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Wednesday 20.03.2019 | Name days: Made, Irbe
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BNN summary of the week: prime minister without solutions; birth rates down; organic food rules

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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; Growth; Business; Assessment; Fight; Future.

CHANGE: Latvia’s reputation worsens in investors’ eyes

In the evaluation of the business environment, Latvia was given 14 points among in a competition with twenty one countries. Latvia received the highest score for the quality of domestic deliveries, labour costs, payment discipline and higher education system.

Latvia’s weak points, on the other hand, include insufficient corruption combating measures, according to results of a study performed by German-Baltic Chamber of Commerce.

Latvia’s score in thirteen criteria out of twenty has become worse than it was a year ago. Investors are especially sceptical about Latvia’s tax system and corruption-combating system. Productivity and state procurements are also given low scores.

Interviewed businessmen are optimistic the most about three factors – state support, vocational education system and availability of specialists. Similar to a year prior, academic higher education and payment discipline remain good.

Such results are from interviews of 78 businesses present in Latvia. A total of 1,698 businessmen took part in the study. Business location-wise, Latvia is put on 6th place among 21 countries. This is one spot higher than the score given to Latvia by local businessmen.

Full article here

GROWTH: Organic food: MEPs support stricter regulations

On Thursday, 19 April, European Parliament approved new requirements and rules for production of high-quality organic food products, as BNN was told by EP Information Office in Latvia.

With 466 votes in favour, 124 votes against, and 50 MEPs abstaining, the European Parliament supported regulations for production and labelling of organic products. Members of the parliament and EU Council had reached an agreement in regards to said regulations last July.

The most notable improvements include strict and risk-based inspections along the entire supply chain. Thanks to the parliament’s pressure, it has been decided that inspections of all stages of food production will be performed at least once a year or once every two years if no violations were discovered in the last three years. In addition, imported products will have to comply with new EU standards. Current rules make non-EU producers to comply with similar standards. The new requirements will replace old ones in the next five years, EP notes.

The European Parliament wants to enhance production of organic food in Europe. This includes a wider offer of organic seeds and organically bred animals. Exceptions for the use of non-organic seeds and animals will be cancelled in 2035. Mixed-type farming: farms that perform traditional and organic farming will be allowed to continue doing that, as long as organic farming is separate from traditional farming. Certification of small farms will be simplified, as noted by EP.

Full article here

BUSINESS: East Capital’s fund buys Galleria Riga shopping centre

Asset-management company East Capital’s real estate fund East Capital Baltic Property Fund III has completed the deal for the purchase of Galleria Riga shopping centre.

Fritrade SE and AS Titan Invest sold the property. All participating sides agreed to keep the price of the deal undisclosed.

Galleria Riga shopping centre was opened in October 2010. The shopping centre has a total area of 24,300 m2 with stable tenants – Rime, fashion brands COS, H&M, SuitSupply, Mango, Reserved, Lloyd and Ecco, as well as a sports club and a restaurant floor.

«Galleria Riga has a unique location in the city centre with excellent operational results and a great potential for future development. We plan to continue developing and increasing property value for our investors,» says East Capital Baltics AS CEO Madis Raidma.

The deal was financed by Swedbank. It was consulted by Vilgerts law firm and Ernst&Young.

East Capital Baltic Property Fund III is a real estate fund formed by East Capital in 2015. It invests in high-quality real estate commercial properties in Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius.

Full article here

ASSESSMENT: Latvian Prime Minister offers no solution for finding additional money for teachers’ wages

Latvia’s Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis is not yet ready to provide any proposals to help resolve the matter regarding the deficit of finances for the planned increase of teachers’ wages in the country. He says there aren’t enough numbers and analysis results to formulate an opinion.

According to Education and Science Minister Kārlis Šadurskis, there might not be enough money to afford the planned increase of wages for teachers next year. He says it is because some municipalities have only formally reorganized their local school networks. Because of that, the expected budget-saving plan will not come through.

