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Sunday 15.09.2019 | Name days: Sandra, Gunvaldis, Gunvaris, Sondra
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BNN summary of the week: reduced VAT for Latvian fruits; Bordans expects UGF to collapse

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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; Truth; Business; Future; Growth and Opinion.

CHANGE: VAT to be reduced for fruits and vegetables characteristic for Latvia

Parties of the ruling coalition agreed to support Agriculture Ministry’s proposal to reduce VAT from 25% to 5% for fruits, vegetables and berries characteristic for Latvia.

This decision was later confirmed by Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis after the meeting of the ruling coalition.

This matter will be later viewed by the government and the Saeima.

Full article here

BUSINESS: Funding for demographic measures may be found by freezing Liepaja prison project

Latvian Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis and Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola propose freezing Liepaja prison project and diverting this project’s funding for measures intended to resolve demographic problems.

On Wednesday, 6 September, journalists asked Kucinskis after his meeting with social partners about the possibility of putting off Liepaja prison construction project in favour of diverting funding to measures aimed at resolving demographic problems. Kucinskis said different options were discussed. He admitted that one possible solution was putting off some investment project. «I am open to discussions,» said the prime minister.

Reizniece-Ozola mentioned that she would support the idea regarding the halt of Liepaja prison construction project. «If we were to choose between supporting families or paying double for construction of a prison, I would support such an idea,» said Reizniece-Ozola.

Full article here

FIGHT: does Latvia need railway as a mode of transport?

«I have always agreed with the medieval belief that it is not possible to escape from taxes and the plague. This is why Finance Ministry’s tax reform or ‘game rules’ should be accepted. It is not worth questioning. Instead, we should search for ways to work in the business environment more efficiently,» said Baltic Express Chairman Maris Bremze in a conversation with BNN about decisions made in the transit industry.

LatRailNet’s decisions to raise railway infrastructure costs

Industry expert Bremze notes that one of the most topical problems in the industry is LatRailNet’s decision to raise the cost of using railway infrastructure by 7% in 2018.

«This decision is proof than our country’s railway system is not friends with the term ‘cost effectiveness’. That’s the problem. The country’s railway system has become three times larger in the past decade. This is because the fixed assets volume has tripled, whereas supply volumes, the number of workers and the amount of work performed using Latvia’s railway system have not changed much. With that, it can be safely said that transit volumes have declined,» says Bremze.

Full article here

DECLINE: four million allocated to ‘cemetery tram’ project without document assessment

At a meeting of Riga City Council Finance and Administrative Affairs Committee, the ruling coalition decided to allocate EUR 4 million to Rīgas satiksme’s ‘cemetery tram’ project without first performing an economic and financial assessment of the project, says chairman of joint Latvian Association of Regions/For Latvia’s Development faction Juris Puce.

He says the decision was made on Wednesday, 6 September. Members of the committee discussed the matter of providing guarantee to the scandalous ‘cemetery tram’ project. The total amount of the loan exceeds EUR 4 million.

LRA/LA reports that this matter was added to the meeting’s agenda one hour prior to the beginning of the meeting. The legislative draft did not include any financial justification, conditions for the loan, or any kinds of calculations on how it would affect Riga municipality’s budget.

Full article here

TRUTH: railway electrification is one of the biggest crimes being planned

The railway electrification project in development by LDz is potentially lethal for Latvia’s national economy, says former head of Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau’s Operative Investigations Office Juris Jurass, adding that it may be one of the biggest crimes currently being planned in the country.

In the 1:1 programme, Jurass asked Aivars Lembergs if talks similar to those that took place in Ridzene Hotel in 2009, 2010 and 2011 continue to this day.

«I would like to emphasize this specifically in relation to LDz’s planned electrification project, the total estimated worth is EUR 1.8 billion.»

He says the cargo volume is critically below the level that would be necessary to sustain it on at least a zero level.

«Unless this project has significant economic justifications behind it, I can say that this particular project is one of the biggest crimes that is possibly being planned at the moment,» Jurass said during 1:1 programme.

Full article here

GROWTH: Consumption of renewable energy resources grew 14.1% in the past ten years

In 2016 gross consumption of renewable energy resources in Latvia constituted 68.7 petajoules (PJ).  Compared to 2015, the consumption of renewables has risen by 5.7 %, whereas over the past ten years – by 14.1 %.

As the gross consumption of renewable resources (mainly formed by domestic energy resources) increased, Latvian dependence1 upon imported energy resources reduced – from 66.7 % in 2006 to 51.2 % in 2015, according to data from the Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia.

Significant increase was recorded in consumption of biogas (landfill gas, sewage sludge gas, other biogas) – 12.7 times during the decade, reaching 3.8 PJ in 2016.

