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Saturday 18.08.2018 | Name days: Liene, Helēna, Elena, Ellena, Liena
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BNN summary of the week: oligarchs in politics, people’s elected president, and Baltic growth

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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: Fight; Business; Decline; Change; Growth; and Opinion.

CHANGE: Legal Affairs Committee supports open election of state president

On Monday, 29 November, the majority of members of Saeima’s Legal Affairs Committee supported the initiative proposing open election of the state president by members of the parliament.

Members of To Latvia from the Heart and the Union of Greens and Farmers voted against this initiative.

This makes it one of the possible proposals for amendments to the Constitution to be discussed by a responsible work group. The committee decided to form such a work group to discuss amendments to the Constitution and study the possibilities of gaining the majority of votes in the Saeima.

The work group will include delegated representatives from all factions. It will have to provide its conclusions before the middle of March.

As it is known, Latvian politicians have different opinions about the possibility of electing the state president through an open vote.

Full article here

FIGHT: healthcare funding regulations will not motivate people to pay social tax

Regulations included in the healthcare funding legislative draft will not motivate residents to pay taxes, said representative of Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Ingrīda Circene in an interview to Latvijas Radio.

She believes a good idea is ruined by a piece of regulation that will make residents pay fees equal to 1% of minimal monthly wages in exchange for full basket of medical services.

As an example, she mentions that statistical data show that the hourly rate of a concrete mixer is EUR 7. To receive a full basket of medical services, a concrete mixes has to work an average of 33 minutes a month.

Circene believes that under a fair tax system, all residents able to work would have to pay social tax from minimal wage. Only under such conditions will it be possible for residents to receive all services included in the medical services basket.

On Thursday, 30 November, the Saeima will discuss the healthcare funding legislative draft developed to improve funding for healthcare and the sector’s longevity.

Healthcare Ministry’s developed draft states that 4% of GDP will be allocated for healthcare in 2020.

Full article here

TRUTH: Bojārs on Diena: «What are you writing there? Lembergs called, cursing and tearing»

«What are you writing down there? Lembergs called, cursing and demanding to know what you’re doing,» said former chief editor of Diena Guntis Bojārs, recalling something Viesturs Koziols once said to him.

During a meeting of the parliamentary investigative committee on 27 November, Bojārs said that Aivars Lembergs, Ainārs Šlesers and Andris Šķēle all had a go at manipulating public opinions. He said: «Viesturs Koziols, who owned Diena newspaper shares, called me once to his office and said: ‘What are you writing down there? Lembergs called, cursing and demanding to know what you’re doing’.»

Andrejs Judins asked Bojārs: «My question is this – were there any attempts and desire to manipulate public opinions? How effective that was is a different story.»

Full article here

GROWTH: Reizniece-Ozola applies for Eurogroup president’s post

Latvian Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola has officially applied for the post of president of Eurogroup, as confirmed by the minister.

The minister submitted her application and motivation letter today. Names of all applicants will be published on 1 December. The vote will take place on Monday, 4 December.

Reizniece-Ozola says she decided to become a candidate because during talks with colleagues from other countries she heard many compliments to Latvia as an example for compliance with fiscal discipline. Also the finance minister is confident that representation in such an important institution would improve Baltic States’ representation on Europe’s political map.

Finance Minister says there are many challenges ahead in the finance field. This includes matters associated with economic and monetary union. «There is a lot left to do,» added Reizniece-Ozola.

She refrained from predicting the possible election results. The minister admits that the decision will likely be made by the largest parties represented in the European Parliament – European People’s Party and Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats.

Full article here

DECLINE: Some politicians involved in ‘oligarchs case’ remain active in Latvia’s political life

«Having worked intensely with materials of the oligarchs case, I have come to the conclusion that rumours about state capture attempts in Latvia are true. KNAB has created a very large case that includes materials that confirm suspicions about illegal acts, and also points to intentional abuse of official power by certain politicians,» Saeima deputy Andrejs Judins comments the situation.

The deputy says that it has been found out in the ongoing investigation that not all people whose activities who hold important information were interviewed by KNAB. Investigators did not use all opportunities available to them to gain evidence. State capture is not a term included in the Criminal Law. Nevertheless, it is associated with certain activities that are punishable by law.

He also adds that publication of certain documents does align with public interests. «This case is not just about what happened six years ago – it is also associated with modern state administration,» says Judins.

Full article here

OPINION: democracy cannot exist if the majority stays silent

«76 years ago this day marked one of the biggest tragedies in Latvia’s history, when Jewish residents in Latvia were mass-executed in Rumbula. In commemoration of victims, we must make sure something like that never happens again,» says member of European Parliament Artis Pabriks.

Full article here

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

In July, Latvia’s inflation rate was higher than the average in Europe and Eurozone, according to data published by Eurostat.

Presence of Latvian milk reduces, whereas presence of imported milk increases in Latvia

The proportion of milk produced in Latvia is starting to lose to imported milk, as concluded by Central Union of Latvian Dairy Farmers chairman Jānis Šolks.

Seven previously convicted candidates crossed from Saeima election lists

On Friday, 17 August, the Central Election Commission decided to cross out seven previously convicted deputy candidates. The decision regarding one more candidate has been postponed until the next meeting, as confirmed by the commission.

Aspiring prosecutors «drop out» in tests – half of contenders fail second stage of tests

Approximately half of aspiring prosecutor candidates has failed the second portion of tests for general and judicial knowledge.

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

Riga International Airport concluded the first half-year of 2018 with turnover increase of 13% when compared to the same period of 2017, according to the airport’s unaudited and shortened account for the six-month period before 30 June 2018.

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

Latvia’s State Chancellery has announced an open personnel selection process for the post of director of State Revenue Service. Application submission process will last until 14 September.

