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Ceturtdiena 09.04.2020 | Name days: Valērija, Žubīte
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BNN summary of the week: One path only. A lot of work. Postponed elections

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Latvia, Covid-19, coronavirus, Latvian Railway, snap elections, KPV LV, Jānis Vitenbergs, Altum, state support, Juta Strīķe, KNAB, Swedbank, labour, Riga, recommended While at the beginning of the week there were only 30 confirmed Covid-19 infection cases in Latvia, by the end of the week the number had reached a three-digit number. In every press statement, Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš and other government representatives thank doctors, police officers and all residents for complying with security measures and staying home to limit the spread of the virus, stressing that self-isolation is the only path towards further limiting the spread of the virus.

It should be noted that the total number of deaths caused by Covid-19 in Italy had exceeded the number of deaths in China this week.

While culture workers and artists actively use and promote online services to let people access entertainment from homes, Latvia’s State Police continue reporting about people who breach restrictions on public gatherings. Even on social networks every now and then there are angry reports from residents about people breaching measures. Others, meanwhile, share their experiences at home and work, spending the most of their time at home, organizing their shopping differently than usual and helping neighbours with their shopping.

The coronavirus forces the government to work on development of a state support system for the people who are unable to secure profits because of the virus. The current amount of state support for the compensation of Covid-19 damages has reached more than two billion euros.

Because of the coronavirus talks have also commenced on postponing Riga City Council elections from 25 April to 6 June.

Political party KPV LV has also picked a candidate for the post of economy minister of Latvia. The party has picked Saeima deputy Jānis Vitenbergs. There have been no further talks about his approval.

The week also came with sad news, too. Saeima deputy from the New Conservative Party, the former vice-chief of the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau Juta Strīķe has passed away.

BNN gives you a summary of the key events of the past week, told in news stories of the following topics: State of Emergency; Funeral; Flaws; A Lot of Work; Request; Proposal; Post.

STATE OF EMERGENCY

State support for Covid-19 damage reduction reaches more than two billion euros in Latvia

Covid-19, Finance Ministry, coronavirus, tax holiday, Saeima, important, government, state supportLatvia’s state support to reduce the negative effects caused by the spread of the coronavirus Covid-19 has reached more than two billion euros, says Finance Minister Jānis Reirs.

According his estimates, the country’s planned support for the reduction of Covid-19 crisis has grown from the initial one billion euros to two billion euros.

The government’s proposal on idleness support for companies and employees affected by the crisis approved on Thursday, 19 March, will cost the state roughly EUR 60 to EUR 200 million if the decision is made to expand the range of eligible industries.

Additionally, the government also supported the proposal to restore Altum guarantee programmes, making them open for any company, including those not affected by Covid-19.

Read more here

FUNERAL

Saeima deputy and ex-KNAB vice chief Juta Strīķe has passed away

18 March, passed away, JKP, Juta Strīķe, important

Juta Strīķe

On Wednesday, 18 March, the head of Latvian Saeima’s Legal Affairs Committee and ex-vice chief of the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) Juta Strīķe passed away after battling an illness, as confirmed by New Conservative Party (JKP) and Justice Minister Jānis Bordāns.

The minister and all members of JKP extend their deepest sympathy to Strīķe’s relatives.

«She was a person of unparalleled patriotism, and everyone who knew her loved her,» says Bordāns.

The minister also confirmed her death is not related to the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

Strīķe was born in 1970. She gained recognition for her work in KNAB.

Read more here

FLAWS

Sweden’s Swedbank receives a fine of EUR 360 million

topical, FKTK, money laundering, fine, Swedbank, Swedbank SwedenSweden’s Swedbank has been applied with a fine of EUR 360 million for problems with its internal control system and management, as reported by the bank.

At the same time, the bank notes the conclusions of the bank’s supervisors in Sweden and Estonia about historic problems with Swedbank’s internal control system and management are in line with the bank’s previous conclusions. Swedbank will pay the EUR 360 million fine to the Swedish regulator.

Regulators in Sweden and Estonia have requested the bank to continue improving money laundering and terrorism financing risk prevention, determination and analysis capabilities, as well as improve organizational structure and increase accessible resources.

The investigation in Sweden concluded that Swedbank has had serious problems with money laundering risk management in its Baltic branch offices. The bank’s awareness of money laundering and processes, methods and control systems was insufficient. Operations in Baltic States were not applied with adequate resources to fight money laundering, as mentioned in the inspection.

Read more here

A LOT OF WORK

Average number of vacant jobs in Latvia up 28.1% in 2019

vacant jobs, CSP, jobs, work, Latvia, statisticsIn 2019 there were 29.1 thousand job vacancies in Latvia, which is 6.4 thousand vacancies or 28.1 % more than in 2018. In public sector there were 8.3 thousand and in private sector 20.9 thousand job vacancies.

Over the year, the number of job vacancies in private sector grew by 5 thousand or 31.2 %, while in public sector – by 1.4 thousand or 21.1 %, according to data from the Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia.

