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Ceturtdiena 21.11.2019 | Name days: Andis, Zeltīte

BNN summary of the week: Funding for parties. Shortage of money for teachers. Budget estimates

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUThis week Latvia’s government decided to allocate EUR 4.1 million as support for political parties. The final decision will be made by the Saeima. If the legislative draft is supported, political party Harmony would receive the biggest possible amount in 2020 – EUR 800 000, whereas New Unity – EUR 416 535.

Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš admitted this week Latvia’s budget has no money to afford increasing teachers’ wages – all finances have already been reserved. The prime minister allowed that it may be possible to find funding by dividing money from finances not reserved over the course of 2020.

There was also a wave of scandalous arrests in Latvia last week. State Police detained three people over suspicions for arranging outcomes for football games. This includes ex-president of Daugavpils football club Dinaburg Oļegs Gavrilovs, who is has been disqualified from Latvia’s football for life.

In spite of new bribery and unfair management schemes, some good news came this week – Latvia has climbed to 41st spot in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index. Estonia and Lithuania, however, remain in the lead – 31st and 39th place, respectively.

BNN provides a news summary about the key events of the week, including such topics as: Support, Reserved Money; Budget; Growth; Forward; Farewell; Sharing and Position.


Latvian parties to divide state funding: Harmony to get the lion’s share

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUPolitical parties elected to the 13th Saeima will be able to receive funding from the state budget worth EUR 4 119 581 in 2020. The majority of this amount – EUR 800 000 – will be provided to Harmony, whereas the smallest amount will be provided to New Unity, which may receive EUR 416 535, according to Justice Ministry.

According to the ministry’s provisional estimates, Harmony will receive EUR 800 000 in 2020, KPV LV – EUR 643 369, New Conservative Party – EUR 626 420, Attīstība/Par! union of political parties – EUR 586 964, National Alliance «All for Latvia – For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK» – EUR 557 129, Union of Greens and Farmers – EUR 489 163, and New Unity – EUR 416 535.

Of the parties that were not elected to the 13th Saeima, the largest amount would go to Latvian Association of Regions – EUR 169 371, followed by Latvian Russians Union – EUR 136 336, and Progressive party – EUR 106 203.

A similar amount may be provided to parties in 2021, whereas in 2022 this amount may change, because of results of 2021 municipal elections will be taken into account when calculating state support for political parties.

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Prime Minister says the country has no additional resources for teachers’ wages

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Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš

At the moment, Latvia’s state budget does not have resources for teachers’ wages, said Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš in an interview to Latvijas Radio on Thursday, 10 October.

Commenting on the request submitted by the education personnel trade union for additional finances to help increase wages for teachers, Kariņš mentioned there are no resources to afford this.

«Currently I cannot outline a specific source, because all of them have been discussed. Through tough political negotiations the money was divided more or less fairly,» said the prime minister.

He allowed that there may be some inefficiently used budget positions in 2020 they may trigger talks regarding division of available funding. It will be necessary to follow development of the economy and tax collection.

At the same time, he said municipalities should be more active in implementation of education system’s reform.

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Latvia’s 2020 budget revenue predicted at 9.89 billion, expenditures – at 10 billion

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUOn Friday, 11 October, Latvia’s Cabinet of Ministers supported at an extraordinary meeting the country’s 2020 state budget, the consolidated revenue of which is estimated at EUR 9.89 billion, whereas expenditures – at EUR 10 billion.

Compared to 2019 budget, Latvia’s state expenditures will increase EUR 717.1 million and expenditures will increase EUR 610.1 million.

Revenue of the state base budget in 2020 is expected to be EUR 6.88 billion and expenditures are planned at EUR 7.22 billion. The increase of the state base budget expenditures is expected to be 5.9% or EUR 400 million when compared to 2019. The increase of expenditures is estimate at EUR 325.2 million to help finance state basic functions.

The funding increase for implementation of projects and measures co-financed by the European Union (EU) policy instruments and other foreign financial assistance is estimated at EUR 74.8 million.

The state special social insurance budget’s revenue and expenditures are expected at EUR 3.2 billion and EUR 2.97 billion respectively. The increase of special budget’s expenditures when compared to 2019 plan is EUR 211.2 million or 7.6%.