Kučinskis told LNT that he has yet to go through Šadurskis’ words and arguments. He says he does not have the numbers and arguments that would help formulate an opinion about wage rise for teachers. The promise given by the government to allocate the same amount gained from municipalities’ school network reorganization to help increase teachers’ wages remains in effect.

The prime minister admits that if the school network in Latvia is made smaller on paper by merging certain schools, it does not help save money. Latvia is ahead of Europe when it comes to education infrastructure costs – there are a lot of schools, but not many students. He expects from Šadurskis a plan to resolve this situation.

Full article here

FIGHT: Unity: there are municipalities, in which heads of administration think they are kings

During their meeting with Latvia’s Environment Protection and Regional Development Minister Kaspars Gerhards, members of Unity’s Saeima faction concluded that there is still a lot of work left on the road towards enhancing democratic principles in municipal administrations.

Unity members urged the minister to immediately cancel the new rules adopted by Riga City Council that limit deputies’ rights to ask questions during meetings, as reported by the party.

«Democracy is a value that cannot be approached on a surface level or selectively. Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry, regardless of opposition deputies’ political beliefs or sympathy, has to ensure compliance with democratic principles in the work performed by municipal administrations and put an end to rules that limit deputies’ rights,» says chairman of Unity’s Saeima faction Hosams Abu Meri.

He says opposition deputies represent a considerable portion of residents. However, after listening to opinions of several municipal deputies, it was concluded that there are municipalities the leaders of which consider themselves kings, ignoring basic principles of democracy and denying deputies the right to represent their voters in an equal manner, says Abu Meri.

«The ministry’s actions in certain cases we consider correct. We should continue active work in order to make sure all municipalities are treated equally,» says the deputy.

Full article here

FUTURE: Birth rates in Latvia down – estimated population around 1 million 925 thousand

Since 2016 birth number in Latvia is reducing – in 2017 number of live births may be approximately one thousand smaller than in 2016. Number of newborn registered during the first three months of 2018 (4,612 children) also was smaller than that recorded in the same period of 2017 – by 336 children.

Death number registered over the last four years is fairly stable – 28.5 thousand. Over the first three months of this year, 8,004 deaths were registered, which is 27 deaths fewer than in Q1 2017.

Latvian natural increase is still negative. During the first three months of 2018, as the number of deaths exceeded the number of births, Latvia population declined by 3 083 persons (in the corresponding period of 2017 – by 3,083).

Full article here


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Latvia’s 2020 budget draft sent to the parliament for first viewing

On Tuesday, 19 March, Latvian Saeima’s Budget and Finance Committee conceptually supported this year’s state budget project and decided to submit it to the parliament for its first viewing. The committee decided to submit 14 additional legislative drafts associated with the budget, as reported by Saeima’s press-service.

Minister: Latvia needs representatives in EP the country can be proud of

«Latvian voters should keep in mind that Latvia is represented by only eight members in the European Parliament. It is vital to find candidates we would not be ashamed of. There is no other recipe – if you want to affect the composition of the European Parliament, it is important to remember that results from votes. Nothing will change if we stand on the sidelines,» said Latvian Culture Minister and MEP candidate Dace Melbārde in an interview to BNN.

Rigvir medication distribution in Latvia halted temporarily

Bio-technology company Rigvir has decided to halt distribution of Rigvir medication in Latvia temporarily, as confirmed by Rigvir Group CEO Kristīne Jučkoviča.

Finance commission’s head says Latvia has too many banks for its small market

It is clear there are too many banks for Latvia’s domestic market, said chairman of Finance and Capital Market Commission Pēteris Putniņš in an interview to LTV programme Rīta Panorāma on Tuesday, 19 March.

Latvian residents become more optimistic about government’s work

In one month’s time Latvian residents’ opinion of Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš’s government has improved, according to data from SKDS study.

Dutch authorities arrest Utrecht tram shooter

According to Dutch authorities, the man who opened fire in a tram in Utrecht, killing three and injuring five, has been arrested.

Parliament: Latvian universities should be among 500 best in the world

Latvia’s leading universities have a clear vision for the future. It is topical for continued development of the country’s education and science sector.