Out of the total number of jobs in Latvia (both occupied and vacant), 3.1 % were vacant – 2.8 % of which in public sector and 3.2 % in private sector.

Compared to 2018, the average number of occupied posts increased by 9.0 thousand or 1.0 % with an increase of 9.7 thousand or 1.6 % in private sector and decrease of 0.7 thousand or 0.2 % in public sector in 2019.

Read more here

REQUEST

Latvian Railway requests EUR 40.8 million from state budget to finance operations

freight volume decline, Latvian Railway, LDz, Māris Kleinbergs, transports, market, state support, equal conditionsLatvian Railway (LDz) requires EUR 25 million from Latvia’s state budget to balance finances in 2020 and EUR 15.8 million to compensate ineligible costs for public transport services this year, says LDz representative Ella Pētermane.

She explains that 2019 was complicated for Latvia’s transport and transit industry on a global and regional level. Different external factors have caused a decline of freight volumes. This situation has had a major impact on Latvia’s entire transport industry. It had the most serious effect on the companies working in the transit sector, including LDz.

Even in the first two months of 2020 freight tendencies, as well as shocks to the global and regional economies have shown the situation with freight volumes is unlikely to improve or may even become worse, LDz explains.

«Therefore, although it is in the interests of Latvia’s national economy to maintain the operations of the railway network in full, in spite of last year’s adopted strict cost optimization and work efficiency raising activities, LDz will not be able to implement the 2020 finance balancing requirements because revenue has reduced so significantly that it is no longer possible to cover the costs that have already been reduced to the lowest possible level without putting at risk the quality of railway infrastructure and safety,» adds the company.

Read more here

PROPOSAL

Latvian government supports postponing Riga City Council’s snap elections until 6 June

topical, Central Election Commission, Covid-19, 6 June, CVK, coronavirus, postponed elections, Riga City Council, government, VARAMLatvia’s Cabinet of Ministers decided to support Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry’s proposal to postpone Riga City Council snap elections until 6 June.

Considering the state of emergency in the country and the prohibition for public events, in the interest of public health and to reduce the risk of Covid-19 spreading, VARAM has proposed postponing the snap elections in Riga until June.

In the Saeima’s approved Riga City Council Dismissal Law it is mentioned that the election of the city council is to take place on the first Saturday two months after the coming into force of the law. In accordance with the decision made by the Central Election Commission (CVK), the date for snap elections of Riga City Council was originally set for 25 April. The first instance court had also decided that the date was picked mistakenly and that elections should take place a week later.

Read more here

POST

KPV LV picks Jānis Vitenbergs as its candidate for economy minister’s post

Atis Zakatistovs, economy minister, Economy Ministry, Jānis Vitenbergs, KPV LV, Mārtiņš Krieķis, Olainfarm, Pāvels Rebenoks, associates, Ralfs Nemiro

Jānis Vitenbergs

Representatives of KPV LV political party have decided to pick Saeima’s National Economy, Agriculture, Environment and Regional Policy Committee chairman Jānis Vitenbergs as its candidate for the post of economy minister of Latvia.

On Monday, 16 March, KPV LV party members gathered to discuss the situation with Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš’s invitation to pick a new candidate for the aforementioned post.

As previously reported, the Constitution Protection Bureau has decided to annul Latvian Economy Minister Ralfs Nemiro’s permit to access official secrets.

Vitenbergs had previously notes – if he is offered the post of economy minister, he would consider it.

Read more here


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EU Court: Poland has to reform disciplinary body in its Supreme Court

The European Court of Justice has called on Poland to stop the operation of the Disciplinary Panel of the Polish Supreme court to separate it from the influence of the parliament and government, British public broadcaster BBC reports.

Riga’s administrators reserve EUR 13.87 million to battle COVID-19

During the approval of the city’s 2020 budget, Riga’s interim administrators decided to increase Riga’s reserve fund’s volume to EUR 13.87 million.

US presidential election set to be battle between Biden and Trump

In the US, Senator Bernie Sanders has left the fight for the presidential candidate nomination from the Democratic Party. He has left ex-Vice President Joe Biden the only contender for the nomination and the rival to President Donald Trump in the 2020 US presidential election, American news agency AP reports.

EUR 45.5 million to be diverted for support of agriculture in Latvia

To reduce the COVID-19 crisis in agriculture sector Latvia’s government will divert EUR 45.5 million, as agreed by Finance Minister Jānis Reirs’ work group for support of entrepreneurship and employed people on Wednesday, 8 April.

Global number of COVID-19 cases surpasses 1.5 million

Globally, the number of the confirmed infection cases of the novel coronavirus has exceeded 1,5 million, while a total of 329 thousand people are believed to have recovered. US is still the worst affected nation by the number of infections, German public broadcaster DW and American John Hopkins University report.