CEC to decide on four candidates’ possible relation to KGB

Latvia’s Central Election Commission has received results of investigations of all 13th Saeima election candidates from Interior Affairs Ministry’s Information Centre and Latvian Centre for the Documentation of the Consequences of Totalitarianism.

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

Political party Concord will have to include in its 13th Saeima pre-election campaign expenditures the money spent by one of its candidates on distributing bread to pensioners free of charge in a kebab café in Bolderāja, as reported by TV3 news.

Weekends expected to be warm and at times hot in Latvia

On Friday, 17 August, the sky will partially cloudy again in Latvia, but no major precipitation is expected. Fog may form is certain regions at night thanks to slow wind speed. Maximum air temperature is expected to be around +22° C… +26° C. Night-time air temperature will stay at +11° C… +16° C, as reported by State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Latvia’s State Audit requests additional funding to invest in workers

State Audit has requested additional funds in next year’s budget to invest in employees, as head of the institution Elita Krūmiņa mentioned in an interview to Latvijas Radio.

Nearly half of children born in Latvia in 2017 were delivered by mothers with higher education

20,828 children were born in Latvia in 2017. Almost half of them were born to mothers having higher education. Out of the total number of newborn children mothers, 7,229 or 34.7 % had acquired upper secondary general or vocational education and 2,775 or 13.3 % had basic education or lower.

«Steel Magnolia» named Lithuania's most influential politician for fourth consecutive year

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė, dubbed as «Steel Magnolia» by foreign press, remains the most influential politician in the country for the fourth consecutive year. In two separate polls, one by the popular ratings magazine Reitingai and the other by pollster Spinter Tyrimai, she appeared on top, being followed by Saulius Skvernelis, Prime Minister, Ramūnas Karbauskis, the leader of the ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union (LFGU), Valdas Adamkus, ex-president, and Vytautas Landsbergis, Lithuania's first post-independence leader.

Ex-director: Rundale Castle Museum should be managed with the same ideals as before

In the years to come Rundale Castle Museum should be managed with the same ideals as before, says the soon ex-director of the museum Imants Lancmanis, who intends to retire at the end of this year.

Star Rating determines the best schools in Latvia

According to the 2018 Star Rating, Riga State Gymnasium No.1 remains in the lead among Latvia’s schools. Daugavpils Russian Secondary School – Lyceum is second, and Riga State Gymnasium No.2 is third.

ABLV Bank assets worth EUR 21.052 million were recovered in July

Liquidators of ABLV Bank have recovered assets worth EUR 21.052 million in July. This includes EUR 11.602 million recovered from issued loans, EUR 7.644 million from recovered/sold securities, EUR 1,792 million from loans provided to credit institutions, and EUR 14,000 from sales of real estate and other types of property, according to the account published in Latvian Herald.

Concerns over Turkish crisis cause world stock market decline

Stock prices around the world took a massive dive on Wednesday, 15 August, as concerns over Turkish crisis’ possible influence and investors’ attempts to get rid of risky assets surfaced again.

Election commission receives word some candidates’ possible non-compliance with the law

Latvia’s Central Election Commission has received information regarding possible non-compliance of multiple deputy candidates with requirements of the Saeima Election Law, says CEC chairman Arnis Cimdars.

African swine fever found in domestic pigs in Saldus; inspectors investigate illness in Unguri

African swine fever has been found in domestic pigs in Saldus Country’s Zaņa Parish. The infection was found in four domestic pigs. It cannot be excluded that ASF may have entered SIA Druvas Unguri farm’s pig enclosure along with sawdust or cars, as reported by Food and Veterinary Service Public Relations Office manager Ilze Meistere.

Lithuania lays symbolic rail on restored Mažeiķi–Reņģe railway line

Lithuania’s Lietuvos geležinkeliai railway company’s director general Mantas Bartuška and Polish oil concern Orlen manager Daniel Obatjek laid a symbolic rail on the restored railway route connecting Orlen Lithuania owned Mažeiķi oil processing plant in Lithuania and Reņģi in Latvia this Tuesday, 14 August.

Unemployment level in Latvia down to 7.7% in Q2 2018

In Q2 2018 Latvian unemployment rate constituted 7.7 %. Compared to the previous quarter, unemployment rate fell by 0.5 percentage points, while over the year it dropped by 1.2 percentage points.

Saeima approves stricter requirements for fast loans

On Tuesday, 14 August, Saeima’s Economic Committee supported in the second reading amendments to the Consumer Rights Protection Law. The legislative draft states that total loan costs that exceed 0.07% a day from the loan amount are unacceptable and non-compliant with good practice, as reported by Saeima press-service.

Noord Natie develops a new business niche – attracts cruise ships for Ventspils

The first of the cruise ships attracted from SIA Noord Natie Ventspils Terminals will arrive at Ventspils port this week. NNVT stresses that development of cruise business as a new product will help develop tourism in the city and region, as well as provide a contribution to economic development and raise recognition of NNVT terminal and the city.

Culture Ministry announces open contest for post of director of Rundale Castle Museum

Latvia’s Culture Ministry invites contenders to apply for participation in an open contest for the post of director of Rundale Castle Museum. Contenders can submit their applications before 14 September.

Lithuania’s Central Bank to assess information about Latvian VIA SMS Group

Lithuania’s Central Bank has promised to assess information regarding Latvian VIA SMS Group working in the country. This decision is a reaction to the statement made by Seimas National Security and Defence Committee member Arvydas Anušauskas that people associated with former Parex Banka owners work in that company.

Small wineries in Latvia will be allowed to use only local products

Members of Saeima’s Economic, Agricultural, Environmental and Regional Policy Committee supported amendments to the Handling of Alcoholic Beverages Law, stating that small breweries will be allowed to use products grown only in Latvia.

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