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Wednesday 16.10.2019 | Name days: Daiga, Dinija

BNN summary of the week: Latvian debts. Seat for Parādnieks. Budget worries

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

Debt is no brother, as the ancient proverb states. Unfortunately, Latvian residents live with this almost every day. Data from the Consumer Rights Protection Centre shows that debts of Latvian residents increase every year, forcing people to borrow more money to pay for utilities or cover other debts.

As for debtors… Politician Imants Parādnieks, though left with no Saeima deputy mandate, has managed to find a warm seat as advisor to Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš. Now he is preparing to become chairman of the council of the Social Integration Fund. NGO’s, on the other hand, are determined to prevent that by picking their own candidate.

 Meanwhile, Latvia’s government coalition is committed to making sure no one fights over division of funds from 2020 state budget. This will be a sight to see, as there are usually a lot of needs and pre-election promises to fulfil.

BNN offers you a summary of the most topical developments of the week, including topics such as: Debtors; The Unifier; No bumps; Prices Unchanged; Choose Local Products; Inflation Halt; Bear Season.


Borrow to pay off a debt? Latvian residents’ loan obligations on a rise

Last year there was an increase of the number of people who experienced problems with paying back their loans and who were forced to push back loan repayments three or more times, said head of Consumer Rights Protection Centre (PTAC) Baiba Vītoliņa at a press-conference on Tuesday, 6 August.

With each passing year the size of loan commitments of Latvian residents increase, said Vītoliņa, adding that the volume of loans issued by non-banking credit institutions had increased 7.29% or EUR 43 million last year.

The total volume of loans issued by non-banking institutions in 2018 was EUR 640 million.

The most rapid increase was observed for distance (42%) and consumer loan (20%) segment, as well as leasing (30%).

Full article here


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Saeima deputy Imants Parādnieks

NGOs against Parādnieks becoming chairman of Social Integration Fund

Non-government organizations (NGO) represented in the Social Integration Fund (SIF) council may propose their own candidate for the post of the chairman, as admitted by members of NGOs.

NGOs are represented in the council by Health and Social Service Artemīda board chairperson Jolanta Eihentāle, European Latvian Union representative in Latvia Rinalds Gulbis, association Kim? CEO Laima Ruduša, association Kurzeme NGO support centre board chairperson Inese Siliņa and association Education Initiatives Centre director Daiga Zaķe.

Eihentāle notes that in accordance with SIF rules, council chairperson and their deputy are picked and dismissed though a closed vote by council members during official meetings. Rules mention that any council member has the right to propose their own or other council members’ chosen candidates.

«NGOs represented in SIF council are currently discussing the topic of picking an NGO representative for the chairman’s post,» admits Eihentāle.

SIF board member and CEO of ‘Kim?’ Contemporary art centre Ruduša hopes it will be possible to pick their candidate for the chairman’s post. «I hope we will be able to do that. We will see how much say we have and if there is enough time to reach an agreement,» said Ruduša.

She also said that she is not happy with conservative politics entering SIF council. According to her, NGOs were ignored and weren’t even asked to provide their opinion.

Full article here


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Coalition tax policy development committee adopts a common position

The Coalition Tax Policy Development Committee has adopted a common position, stating that during the preparation of the 2020 state budget, parties forming the coalition in Latvia will cooperate and that the next year’s budget will be result of joint work, not mutual competition, says the committee’s head, Finance Ministry’s parliamentary secretary Atis Zakatistovs.

He explains that this means parties will try to avoid unnecessary dynamics, when one of the parties forming the coalition try to exact their promises at the expense of other partners. When asked if he has any specific parties in mind, Zakatistovs said no.

He reveals that the committee will assess the possible fiscal impact of the steps associated with the 2020 budget process and no-taxable minimum and minimal wage increase, the initiative in real estate tax and VAT reduction in two industries.

The politician notes that Finance Ministry has been asked to prepare different scenarios for the increase of non-taxable minimum and minimal wage next year and three years from now.

Full article here


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Lithuanian efforts to lower supermarket prices yet to bring results

Worried about high food prices in Lithuanian supermarkets, the country’s government has sought to reduce them with series of measures. Yet, the prices have grown by 3.5 percent over the past six months.

Lithuanian public broadcaster LRT reports that the government has set up a website to compare supermarket prices in 2019, and given institutions more powers to act. For example, the Lithuanian Competition Council can now compare deals between retailers and suppliers.

Skirmantas Malinauskas, an adviser to the Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis commented: «We hear echoes from retailers that the situation has changed. Maybe it’s because the supermarket chains think that the risk [of manipulating prices] is too big and the abuse [of the market position] has decreased. (..) [The measures] paid off, because we have started speaking about transparency» in pricing.

Full article here


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Cross-border trade between Latvia and Estonia declines

Estonia’s Finance Minister Martin Helme has announced that excise tax revenue from the first month after the rate’s reduction has increased 40% when compared to July 2018, whereas cross-border trade with Latvia has reduced.

