga Šuplinska, general, promotion

Kaspars Podiņš

Although multiple objections have been voiced in regards to Kaspars Podiņš’s work as chief of State Revenue Service’s Tax and Customs Office, Latvia’s Cabinet of Ministers has nevertheless decided to promote him to general.

All ministers except for Ilga Šuplinska voted in favour of promoting him.

She explained her decision by saying she wants to wait for tangible proof of Podiņš’s accomplishments in prevention of smuggling.

BNN had previously reported that it is possible that Podiņš’s leadership may have stalled the investigation of Olainfarm case and money laundering cases Dinaz and Dīlers.

Although both Dinaz and Dīlers cases were ready to be submitted to the office of the prosecutor, they were taken off the main investigation and instead diverted to a region, where, according to information from BNN, investigators lack experience working with cases of such a scale and importance.

Full article here

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UK’s Prince Harry steps down from royal duties after funding row

United Kingdom’s Prince Harry has announced the resignation of him and his wife Meghan from their royal duties after they did not succeed in being allowed to continue to serve without public funding. Prince Harry and Meghan have agreed to no longer formally represent the British Queen.

National Alliance wants pre-election promotion carried out only in state language in Latvia

On Monday, 20 January, at the meeting of the Coalition Council the National Alliance «All for Latvia-For Fatherland/LNNK» will ask participated in the meeting to discuss amendments to the Pre-election Campaign Law that propose limiting pre-election promotion to state language only.

Libya peace talks in Berlin seek to stop foreign involvement in war

A peace conference on Libya has been held in Berlin, where 11 countries have undertaken to respect an arms embargo and called for a lasting peace in the North African country between its two competing governments.

Weather in Latvia to be volatile this week; nights to be chilly on some days

This week’s weather is expected to be volatile in Latvia – the sky will be covered with clouds on some days and clear on others, some precipitation and strong wind is also expected. This week also air temperature will mostly stay at above 0° C.

Week in Lithuania: police on hunt of a child’s kidnapper, 2020 conscription list announced, Belarus seeks Lithuania’s help

In Lithuania, the top news stories last week were the police hunt of a child’s kidnapper, the announcement of the 2020 conscription list and Belarus seeking Lithuania’s help court.

BNN summary of the week: Lay-offs at LDz. KNAB wrapped around ZZS’ finger. Ķuzis steps down

The last week demonstrated that not everything that glitters is gold. Although previously Latvian Railway proudly reported growing freights and revenue, the statement released in the middle of the week suggests the company is not in the best state – the company plans to lay off 1 500 workers by the end of the year.

FKTK lists exceptions in which banks are allowed to service Aivars Lembergs

Latvian Finance and Capital Market Commission has listed cases in which Latvia’s finance market participants will be allowed to service Aivars Lembergs, who is subjected to US OFAC sanctions and accused of serious crimes, and three organizations associated with him – Ventspils Development Agency, Business Development Association and Latvian Transit Business Association.

Appropriate jobs promised for laid-off LDz workers

Latvian State Employment Agency promises to find appropriate jobs for laid-off Latvian Railway workers. If need be, those people will be provided the opportunity for re-qualification, raise their qualification or train for a new profession, as confirmed by the agency’s representative Signe Bierande.

Bordāns selects potential candidates to lead the Supreme Court and Prosecutor General’s office

I can see people who could take the reins over the Office of the Prosecutor General and the Supreme Court and change their work standards, Latvian Justice Minister Jānis Bordāns told TV3 programme 900 seconds when asked about any potential candidates to lead those institutions.

Ukrainian Prime Minister ready quit after leaked voice recording

Ukrainian head of government Oleksiy Honcharuk has offered to resign following the circulation of an audio recording, where criticism of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and his knowledge in economy is voiced.

Inflation in Latvia reportedly higher than Europe’s and Eurozone’s in December

In December 2019 inflation in Latvia was higher than the average in the European Union and Eurozone, according to information published by Eurostat on Friday, 17 January.

Estonian population growth continues in 2019 due to immigration

Estonia has registered in 2019 population growth for the fifth consecutive year and it can be explained with immigration not with natural growth, according to preliminary data released by Statistics Estonia.

BNN investigation | Raunas street property: quiet assistant with a «secret wallet» for Lembergs

There are suspicions that Aivars Lembergs, subjected to international sanctions, has sold real estate located on Raunas Street 27 in Riga to his sister «on paper only». This may have been done to avoid confiscation of properties in the event of a guilty verdict or a possible arrest over the real estate property. However, it is possible Lembergs maintains full control over this real estate property and, most likely, the property is used to fatten his wallet on a regular basis.

Audit: majority of Latvian housing stock has degraded to a state of a slum

Since the denationalization effective access to housing security in Latvia does not exist and most of the housing stock has degraded up to a state of a slum, as concluded by the Latvian State Audit.

Prime minister affirms possibility of carrying oil supplies for Belarus through Latvia

During his meeting with Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko on Thursday, 16 January, Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš affirmed that oil supplies for Belarus may be possible using Latvia’s ports.

Rain in Australia provides relief to continuing fight against bushfires

In eastern Australia, which has been suffering in prolonged and disastrous bushfires, heavy rain has been falling for the past 24 hours.

Weather to remain warm in Latvia at week’s end

At the end of the week the sky in Latvia will become clear and the sun will shine. No precipitation is expected. However, a low atmospheric pressure area will approach the country from the west during weekends, as reported by Latvian Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

GKR helps overthrow Riga’s vice-mayors and put an end to ruling coalition

Riga City Council vice-chairperson Anna Vladova and deputy Druvis Kleins lost their respective posts at an extraordinary meeting on Thursday, 16 January. This happened because multiple deputies from Honour to Serve Riga voted together with the opposition in favour of dismissing them.

Latvian Railway plans to lay off 1 500 employees

Latvian Railway plans to terminate labour relations with approximately 1 500 employees before the end of 2020, as reported by the company’s representative Ella Pētermane.

Russian State Duma approves Putin’s new Prime Minister

The Russian State Duma has approved on Thursday, January 16, the candidacy of the country’s next Prime Minister appointed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Ventspils opposition invites Pūce to act to prevent US sanctions from spreading to city council

Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry and especially Juris Pūce have to act to resolve the current state of Ventsils City Council. It should be dismissed, as the municipal government does not have moral, ethical or legal foundation to continue managing and implementing the criminal management’s policy, according to Ventspils City Council opposition deputies.

Trade unions urge Latvian government to resolve transit businesses’ blocked bank accounts problem

Multiple trade unions associated with the transit industry have turned to Latvia’s highest ranking officials with a request to resolve the situation with bank accounts of multiple transit companies having been blocked because of US sanctions against Aivars Lembergs. If the government does not act, trade unions promise to organize massive protests.

Anris Leimanis picked as RB Rail council chairman

Anris Leimanis, independent council member from Latvian shareholder, has been picked as Rail Baltica joint Baltic company AS RB Rail council chairman. Ahti Kuningas and Karolis Sankovskis will serve as vice-chairmen, as confirmed by the company.

CSP: number of residents at risk of poverty declines in Latvia

In 2018 a total of 434 thousand persons or 22.9 % of the population of Latvia were at risk of poverty – 0.4 percentage points less than in 2017.

Latvian Saeima to ask Denmark to not extradite Kristīne Misāne to South African Republic

On Thursday, 16 January, Latvian Saeima made the decision to protect the rights of Latvian citizen Kristīnes Misāne, asking the Danish parliament and Danish law enforcers to support their Latvian colleagues and find a solution to avoid extraditing her to the South African Republic, as reported by Saeima’s press-service.

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