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Monday 19.11.2018 | Name days: Liza, Līze, Elizabete, Betija
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BNN summary of the week: parties’ illegal donations, Rubesa’s future

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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: change; fight; decline; growth; criticism; opinion; injustice.

CHANGE: prices in stores have to reduce more rapidly

Current market analysis shows that certain retail traders have followed Maxima Latvia’s performed price decline at the beginning of the year by creating changes to prices of certain products. Still, higher activity is expected from industry players, company representatives say.

«Although previously we predicted a price decline of 15%, the current analysis shows that market players have responded slowly so far. As demonstrated by a number of studies, the price aspect is very important to Latvian residents. Rapid development of technologies and innovations, which goes hand in hand with efforts to make processes more efficient, allows us to make offers to fit their expectations. Perhaps other market players still have a lot of homework left to do,» says Maxima Latvia corporate relations department’s director Jānis Beseris.

Full article here

FIGHT: Lithuanian and Estonian prime ministers have no plans to discuss Rubesa’s future

Before Latvian Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis’ proposal, Lithuanian and Estonian prime ministers had no prior plans to discuss the future of RB Rail chairperson Baiba Rubesa after the vote in which their country’s shareholders voted in favour of her dismissal, as BNS was told by representatives of both officials.

«Nothing of the sort is planned at this time,» the agency was told by Estonian government’s representative Trīna Opi, answering the question as to whether or not Jüri Ratas has any plans to discuss this matter with his other Baltic colleagues. «As far as I know, they have yet to communicate on this matter,» she added.

Opi reminds that the three Baltic prime ministers have a meeting scheduled for 8th and 9th March in Vilnius. It is unknown, however, what they plan to discuss.

Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis’ advisor Deivids Matuļonis told BNS that no extraordinary meeting of Baltic prime ministers is planned for the near future. Basically, he said, this matter is in the hands of the company.

Full article here

DECLINE: Corruption watchdog spots prohibited donations in Latvian political parties’ expenditures

After checking declarations and pre-election campaigns of political parties in Latvia, authorities have found no records regarding EUR 80,592 in election expenditures and EUR 37,857 in restricted donations, according to data from the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (CPCB).

Last year, political parties spent a total of EUR 2.7 million in municipal election expenditures. Approximately half of this amount was spent on different advertisements. The largest expenses were for advertisements on radio, magazines, newspapers and other publications, as well as public locations.

19 parties and their associations stated false information in their declarations, avoiding declaration of finances worth EUR 80,592. The largest amount was ‘omitted’ by For Latvia’s Development – EUR 34,394.

Among the 19 parties in question are political forces like the Union of Greens and Farmers, Latvian Farmers Union, Latvian Green Party, Unity, Latvian Association of Regions, New Conservative party, Harmony, and the National Alliance.

CPCB has found that six parties accepted restricted donations from legal persons worth a total of EUR 37,857. Union of Greens and Farmers and the National Alliance are especially guilty of this. Those donations now have to be paid back to the state budget.

Full article here

GROWTH: Tax burden comparison in Baltics: Latvia remains in the lead

Although the massive tax reform has brought about considerable innovations in tax legislation, Latvia remains the country with the highest labour force tax burden among Baltic States, as concluded in a comparison performed by Swedbank’s Institute for Finances.

Latvia’s tax policy is neither employer nor employee friendly, as it creates the highest costs per worker among Baltic States.

What will 2018 bring taxpayers in Baltics?

Swedbank analysts say that 2018 has brought many changes to Latvia’s legislation. Because of that, employers and employees have a lot to ponder. In an attempt to reduce social inequality, minimum wages have been increased (from EUR 380 to EUR 430), non-taxable minimum application and calculation principle (from EUR 60 to EUR 115 last year and from 0 to 200 euros this year). This year has also seen introduction of a progressive PIT rate (from 23% to 20%, 23% or 31.4% depending on income). In accordance with changes brought about by the reform, benefits for dependents have been increased (from 175 euros to 200 euros), as have rates for state social insurance fees (from 10.5% to 11% for employees and from 23.59% to 24.09% for employers).

Tax changes have been noticed in Latvia’s neighbouring countries – Lithuania and Estonia. Compared with Latvia, similarly large changes have been registered in Estonia, whereas changed in Lithuania have been more moderate. For example, minimal wage in Lithuania has been increased by 20 euros (from 380 to 400 euros), whereas in Estonia the increase was 30 euros (from 470 euros to 500 euros). More considerable changes in Estonia are associated with a major increase of non-taxable minimum from 180 euros to 500 euros. Similarly to Latvia and Lithuania, it is differentiated based on income. In Lithuania, non-taxable minimum amount has grown and its maximum amount reaches 380 euros a month instead of 310 euros.