Reminder: no visits during Easter holiday

The holiday is near and people want to know if they can meet relatives and friends. Latvian Healthcare Ministry reminds – the virus has no holidays. Any private events involving people who do not live together are prohibited.

Court of first instance rejects Ušakovs’ appeal on dismissal as mayor of Riga

On Wednesday, 8 April, the Administrative District Court rejected Harmony politician Nils Ušakovs’ applications in which he appealed the order issued by Environment Protection and Regional Development Minister Juris Pūce on his dismissal from the post of mayor of Riga, as reported by the court.

Latest on COVID-19 in Baltics. 577 in Latvia, 912 in Lithuania, 1 185 in Estonia

The number of COVID-19 infection cases in Latvia has reached 577, increasing by 29 cases in the past day. Lithuanian media, meanwhile, report 912 confirmed infection cases. Public data in Estonia reports 1 185 infection cases in this Baltic State.

Inflation in Republic of Latvia reportedly at 1.4% in March

Compared to March 2019, the average level of consumer prices rose by 1.4 % in March 2020. Prices of goods have increased by 0.9 % and prices of services by 2.7 %.

Lithuania’s BC chief: «Latvia’s COVID-19 support for business has been swifter»

It is official: Lithuania is extending lockdown until April 27 to combat the coronavirus pandemic which death toll in the country stood at 15 as of Wednesday noon. As many as 912 persons were diagnosed with COVID-19 by then.

Lithuania on path to allow price regulation in government

In Lithuania, the majority of legislators in the Seimas, have backed draft amendments that set forth allowing the government to regulate the prices of essential goods during this time of quarantine, Lithuanian public broadcaster LRT reports.

BNN EXPLAINS | Envelope wages – one of the main reasons why idleness benefits may be denied

People need certainty – if they honestly pay taxes, they should be able to receive support from the state in the event of a crisis, since they have taken care of the state all this time by paying taxes, BNN was told in a phone conversation by chairman of LBAS Egils Baldzēns.

Criminal process launched against Aivars Lembergs for defamation

On 7 April 2020 State Police Kurzeme RP Saldus Department’s Criminal Police Office commenced a criminal process against Aivars Lembergs for untrue statements and claims he has used on multiple occasions during meetings of Ventspils City Council and Finance Committee against city council deputy Ģirts Valdis Kristovskis, as BNN was told by Kristovskis.

Latvia’s Prime Minister: we are financially well-situated in this crisis

We are financially well-situated in this crisis, said Latvia’s Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš in an interview to LTV programme Rīta panorama.

Latvian government supports dismissal of State Land Service’s director general

Latvia’s Cabinet of Ministers has supported Justice Ministry’s prepared decision project that details the dismissal of the State Land Service director general Solvitai Zvidriņa from her post, as confirmed by Justice Ministry.

China lifts lockdown in Wuhan

In the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the global pandemic of COVID-19 began, a lockdown has been lifted for the first time since January, British news portal The Guardian reports.

Support in Latvia for COVID-19 crisis prevention reaches four billion euros

The volume of support available in Latvia to finance preventive measures to overcome COVID-19 crisis has reached four billion euros, as reported by Latvian Finance Minister Jānis Reirs on Tuesday, 7 April.

Another month stuck home. Latvian government extends state of emergency

The state of emergency declared in Latvia because of COVID-19 pandemic has been extended until 12 May, as confirmed by Foreign Affairs Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs on social media on 7 April.

75 reports on competition distortions reported to Competition Council in 2019

Last year, the Competition Council received a total of 75 reports related to competition distortions caused by public persons, according to information listed in the latest public account for the institution’s more significant accomplishments in 2019 and developments in competition rights enforcement in Latvia.

Australia quashes child abuse convictions against cardinal Pell

A court in Australia has overturned child sex abuse convictions against cardinal George Pell after he was found guilty and received a prison term, British news portal The Guardian reports.

Education and Science Ministry considers not cancelling centralized exams

Latvia’s Education and Science Ministry considers the option to not cancel centralized exams, especially for 12th graders, as reported on Tuesday, 7 April, by Education Minister Ilga Šuplinska during a meeting with Saeima’s Education, Culture and Science Committee.

Estonian government in two minds on cutting public spending to help economy

Should public spending be cut to help restore the economy? Two of the three parties in the Estonian government have opposing views on this as economic recovery is increasingly discussed, Estonian public broadcaster ERR reports.

Riga International Airport plans to lay off 500 employees

Because of consequences caused by COVID-19, Riga International Airport plans to lay off 500 employees, as BNN was informed by the company.

Poland planning to hold presidential election as postal ballot

The Polish presidential election in May should be held as a postal ballot, the country’s legislators have decided. Opponents of the idea argue that this means putting public health at risk, British-Canadian news agency Reuters reports.

COVID-19 update in Baltics. 548 infected in Latvia, 880 in Lithuania, 1 149 in Estonia

The total number of confirmed coronavirus COVID-19 infection cases in Latvia has reached 548, increasing by six in the past day.


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