«As we can see, excise tax revenue in January, March, May and June was below previous budget expectations. Prior to tax reduction there was a downward pointed tendency for revenue,» Helme announced on social network sites.

June’s decline of revenue is associated with the expected excise tax rate reduction, said the minister.

«In July, we had observed inexplicable exceeding of predictions when compared to both budget estimates and spring’s estimates. The increase when compared to last year’s July was 40%. For strong alcohol it was 174%,» reports Estonia’s finance minister.

He added that cross-border alcohol trade with Latvia has reduced.

«The numbers aren’t big, but it is worth mentioning that cross-border trade is measures in vehicle movement, not the amount of goods brought from Latvia,» the minister’s post states.

The number of Finnish tourists visiting Estonia has increased by a couple of percent, whereas the amount of goods they purchase has doubled. The situation is the opposite on the border with Latvia – the number of Estonian residents travelling to Latvia has declined more slowly than the amount of goods they purchase, Helme reports.

He added that alcohol prices in Estonia had declined in July. August is expected to continue this trend.

Full article here


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July’s inflation in Latvia reported at 2.9%

Compared to July 2018, the average level of consumer prices rose by 2.9 % in July 2019. Prices of goods have increased by 2.9 % and prices of services by 2.8 %.

Compared to 2015, consumer prices have risen by 8.7 %.

Prices of goods have increased by 7.0 % and prices of services by 13.0 % in July 2019.

Compared to July 2018, in July 2019 the average level of consumer prices was mainly influenced by the rise in prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages, alcoholic beverages and tobacco products, goods and services related to housing, goods and services related to recreation and culture, as well as restaurant and hotel services, according to data from the Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia.

Over the year, prices within the group of food and non-alcoholic beverages increased by 4.2 %. Prices of vegetables (rise of 16.8 %) had the strongest upward influence on the average price level within the group. During the year, increase was recorded also in prices of bread (of 9.7 %), flours and other cereals (14.5 %), bakery products (3.5 %), and pasta products (5.8 %).

An upturn was registered in prices of pork (of 11.2 %), dried, salted or smoked meat (3.1 %), meat products (9.1 %), eggs (5.8 %), chocolate (5.4 %), yoghurt (4.7 %), milk products (1.6 %), as well as fruit and vegetable juices (4.4 %). Decline, in turn, was recorded in prices of coffee (of 4.7 %), poultry (2.0 %), as well as cheese and curd (1.9 %).

Full article here


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Bear hunt starts in Estonia as hunters warn of expanding bear territories

Bear hunting has commenced in Estonia. A practice, which would seem surprising to many European countries with small bear populations, is, however, seen as necessary by hunters in the Baltic country.

Estonian public broadcaster ERR reports that bear hunt in Estonia begun on August 1.

Hunter Peeter Hussar explained to ERR’s Vikerraadio on Monday, August 5, that because the number of bears in Estonia has recently increased, young animals quickly run out of territory and are forced closer to human settlements.

According to the hunter, the status of bears is different from other animals, as the European Union recognizes them as threatened species, while in Estonia bears are hunted to keep their number under control and prevent damage.

Full article here

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Probing infections in Latvia, salmonella found in meat from Poland

As infection outbreaks in Latvia are under investigation, laboratory tests showed salmonella bacteria in Polish-origin poultry samples taken from SIA Gaļsaimnieks.

Germany to allow Huawei equipment on 5G networks

The Chinese tech giant Huawei will not be banned from the 5G mobile networks in Germany as Berlin stated it wants to create «a level playing field» for vendors.

OECD: Bribery prevention results in Latvia disproportionate to cross-border risks

Latvia’s results in fighting bribery are still disproportionate with the risks of cross-border bribery and money laundering the country is subjected to, says the Working Group on Bribery of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

In pictures: Ukrainian President Zelenskiy in Latvia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and the Ukrainian first lady made an official visit to Latvia on Wednesday, October 16.

airBaltic not planning to cancel flights with Airbus A220

airBaltic does not plan to reduce its flights with the Airbus A220-300 plane, after Swiss International Air Lines decided to do this being concerned over the aircraft’s engine problems, according to a statement of the Latvian airline on social media.

PM Kariņš recommends spending confiscated EUR 29 mln as single investment

Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš has recommended the 29 million euros confiscated by the Riga Regional Court for being criminally-acquired to be spent on a one-off investment, according to an interview to LNT programme 900 sekundes.

Latvian security service develops terrorism financing prevention strategy

The Latvian State Security Service (VDD) has prepared its Strategy for the Prevention of Terrorism Financing 2019-2021 with its goal being improvements of the system of preventing such financing, developing Latvia’s abilities to fight such illegal attempts and to improve the country’s reputation in foreign financial markets.