Over the decade, the gross consumption of fuel-wood has increased by 9.3 %, reaching 54.3 PJ in 2016, whereas compared to 2015 it has gone up by 3.2 %. In 2016, the share of fuel-wood in the gross energy consumption accounted for 29.4 %, which is 0.8 percentage points more than in 2015. In the same time, the exports of fuel-wood rose.  In 2016, Latvia exported 37.9 PJ of fuel-wood, which is 12.6 % more than in 2015.  Wood pellets constituted 29.3 PJ of the total volume of fuel-wood exported in 2016, which is 4.7 % more than in 2015, whereas the volume of wood chips exported rose by 79.4 %.

Full article here

FUTURE: Skvernelis invites Polish supermarkets to Lithuania, seeks to overcome Polish differences

It seems that Lithuania’s Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis, who paid this week a visit in Poland, wanted to catch up with – and cheer up – his Polish counterpart, Beata Szydlo, and Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of the ruling party Law and Justice, on all hot mutual issues.

Chalking some of them up to «wrong stereotypes», the Lithuanian premier expressed confidence that both neighbours can improve the relations and work in lockstep.

Latvia’s PM, Maris Kučinskis, also attended the meeting, meanwhile Estonia’s PM Juris Ratas did not make it to the Polish capital due to a crisis stemming from a glitch in the country’s e-ID cards.

For now, however, the tensions between Lithuania and Poland seem to be a little eased. Summing up his meeting with Kaczynski, Skvernelis emphasized that the Poland’s ruling coalition leader sees Lithuania as «a strategically friendly country.»

«Some stereotypes probably keep us from emotional reloading today. He (Kaczynski) was provided first-hand information about the situation of the Polish ethnic minority. Now there is a huge opportunity to solve the problems,» Skvernelis underscored after the meeting.

He brought Kaszynski’s attention to the fact that Lithuania has the biggest network of Polish-language schools in Lithuania outside Poland.

Full article here

OPINION: the war between the people and oligarchs will end if UGF ceases to exist

There is a war going between the people and oligarchs. It will end with the Union of Greens and Farmers falling apart, believes New Conservative Party’s leader, Riga City Council opposition deputy Janis Bordans.

According to him, «all of the foolish and illegal activities performed by oligarchs, launch of criminal cases and the farce of the parliamentary investigation committee – are all components of the same counter-action. At the end of the day, it is just the agony of UGF,» the politician says. He predicts UGF will meet its end will be same the Communist Party did in the ‘80s.

«People will open their eyes and turn away from this party. Members of UGF and voters will have to make a choice. Many of them have a practical mindset. I’ve been told they would gladly get rid of Aivars Lembergs’ influence. These people should be prepared for active measures. I hope sooner or later they will start acting and decide to leave UGF. Of course, people who committed crimes will have to answer for their actions,» said Bordans.

Full article here

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Week in Lithuania: High-ranking judges dismissed, Achema loses EU court case, Lithuania’s EC Commissioner proposed

Last week in and about Lithuania, the top developments were the dismissal of two high-ranking judges, the formation of a new political group in Seimas and the Human Rights Court agreeing to Soviet repressions against Lithuanian partisans as genocide.

BNN summary of the week: state of emergency in Riga; seat for Dombrovskis; politics in construction cartel

At a speedy pace – this is how the emerging crisis in waste management was being prevented in Riga this week. Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš gave Riga City Council a bashing, saying that Riga is attempting to pass on its problems on the shoulders of the entire country. The prime minister asked the capital to settle its own problems. Nevertheless, the government declared a state of emergency in Riga.

Cooperation partners blast government for breach of law in budget development

On Friday, 13 September, multiple cooperation partners of the Latvian government blasted the Cabinet of Ministers for breaching the law in the development of the 2020 state budget.

Hourly labour costs in Latvia up 8.9%

Compared to Q2 2018, hourly labour costs rose by 8.9 % or 79 cents, reaching EUR 9.60 in Q2 2019. Seasonally adjusted data show increase of 7.0 %.

Latvian Justice Ministry insists on improving prison infrastructure

In regards to the topic of the state budget’s fiscal space in 2020 and expenditures for priorities, Latvia’s Justice Ministry insists on maintaining its position in regards to Liepaja Prison’s construction project’s necessity.

UK’s parliament speaker ready to prevent October 31 no-deal Brexit – a violation of law

In the Brexit saga, speaker of a parliamentary chamber has pledged to permit changing the rules of procedure to keep UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson from forcing a no-deal Brexit on October 31, seen as a potential violation of law.