Full article here

CRITICISM: Minister criticizes state child care institutions’ funding system

It would be worth considering a change of funding models for child care institutions to make funding independent of the number of clients and prevent the interest  towards sending children from one institution to another based solely on available funding, says Latvian Welfare Minister Jānis Reirs in an interview to Rīta panorama on Thursday, 8 February.

The minister says that the least socially protected children in Latvia are subjected to a «carousel system». This system revolves around putting children in orphanages that receive state funding for each child. However, orphanages can send children away to boarding schools and still continue receiving funding. Boarding schools are also paid state funding. In addition, the boarding school, while being provided with funding for each child, can also send youngsters to psycho-neurological hospitals for treatment. The hospitals are also paid funding from Healthcare Ministry. With such a funding system, institutions are not motivated to do any actual work with children, rather just send them away and still receive money for them, the minister explains.

Full article here

OPINION: after euphoria from economic growth, countries should prepare for sudden drop

The global economy is pushing forward with confidence. Optimism is noticed in all countries considered to be the engines behind the global economy. This trend will create a positive vector in Latvia as well. We can expect a rise in wages, reduction of unemployment and growing export indexes in the near future.

However, it is highly important to prepare for an unavoidable period of economic decline, which always follows up periods of rapid economic growth, as concluded in SEB Bank’s latest Nordic Outlook.

«Last year, Baltic States demonstrated stable economic growth, which relied largely on good export results. This year’s GDP growth will continue at a healthy rate, largely thanks to active consumption and beneficial situation on export markets. The largest problem is associated with the tense situation with the labour market, which could limit potential growth. Latvia’s GDP outlook is 4.1% for 2018, whereas outlooks for Lithuania and Estonia are 3.2% and 3.5%, respectively,» says SEB Bank’s macroeconomic expert Dainis Gašpuitis.

«Although perspectives are positive for the next two years, it is important to consider preparations for the inevitable decline,» adds the economist.

Full article here

INJUSTICE: Riga Mayor refuses to comment on investigation regarding free Bi-2 concert

Chairman of Riga City Council Nils Ušakovs has decided not to comment on the investigation launched by Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (CPCB) regarding possible misuse of administrative resources on pre-election promotion, which took place before the last municipal elections when a free concert featuring famous Russian Bi-2 band was organized in Lucavsala, said the politician’s press-secretary Laila Ivāna.

The mayor was asked if he has been asked to come to CPCB to provide comments, and if he would be ready to pay back the money used on the concert if authorities find violations and decide that the money has to be paid back.

Ušakovs’ advisor emphasized that until CPCB has finished its inspection, he will not provide any comments.

As it is known, CPCB has commenced an administrative violation case in relation to the aforementioned concert. CPCB Political Organizations Funding Monitoring Office manager Amīlija Jaunskunga explains that investigators continue going through evidence and interviewing involved persons.

«Administrative responsibility for misuse of administrative resources is intended for persons who use state or municipal resources to finance pre-election promotion. We have commenced administrative cases against officials who made decisions on using administrative resources on pre-election promotion,» said Jaunskunga.

Full article here

Ref: 224.109.109.2409


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Week in Lithuania. Lithuanian government approves rules for paying whistleblowers

The Lithuanian government approved on Wednesday, November 14, rules for financially rewarding people who provide the authorities with valuable information on illegal activities.

BNN summary of the week: government formation in Latvia, Brexit plans, and Latvia’s 100th birthday

If someone hoped to see Latvia compile a government before the national holiday, they are going to be disappointed – three parties have decided to exit government formation talks headed by New Conservative Party. NCP’s prime minister candidate Jānis Bordāns receive criticism for having too ambitious and expensive goals. NCP, on the other hand, says parties did not try to study the party’s offers.

PUC commences dispute between AS Gaso and natural gas consumer

On Friday, 16 November, Public Utilities Commission decided to commence a dispute procedure between a natural gas consumer and AS Gaso in regards to natural gas supplies, as confirmed by the commission.

Latvian parties continue informal talks while next prime minister is being picked

While President Raimonds Vējonis is busy picking the next prime minister candidate, politicians of different parties are performing informal consultations. No official consultations are currently planned.

UN's global migration compact stirs up Estonia's calm politics

The Estonian government has taken a long time to reach a unanimous position on the United Nation's Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. This has been criticised by Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid, who has to attend a conference in favour of the document in Morocco in December.

Latvian authorities detain CityCommerce Bank co-owner accused of embezzlement

Reinis Tumovs, co-owner of Ukrainian CityCommerce Bank, has been detained in Latvia. He is suspected of embezzling nearly UAH 300 million (EUR 9.5 million), as confirmed by Ukrainian National Police Economy Protection Department on Thursday, 15 November.

Russia ordered to pay damages for Navalny's political arrests by human rights court

Russia has been ordered by the European Court of Human Rights to repay 64 000 euros in damages and costs for politically-motivated arrests of Russian anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny.