Estonian President sends invitation to Russian President

Estonian head of state Kersti Kaljulaid has invited her Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to visit the Baltic country during a gathering of Finno-Ugric peoples in 2020.

Riga transport company needs additional 2.9 million euros

Rīgas satiksme, the transport company of the Latvian capital, will request from the municipal budget an additional allocation of 2.9 million euros, said Rīgas satiksme’s council chairman in an interview with Latvijas radio.

Government decides: Latvia will have 39 municipalities

The Latvian government has backed the draft Law on Administrative Territories and Populated Places that sets forth cutting the number of municipalities in Latvia from 119 to 39.

Rail Baltica: In rebuilding of Riga Central Station deadlines and quality are key

In Rail Baltica, the new railway project, the rebuilding of the Riga Central Station is planned, where meeting deadlines and quality are key, said the head of Eiropas dzelzceļa līnijas, the company responsible for the project in Latvia, commenting on how the project could be affected by involved builders ReRe grupa being under the scrutiny of the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau and the Competition Council.

Deal or extension? Last day of Brexit talks on before decisive EU summit

The Brexit delegations from London and Brussels are on Wednesday, October 16, spending their last day of talks before a key European Union summit intended either to discuss a potential deal or to decide on an extension of the Brexit process.

Exclusive | Latvian MP: Top justice figures, Bičkovičs and Kalnmeiers, working like this in private sector, would be sacked long ago

The Moneyval report has told us not only that Latvia is unable to deal with financial crimes, but also that long court cases are under scrutiny. It is about the scale of money laundering – branding us a major power of money laundering. The expert committee also has questions: where are the guilty ones and where are the sentencing rulings? «The same Lembergs’ case; believe me, Moneyval is observing carefully, how it’s going forward,» MP Gatis Eglītis (NCP), the head of the Financial Sector Supervision Committee of Saeima Budget and Finance (Taxation), said in an interview with the BNN.

Latvian medical workers to hold unprecedented protests against funding cuts

Latvian Trade Union of Health and Social Care Workers has decided to hold protests it calls unprecedented against state budget plans that would result in reduced funding for health care, according to the LVSADA Council.

History repeating: Lemberg’s-linked medium recalls false news about Meroni

Once again, a medium linked to the criminally-accused Latvian politician Aivars Lembergs has been forced to admit its lies and to recall its unfounded claims directed at lawyer Rudolf Meroni. This time the recall has been published by Neatkarīgā Rīta Avīze daily.

Unity: Riga City Council tries to retain structure of despite liquidation

In the Riga City Council, opposition Unity faction fears a near-million increase of the municipality’s Public Relations Division could be coming in city budget effectively to transfer the structure of, the foundation up for liquidation.

Latvian minister: System wants its people as Prosecutor General, top court chairman

«There is information that the system prepares its heirs and wishes to appoint people close to it,» discussing reforms in the Latvian justice system, including the changing of the chairman of the Supreme Court and the Prosecutor General, has said the Latvian Justice Minister speaking to Latvijas Televīzija programme Rīta Panorāma.

Latvian coalition reaches deal to support changed administrative reform

Latvian government parties have agreed to support the country’s major administrative and territorial reform expanding the initial plan of cutting the number of municipalities in Latvia from 119 to 36.

Spain’s conviction of Catalan separatists sparks mass protests and clashes

The imprisonment of Catalan politicians and activists has sparked mass protests in the Spanish autonomous region leading to violent clashes with police and disruption of civil aviation. A total of 108 flights were cancelled on Monday

U.S. imposes sanctions on Turkey over incursion in Syria

U.S. President Donald Trump has stated he has issued an executive order to impose sanctions on Turkey’s officials and customs tariffs on steel imports from the country, which is continuing its military attack on Syria.

On safe side: Estonian tech minister changes Huawei to iPhone

Estonian Foreign Trade and Information Technology Minister, Kert Kingo, has changed her Huawei smartphone after criticism about alleged security issues with the device of the Chinese brand.

Ukraine's Zelensky to visit Latvia this week

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy will make a state visit to Latvia this week, the Chancery of the Latvian President informed.

Orbán’s party defeated in Budapest election

In the Hungarian municipal election, a rare win has been reached by opposition parties as they joined forces and overcame Budapest mayor István Tarlós from the ruling Fidesz party, led by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

Latvian city trio could retain special status after reform, minister says

As the massive Latvian administrative reform is to be discussed in government, its advocate, the Regional Development Minister, has suggested Liepāja, Rēzekne and Daugavpils could retain their special status thus increasing the number of prospective municipalities to 39.

Latvian budget to receive 20 million euros ruled to be criminally acquired

The Riga Regional Court has ruled that arrested 29 million euros have been acquired illegally and that they have to be transferred from a bank to the Latvian state budget, announced the Latvian Office of the Prosecutor General.