Latvian government allocates more than EUR 192 million for priority tasks

On Friday, 13 September, Latvia’s Cabinet of Ministers decided at an extraordinary meeting on division of EUR 192.4 million for priority tasks of ministries and independent institutions.

Lithuanian shops using increase in wages to raise prices, analyst asserts

In Lithuania, inflation has been two times faster in 2019 compared to other markets in the euro area. Economist Žygimantas Mauricas believes retailers have used a surge in wages to increase prices, especially in grocery stores.

Beneficial owner status in a company does not always involve receiving material benefits

If a person is declared as a company’s beneficial owner, it does not always mean it is a person who is at the end of the chain and receives material benefits from companies.

Prague to move Soviet army Marshal, despite death threats to Mayor

In the Czech capital of Prague, a local government has decided to take down a monument devoted to a Marshal of the Soviet Union. It is planned to replace it with a memorial of a more general meaning.

Estonia to establish cyber diplomacy body to make its voice heard globally

In Estonia, where the authorities may much attention to computed technology solutions and the e-environment, the Foreign Ministry plans to open a Cyber Diplomacy Department.

Latvian court declares PNB Bank insolvent

Riga City Vidzeme Suburb Court has declared PNB Bank insolvent, as confirmed by Finance and Capital Market Commission. Vigo Krastiņš has been approved as the bank’s insolvency administrator.

Latvian government conceptually supports ban for municipalities to run mass media

Municipalities are planned to be applied with a ban to found and publish mass media, as provided by Saeima’s Human Rights and Public Affairs Committee’s supported amendments to the Law on Press and Other Mass Media, as confirmed by Saeima’s press-service.

Spain’s flash floods claim lives

Several parts of Spain have been hit by heavy rain, floods and a tornado. The natural calamities have claimed not less than two victims.

UN representative criticizes Latvia for unwillingness to sign Istanbul Convention

Latvia still has not ratified European Council Convention on Prevention of Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, otherwise known as the Istanbul Convention, even though it is a major tool for combating domestic violence, said UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women representative Ana Peláez Narváez.

Round dance over? Latvian government agrees on 2020 budget in spite of difficulties

Judging from the last talks held by parties it can be concluded the coalition has reached an agreement on the state budget, said Attīstībai/Par! co-chairman Daniels Pavļuts.

Anrijs Lembergs’ lawyers start reading his client’s court debate speech

Riga Regional Court, which continues viewing the criminal case involving suspended Ventspils Mayor Aivars Lembergs, has started listening to the debate speech of Lembergs’ son Anrijs Lembergs.

Seimas elections in three districts deal a blow to ruling LFGU, Social Democrats’ leader

As two prominent TV faces are set to win the runoff elections to take vacant seats left in Lithuanian parliament after two MPs swapped their parliamentary jobs for mayoral stints and an independent MP, Aušra Maldeikienė, left for Brussels as europarliamentarian, the Lithuanian Social Democrats’ leader, Gintautas Paluckas, who is former vice-mayor of capital city Vilnius, is restless.

Three and a half months left for compulsory installation of smoke detectors in Latvia

Latvian residents are expected to install smoke detectors in their homes – private houses and apartments – by 1 January. For private homes, however, there is an additional requirement – owners are expected to have fire extinguishers on hand as well, reminds State Fire and Rescue Service.

Times ranking: Tartu University – by far best in Baltics

The latest Times Higher Education ranking of the leading large higher education institutions in the world, the University of Tartu has been placed in the group of 301-350 best. Other Baltic universities followed in the group of 801-1000.

Latvia’s high-rank politicians may be involved in scandalous construction cartel

Names of a dozen current and former well-known Latvian politicians are mentioned in the so-called construction cartel criminal case, including Finance Minister Jānis Reirs, politician Edgars Jaunups, former finance and economy minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola, ex-chairperson of Unity political party Solvita Āboltiņa and Saeima deputy Jānis Urbanovičs, Ir magazine reports.

Citadele Bank finances Virši-A petrol station network’s expansion

With financing from Citadele Bank, petrol station network Virši-A plans to expand by opening four more petrol stations. Two of them will provide condensed natural gas.

Catalan independence march in Spain attended by 600 000 people

In Barcelona, around 600 000 people have taken part in an annual march to demand the independence of Catalonia, the autonomous region of Spain.

Government finds money to compensate pension delivery tariff rise

Money to compensate tariff increase for home delivery of pensions has been found, said Welfare Minister Ramona Petraviča during a Saeima meeting.

Lithuania warns about end in rapid wage growth

«The summer will not last forever,» said Lithuanian Finance Minister Vilius Šapoka about a summary of official economic forecasts, which warn that after a fairly rapid growth, national economy and wages would grow at a somewhat slower pace.