Latvian president to consider Gobzems and Pabriks as perspective prime minister candidates

As parties’ efforts to form a new government continue, Latvia’s President Raimonds Vējonis plans to consider two new prime minister candidates – KPV LV leader Aldis Gobzems and Attīstībai/Par! candidate Artis Pabriks.

EC wants to reduce funding for supplies of fruits, vegetables and milk to schools

European Commission’s proposed regulation on organization of agriculture products market provides for reducing EU funding for the support programme on provision of fruits, vegetables and milk for schools by EUR 29.2 million or the same as United Kingdom’s share.

Genocide verdicts handed to Khmer Rouge leaders in Cambodia

In Cambodia, the two most senior living leaders of the Khmer Rouge Communist regime have been found guilty of their role in the atrocities that resulted in the deaths of at least 1.7 million in Cambodia between 1977 and 1979.

Latvian parties pick candidates to work in Saeima committees

Parties elected to the 13th Saeima have picked representatives to work in the parliament’s standing committees. Final decision will be made 20 November. Harmony may be represented by deputies Nikolajs Kabanovs and Jānis Tutins in Saeima’s Foreign Affairs Committee. Attīstībai/Par! has picked Artis Pabriks, and Union of Greens and Farmers has picked Uldis Augulis.

EU leaders: No appetite for renegotiating Brexit deal

EU leaders have dismissed talk of renegotiating the draft Brexit deal and warned the UK's political situation could make a «no-deal» more likely.

Some rain expected for Latvia’s centenary; cold snap expected next week

The sky will become clear every now and then. Still, some rain is expected for the country’s centenary. Wet snow is expected in the country’s eastern regions. It will be dry in the country for the most part next week, as reported by Latvian State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Latvian ministry plans to form Media Ethics Council and develop Latvian Media Ethics Code

Culture Ministry has proposed forming Media Ethics Council. The majority of institutions of the media industry have started working on a self-regulatory council and development of a Single Latvian Media Ethics Code, as reported by the ministry’s public relations office manager Lita Kokale.

Harmony picks representatives in Saeima’s committees

Nikolajs Kabanovs and Jānis Tutins may become Harmony’s representatives in Saeima’s Foreign Affairs Committee, whereas Valērijs Agešins may become the party’s representative in the National Security Committee.

Lithuania’s corruption buster: firms donating to hospitals stand better chance in tenders

The majority of the winners of the tenders organised by major Lithuanian hospitals have expressed their gratitude to the health providers by making donations to them in the form of financial support.

Employment level in Latvia reached 65.3% in Q3 2018

920.1 thousand people or 65.3 % of Latvia population aged 15–74 were employed in Q3 2018. Over the year, employment rate grew by 1.7 percentage points and number of employed persons by 17.2 thousand.

Unemployment level in Latvia was 7% in Q3 2018

In Q3 2018 Latvian unemployment rate constituted 7.0 %. Compared to the previous quarter, unemployment rate fell by 0.7 percentage points, while over the year by 1.5 percentage points.

AS PKL Flote enforces EUR 1.35 million from Riga Freeport authority in court

The Department of Civil Cases of the Supreme Court has ruled that the verdict of Riga Regional Court – one that penalized Riga Freeport authority for breach of Competition Law against PKL Flote – was correct. Now Riga Freeport has ten days, starting with 13 November, to pay the company EUR 1.35 million to cover damages caused by this violation, BNN was told by PKL Flote board chairman Sergejs Odincovs.

British government loses two more members; EU sets date for Brexit summit

In the UK government, Brexit minister Dominic Raab and Northern Ireland's junior minister have resigned in disagreement with the country's draft withdrawal agreement with the EU, already passed by the government.

Saeima deputy: data protection regulation will not protect «KGB associates»

Documents detailing KGB workers’ names, nationality, work place, participation in the Communist party are not covered by the Personal Data Protection Regulation, stresses Saeima deputy Ritvars Jansons from the National Alliance ‘All for Latvia’ – ‘For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK’.

EP: Moldova and Georgia should continue initiated reforms

Members of the European Parliament welcome the reforms Georgia has commenced. At the same time, Moldova was criticized for its worsened state of democracy and rule of law, as reported by EP press-secretary in Latvia Signe Znotiņa-Znota.

Germany economy shrinks for first time in three years

Germany economy has contracted by 0.2% in the third quarter of 2018, a first such result in the largest economy of the European Union in over three years.

Latvian president gives parties holiday break to continue talks

Latvian President Raimonds Vējonis calls off nomination of NCP candidate Jānis Bordāns to for government. Talks regarding the next prime minister candidate will continue after the state holiday.

Ireland satisfied with Brexit draft deal in every priority

The government of Ireland has stated that draft withdrawal agreement between Irish neighbour, the UK, and the European Union, Dublin had achieved a satisfying result in all its priorities, also regarding the border on the island of Ireland.

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