Grants for municipalities have been approved at a total amount of EUR 382 689 344 and state budget grants for municipalities are estimated at EUR 184 539 752.

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Latvia 41st in World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUIn the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index Latvia has climbed to 41st place, still remaining behind Lithuania and Estonia, according to the latest published study.

Lithuania and Estonia have also improved by one place each – Lithuania is the 39th most competitive country in the world, whereas Estonia is 31st.

Arnis Sauka, director of Stockholm School of Economics in Riga Centre for Sustainable Business, which represents the Global Competitiveness Index in Latvia, notes that this index is based on a comparison of the world’s countries based on 12 criteria groups or pillars.

Nevertheless, considering the focus on productivity, which is the main pillar for economic development, as well as changes in competitiveness that come with emerging digital technologies and globalisation processes, the World Economic Forum, after analysing competitiveness, has included a number of other pillars since 2018. Following the latest trends in research and changes in specifics of competition, the new methodology introduces changes to the way these pillars are measured, including business surveys and putting more emphasis on different statistical sources in measuring the competitiveness of different countries.

Results of the new Global Competitiveness Index show that Singapore is the most competitive country in the world. Other most notable countries include USA, Hong Kong, Netherlands, Switzerland, Japan, Germany, Sweden, United Kingdom and Denmark.

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Latvian government approves new head for FKTK; Saeima to make the final decision

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Santa Purgaile

On Tuesday, 8 October, Latvia’s Cabinet of Ministers supported Citadele Bank’s board member Santa Purgaile as the new head of the country’s Finance and Capital Market Commission (FKTK).

The final decision will be made by the Saeima.

As previously reported, Purgaile was chosen for the post in a special personnel selection process.

Since 2012, Purgaile has worked at Citadele Bank.

Initially she was the bank’s business development director. Later – in 2017 – she became director of Citadele Bank’s corporate customers office. Purgaile is also a board member at Citadele Bank. Since 2017, the potential FKTK council chairman has also worked as Latvian Financial Association’s Crediting Committee’s co-chairperson. Previously she worked at SEB Bank, where she was in charge of private bankers’ businesses in Latvia and Baltics between 2009 and 2012.

Purgaile has a Master’s degree in international economics and entrepreneurship. She also studied management skills at Wallenberg Institute, Sweden. Purgaile also has excellent English and Russian language skills.

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Latvian parliament agrees to terminate work relations with Dace Ķezbere

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Dace Ķezbere

On Thursday, 10 October, Latvia’s Saeima agreed to terminate work relations with chairwoman of National Electronic Mass Media Council (NEPLP) Dace Ķezbere.

Ķezbere requested relieving her of duties on 15 December following her own request. 63 of Saeima deputies voted in favour of terminating work relations.

Media Policy Sub-Committee’s head Vita Anda Tērauda reminded that a new Public Media Law is in the works, which, among other things, provides for assembling a new council to help resolve the problem of duties of different council members in NEPLP overlapping. She also encouraged thinking about the next candidate to lead NEPLP.

Saeima deputy Krišjānis Feldmans reminds there is an ongoing selection process for places in NEPLP. Additionally, the New Conservative Party wants to ask candidates questions about Russia’s propaganda, as it has been spread in Latvia using Russian channels for years. The deputy voiced dissatisfaction with the current council’s work in relation to Russia’s propaganda and its influence on Latvia’s information space. Additionally, New Conservative Party wants to discuss with NEPLP candidates the package of television channels.

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Waste management in Riga: four areas and seven-year waste management rights

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUIn two weeks a new tender for waste management in Riga will be organized. Waste management services will be provided for seven years, journalists were told by Riga’s Mayor Oļegs Burovs after a meeting with Competition Council and Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry’s representatives.

According to the politician, the city may be divided along Brīvības Street – its right and left side. The same could be done for Pārdaugava – along K. Ulmaņa gatve.

«These four parts may different percentage-wise,» admits Riga’s mayor.

On Monday, 7 October, Riga City Council decided on action in waste management sector after Administrative Regional Court decided on 1 October to decline Riga City Council’s application in which the city council asked to cancel Competition Council’s decision on temporary regulation in waste management market.

