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Monday 23.07.2018 | Name days: Magda, Magone, Mērija
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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

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Week in Lithuania. Liberals ex-leader fails to recover confiscated cash

Eligijus Masiulis, a former Liberal Movement leader on trial in a major political corruption case, has failed to recover cash that was found and seized during searches of his home.

BNN summary of the week: open presidential election in Latvia and no more plastic bags for shoppers

BNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Future; Change; Fight; Decline; Business; Progress.

SRS: cash register reform still stagnates, but has become much faster than it was last year

The cash registers reform continues stagnating. However, it has become much faster than it was a year ago, as reported by State Revenue Service.

Specialists to search for solutions to topical environmental problems in Ventspils

On Friday, 20 July, a meeting was held between Ventspils Commercial Port representatives and specialists from State Environment Service.

Children with functional disorders to receive services financed by EU funds

Child invalids will have access to social services intended to improve their social skills and mobility. More than EUR 4.2 million has been allocated for this goal from the European Social Fund, as confirmed by Latvia’s Central Financing and Contracting Agency.

Producer price level in industry up 4.3% in Latvia

Compared to June 2017, the average level of producer prices in Latvian industry increased by 4.3 % in June 2018. Prices of products sold on the domestic market rose by 4.8 % and those of exported products by 3.7 %.

Total tax debts in Latvia in July – 1.212 billion euros

At the beginning of July total tax debts in Latvia, including outstanding debts, halted debts and debts applied with repayment term extensions, accounted for EUR 1.212 billion, which is 0.8% less than a month prior, according to data from the State Revenue Service.

Survey: every third Latvian resident has received illegal loan offers

Nearly every third resident in Latvia or 31% of respondents admit having received offers to use illegal loan services, as concluded in a survey performed by Latvian Alternative Financial Services Association and SKDS.

Libya opposed to EU's idea to establish migrant centres in North Africa

Libya is against the solution of the European Union to set up migrant centres in the North African country as a means to keep migrants from arriving in the bloc and Libya would not be convinced with financial support, its Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj has noted.

Arrest warrant on Catalan ex-President cancelled by Spain

The Supreme Court of Spain cancelled a European arrest warrant for former Catalan regional leader Carles Puigdemont, as Germany refused to extradite him to face accusations of rebellion for declaring the independence of Spain's region, Catalonia in 2017.

Latvian government plans to allow handing expired food to charity

Latvia’s Agriculture Ministry has prepared amendments to the Law on the Supervision of the Handling of Food that provide permission to hand over certain types of food products to charity after the end of their expiry date.

Estonian industrial producer prices up 2.9% since June 2017

Estonian industrial producer price index has risen by 2.9% between June 2017 and the first summer month this year, resulting in an increase of export prices as well, Estonian statisticians have estimated.

Putin urges NATO to quit «irresponsibly» developing ties with Ukraine, Georgia

Russia's President Vladimir Putin cautioned NATO against developing deeper relations with Ukraine and Georgia, evaluating such a policy was irresponsible and would have consequences for the military alliance.

Latvian parliament not in a hurry to support president Vejonis for a second term

Political parties represented in the Saeima are not eager to support President Raimonds Vējonis for his remainder for a second term.

Weather in Latvia will remain warm and even hot at times

Weather in Latvia in the nearest couple of days will be dictated by a cyclone. Because of that the sky will be partially covered by clouds; thunderstorms are also expected, as reported by State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Hungary sued in EU Court for criminalising help to illegal immigrants

The European Union's executive body has stated that a law in Hungary that criminalises support for illegal immigrants is in breach with EU law and Hungary has now been referred to the European Court of Justice for the alleged non-compliance.

Estonians buy alcohol in Latvia; country loses EUR 20 million in six months

Latvian stores located close to the Latvian-Estonian border have sold 1.6 million litres of strong alcoholic drinks in the first half year of 2019. This means Estonia has lost more than EUR 20 million in taxes, according to data from Association of Estonian Alcohol Producers and Importers.

Lithuania’s election watchdog slams ruling LFGU over popular TV series

Political messages can be channeled in various ways and the ruling now Lithuanian party, LFGU has chosen a very delicate way of the communications – through a TV series featuring the beauty and the ambiance of Naisiai, a picturesque settlement in Siauliai district.

Association: around 3,3000 people know of their HIV infection but receive no treatment

HIV remains a serious problem in Latvia – around 3,300 people are aware of their status but receive no treatment and continue spreading the infection. Because of that, it is necessary to act quickly for Latvia to lose its status as HIV kingdom and limit the spread of the infection, says Baltic HIV Association, informing decision-makers and responsible officials in institutions and hospitals about the HIV/AIDS situation.

Driver shortage may force reduction of international road haulage volumes

Latvia’s road haulage companies have started experiencing shortage of drivers. On top of that, if employment conditions for residents of non-EU member states do not change, it may be necessary to reduce the volume of road haulage volumes, says Latvijas auto president Valdis Trēziņš.

Lattelecom’s turnover up 9% in first half-year of 2018

Lattelecom Group’s turnover reached EUR 98.7 million in the first half-year of 2018, growing by 9% in comparison with the same period of 2017, according to unaudited financial results.

1,140 fewer births registered in Latvia in 2017

Since 2016 the number of births in Latvia is declining again. Compared to 2016, a total of 1,140 births fewer were registered in 2017. Also, the provisional number of births registered over the first six months of 2018 (9,664 children) is by 664 children smaller than that registered over the respective period of 2017.

Citadele Bank decides to reform Lithuanian subsidiary as a branch office

Citadele Bank has decided to reform its Lithuanian subsidiary as a branch office, as confirmed in the statement the bank submitted to Nasdaq Riga.

Russian pension age hike discussed amid protest outside Duma

As the Russian paliament votes on the proposal to gradually increase he pension age to 65 for men and 63 for women, some 200 people were seen protesting against the reform in Moscow.

Corruption watchdog chief says bureau has done no illegal actions

After going through Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau’s past investigative activities, the bureau’s chief – Jēkabs Straume – found it confusing that officers often took no appropriate actions after acquiring evidence or receiving indications regarding necessary steps.

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