Latvian minister to request police investigation in public transport company

Latvia’s Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry has finished its analysis of the audit performed in municipal public transport company SIA Rīgas satiksme. Soon the ministry plans to ask law enforcement institutions to provide their opinion on whether or not there had been fictive employment or other violations committed by the company, as reported by TV3 news.

Latvian prime minister urges sorting the system, not raising taxes

A number of sectors require reforms to avoid raising taxes to increase revenue, said Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš during a meeting of Saeima’s Budget and Finance Committee on Monday, 18 March.

Stoltenberg calls NATO the most successful alliance in world history

NATO is the strongest, most successful alliance in history, wrote NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in an article dedicated to the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Heavy rainfall in Indonesia causes floods and landslides; death toll reaches 77

Approximately 77 people have been killed in mountain villages hit by floods and landslides caused by intense rainfall in Indonesia’s Papua Province, according to the latest information reported by Indonesian authorities.

Number of job vacancies in Latvia up 33.4% in 2018

In 2018, there were 22.7 thousand job vacancies in Latvia, which is 5.7 thousand vacancies or 33.4 % more than in 2017.

Swedbank: more than 1,400 Latvian families purchased property in regions last year

In 2018, Swedbank had issued more than 1,400 loans for property purchases within 50 km radius around Riga. This is an average of six loans issued every work day, as reported by Swedbank representative Jānis Krops.

Minister: Latvia may require radical image change because of finance sector’s problems

Considering the problems in the country’s finance sector, it will be necessary to work on radically changing the country’s image, says Latvian Foreign Affairs Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs.

Riga Mayor’s wife suspected of dubious employed in public water supply company

For eight years Riga Mayor Nils Ušakovs’ office manager Iveta Strautiņa-Ušakova worked as a consultant for municipal water supply company Rīgas Ūdens, as reported by LTV investigative journalism programme De Facto.

Latvian Centre Party to take part in European Parliament elections

A list of candidates compiled by Centre Party from Latvia has been submitted for European Parliament elections. The list is composed of fifteen candidates. This makes it the fifth list of candidates to be submitted for EP elections in Latvia so far, as reported by Central Election Commission.

Air temperature in Latvia to stay positive this week; more precipitation expected

Weather will be dominated by cyclone activity this week. Wind speed will also increase in the country’s western parts in the first half of the week. At the end of the week, air temperature to become chilly at night, as reported by Latvian State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Week in Lithuania. N-plant invites bids for repository construction contract

Lithuania's Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant, which was shut down a decade ago and is now being decommissioned, invited bids for the construction of a 100-million-euro near surface repository for low and intermediate level short-lived radioactive waste.

BNN summary of the week: when is Brexit? Estonia’s government worries; more problems with Rīgas satiksme

BNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Attempt; Decision; Investigation; Scandal; Legislation; Expectation.

Suspect in criminal case leaves post in Alkom-Trans

SIA Alkom-Trans chairman Aleksandrs Krjačeks, who is a suspect in a criminal case regarding SIA Rīgas satiksme’s procurements, has decided to step down, according to information from Lursoft.

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

In February 2019, Latvia’s inflation was higher than the average in European Union and Eurozone, according to data published by Eurostat on Friday, 15 March.

Harmony and New Harmony to compete for seats in European Parliament

Association of parties Alternative Party, which received only 0.34% support from voters in the recent Saeima elections, has decided to start in upcoming European Parliament elections with a new name – New Harmony, as reported by Latvijas Radio.

ABLV Bank’s liquidators recover assets worth EUR 37.938 million in February

In February 2019, liquidators of ABLV Bank had successfully recovered assets worth EUR 37.938 million, which is 21% less than a month prior, according to the annual account published in Latvian Herald.

Polish Catholic church reveals mass child sex abuse by clergy

The administration of the Polish Catholic Church has stated it has since 1990 registered child sex abuse affecting 625 underage victims by 382 clergymen. Poland's Catholic Church authorities revealed the data on Thursday, March 14.

Insurer: children receive 11% more injuries during school breaks

During school breaks the frequency at which children receive injuries is 11% higher when compared to the year’s average, according to data from BTA Baltic Insurance Company.