On Tuesday, 1 October, Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry announced amendments to the Waste Management Law, providing that Riga City Council is to divide Riga into several separate areas for waste management services.

The government’s declared state of emergency will not last until 11 December. To ensure household waste transportation in Riga is unhindered, the ministry has developed amendments that add a duty for the municipality to ensure Riga is divided into several areas, as well as ensure residents have a choice of waste management service providers.

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Most EU members against migrant quota system, Estonia against any relocation

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUAs the interior ministers of European Union members were unable to agree on a permanent system to divide migrants rescued in the Mediterranean Sea, Estonia has signalled its inability to accept a single asylum seeker from Africa or the Middle East.

German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that at the Tuesday, October 9, meeting Germany, France, Malta and Italy saw that only 12 countries said they would be willing to accept rescued migrants on a case-by-case basis, and only after a number of further technical issues were resolved.

Finland is just as disinterested in participating in a binding quota system as Austria and Luxembourg.

Bulgaria, Cyprus and Greece criticised the fact the four-country group only dealt with the problem of migrants rescued between Libya and Italy, and not those arriving in Europe in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Together, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Greece called for more help from the EU.

Estonian position

Meanwhile, Estonia and Eastern European member states reiterated their rejection any plan that would require them to take in migrants.

Estonian Interion Minister Mart Helme (EKRE) told ERR broadcaster in Luxembourg that most European countries at the meeting were ready to contribute with expertise, but there was a widespread scepticism about accepting asylum seekers.

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BATL board member: Latvia should offer Belarusian partners an attractive offer

«To ensure potassium salt from Belarus returns to Latvia, we have to do our homework – make railway infrastructure more efficient, reduce tariffs and give Belarusian partners an attractive offer. And we need to act quickly. The new legislative initiative for the opening of the border railway section for all cargo carriers is a strong signal to help strengthen cooperation between Latvia and Belarus,» stresses Baltic Association – Transport and Logistics board member Ivars Landmanis.

Court sees personal promotion attempts in claims about delays with Maxima tragedy case

Riga City Pardaugava Court denies claims made by a number of people about slow progress with the review of the criminal case regarding the Zolitude tragedy. On top of that, the court says those are attempts to secure positive personal promotion at the expense of the tragedy’s victims and such claims mislead society.

Lithuania courts idea of establishing a state commercial bank

If you were this week to flick through pages of Lithuanian print and online outlets, the topic of banking will pop up on top. Lithuania’s Scandinavian capital-based commercial banks SEB and Swedbank are closing their regional branches, cash operations are gone in most bank affiliates, there are fewer ATM machines around, mortgage interest rates in Lithuania are higher than elsewhere and I can go on with the list on local banks’ sins. How to rein in the situation in banking sector?

Google, Facebook business incompatible with privacy rights, says Amnesty International

Human rights organisation Amnesty International has found in a study that the «surveillance-based business model» of Facebook and Google's is incompatible with the right to privacy. The U.S. companies disagree.

Latvia’s efforts to achieve climate neutrality may require billions of euros

Latvia has not yet estimated the costs of moving towards climate neutrality, but they may reach billions of euros, said Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry’s deputy state secretary Alda Ozola at the Energy and Climate Plan 2030 – Road towards Sustainable Country forum on Thursday, 21 November.

Ex-president: 13th Saeima is not responsible for previous parliament’s «cuckoo eggs»

Latvia’s ex-president Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga believes there is no reason to dissolve the 13th Saeima.If the previous Saeima left some «cuckoo eggs» for the new parliament before leaving, such as something in legislation, this does not mean the current Saeima is to blame, says the ex-president.

If Riga City Council fails to resolve waste management problem, Pūce may initiate dismissal

If Riga City Council fails to resolve the waste management problem by 11 December, Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry will likely initiate the city council’s dismissal, said Environment Minister Juris Pūce in a conversation with journalists on 21 November.

Rats in Estonia cut e-governance services

In Estonia, which sees itself as the world’s first digital nation, has experienced an interruption of state e-services, caused, apparently, by rats in Harju County around Tallinn.

Saeima deputies: bio-economy is a major strategic development direction for Latvia

Bio-economy is one of the main strategic directions for Latvia and the National Development Plan for 2021-2027 needs to have a section dedicated to bio-economy. It needs to detail a specific vision for necessary innovations, labour force resource and capital attraction.

Greece to close overcrowded migrant camps

The Greek government has announced plans to shut down overcrowded open migrant camps to open closed and smaller centres.

Cērps: financial stability should be the main priority for the Bank of Latvia

One major priority for the Bank of Latvia should be responsibility over the stability of the financial system, said potential candidate for the post of the Bank of Latvia and ex-chairman of the Finance and Capital Market Commission Uldis Cērps.

Spanish court points to Ryanair baggage fee excessiveness

Europe’s leading airline Ryanair has been fined by a court in Spain that ruled that asking a fee for hand baggage is excessive.

European Commission positive about Latvia’s budget for 2020

Latvia maintained budget discipline in its next year’s budget plan, the deficit is within acceptable borders, but the tax portion’s decline before the economy generally does not allow for rapid increase of public expenditures, including wages, pensions and benefits, the European Commission admits.

Terrorist attack victim numbers decline, but many countries remain at risk of terrorism

The number of people who died in terrorist attacks around the world had dropped 15.2% in 2018. Nevertheless, the number of countries that are under risk of terrorist attacks has only increased since then, as reported by the Institute for Economics and Peace on Tuesday, 20 November.

Swedish TV: U.S. investigates Swedbank over violations of Russia sanctions

With U.S. and European Union’s sanctions banned from cooperating with Russian weapon maker Kalashnikov, Swedbank has been involved in sending large sums between the shareholders of the Russian firm and the owner of Kalashnikov USA, Swedish television SVT reports.

Saeima’s committee views residents’ request on postponing increase of party funding

On Wednesday, 20 November, Saeima’s Mandates, Ethics and Submissions Committee conceptually supported the legislative draft on the initiative signed by more than 11 000 residents in regards to the significant increase of funding for political parties and its submission to the parliament’s Budget Committee for review.

Estonia sees no alternative to NATO and says it’s strong

Estonia’s top diplomate Urmas Reinsalu has announced prior to a meeting with counterparts from other NATO nations that he considers the alliance strong and sees no alternatives to it.

Supplying all Latvian residents with food would cost nearly EUR 12 million per day

In the event of a threat to the state, supplying Latvian residents with food would cost the state budget approximately EUR 12 million per day, according to estimates from Agriculture Ministry, which were performed in line with adoption of a comprehensive state security system.

State Revenue Service employees’ «glances» at sensitive files and symbolic penalties

Employees of Latvia’s State Revenue Service have been punished multiple times for leaking sensitive data in the past. People received insignificant disciplinary penalties while the leaked information may have ended up in the hands of less than honest people. Why is it that state security matters protected as well as empty hockey gates and who should be held responsible?

Malta arrests businessman in journalist murder case

Maltese authorities have arrested in the murder case of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia on Wednesday a well-known entrepreneur Yorgen Fenech. Police and Fenech himself have not yet commented publicly on the operation

Latvia’s finance minister bets on tax reform to find money for healthcare

To find necessary funding for healthcare, Latvia’s Finance Minister Jānis Reirs proposes creating «a fair system» in the context of the expected tax reform in which all employed taxpayers will be able to participate.

Levits: Principle of irresponsibility is entrenched in Latvia

Latvian President Egils Levits, discussing the issue of doctor wages in the country, has said: «We have developed for a long time a mechanism of irresponsibility». The head of state gave an interview to Latvijas Televīzija’s programme Rīta Panorāma on Wednesday, November 20.

Riga Mayor ready to resign, if no new majority in City Council

Riga Mayor Oļegs Burovs is looking for a new majority after cooperation with his party has been stopped by Harmony party. If no new majority is established, Burovs would resign, he said in an interview with Latvijas Radio.

Lithuanian firefighters protest over low pay and outdated equipment

Lithuanian firefighters have reminded of government commitments in the field in a protest in Vilnius over the average wage of 430 euros and outdated equipment.

Sweden discontinues investigation into Wikileaks Assange over rape

Swedish investigators have decided to end investigation into Julian Assange, the whistle-blower organisation Wikileaks, over alleged rape that has been upheld since 2010.

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