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Wednesday 26.06.2019 | Name days: Inguna, Inguns, Ausma, Ausmis
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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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Baltic States should discuss tax on alcohol together, prime ministers agree

Latvia’s Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš has discussed with Estonia’s Prime Minister Jüri Ratas the need to resolve the alcohol excise tax issue by all Baltic States together, said the leader of Latvia’s government at a press-conference on Tuesday, 25 June.

Latvian PM says it’s time to stop putting friends of politicians in charge of companies

It is time to put an end to the practice of putting people close to politicians in leading posts of companies, said Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš in an interview to public broadcaster LNT programme 900 seconds, commenting on the future of Latvenergo after the suspension of its council.

Baltic states condemn renewal of Russia’s rights in Council of Europe

The foreign ministers of the three Baltic sates have condemned the restoration of Russia’s voting rights in the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly pointing to Moscow’s continued military aggression and disrespect to rule of law and human rights.

Latvia’s Fiscal Discipline Council predicts slight drop for country’s economy

Fiscal Discipline Council expects Latvia’s economy to drop slightly in the coming years. For 2020, the expected drop is -0.2 percentage points and -0.1 percentage points in 2021 and 2022. GDP growth rate for 2019 has not been changed.

U.S. city prohibits e-cigarette sales

The city of San Francisco has passed as the first city in the U.S. a ban on e-cigarette sales until their health effects are better studied.

Lembergs’ lawyer abandons ship right before the finish line of criminal proceedings

One of the lawyers serving the suspended Ventspils Mayor Aivars Lembergs’ interests in proceedings of the so-called Lembergs criminal case has «abandoned the ship», so to say, right before the finish line. With Raimonds Krastiņš’ departure it may take longer to properly review the case, as reported by public broadcaster Latvian Television.

New force in Riga: excluded party members and independent deputy form a new faction

Deputies excluded from New Conservative Party’s faction in Riga City Council Druvis Kleins and Imants Keišs, as well as independent deputy Oskars Putniņš have decided to found their own faction, as confirmed by deputies.

Researchers expect one-third of UK-based Latvians to apply for British citizenship soon

In the next five years, one-third of Latvian citizens who now live in Britain plan to apply for British citizenship, according to a survey performed by researchers of the University of Latvia Institute of Philosophy and Sociology to determine the opinion of Latvian emigrants towards Brexit and its consequences.

Latvia’s prime minister expects minister to explain suspension of Latvenergo council

Latvia’s Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš intends to wait until the end of the week for explanations from Economy Minister Ralfs Nemiro in regards to the minister’s decision to suspend the council of the country’s energy giant Latvenergo, according to the prime minister’s issued resolution.

Key Turkish election won by opposition bringing change to largest city

In Turkey, the repeated mayoral election of Istanbul has been won by opposition candidate ending 25 years of the rule of the country’s governing AK party in largest city.

Latvia holds third highest growth rate in Europe’s innovation rating

Latvia is reported to have the third highest growth rate in the European Union, growing by 17.7 percentage points in the rating, according to outlooks of Europe’s Innovation Result and Regional Innovation Result.

Kaljulaid on Estonian Victory Day: Natural calamity more likely than warfare

Estonian president Kersti Kaljulaid has said in a speech on Estonia’s Victory Day remembering the hundred-year-old War of Independence that despite natural calamities being more likely than warfare in the country, everyone should be informed and prepared to help ensure Estonian.

Latvia’s Sigulda will not host part of 2026 Winter Olympic Games

The 2026 Winter Olympic Games will take place in Italy’s Milan and Cortina d'Ampezzo, which have won in the competition for the right to host Olympic Games with Sweden, which planned to delegate certain ice sports to Latvia’s Sigulda.

Latvia’s prime minister not prepared to increase country’s budget deficit

Latvia’s Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš is not prepared to increase budget deficit to satisfy growing budget requests from ministries. The prime minister says every ministry has provided arguments in favour of increasing funding for their respective sectors from the 2020 state budget.

Washington hits Iran with new sanctions, target’s country’s Supreme Leader

United States President Donald Trump has announced imposing of tough, new sanctions against Iran also on the office of the Middle Eastern country's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

As scandals continue in Lithuania Latvian Railway praises company of ex-KGB agent’s wife

Latvian state company Latvian Railway (LDz) has had contracts worth dozens of million euros signed with the company owned by ex-KGB agent Yuri Simonenkov’s wife – SIA Sigmen – since 2005. While in Lithuania dealings with people who may or may not have ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin have caused a scandal...

Kazakhstan evacuates thousands of people after blasts at military depot

In Kazakhstan a munitions depot has been hit by a fire and major explosions, resulting in a mass evacuation of a town.

Week in Lithuania: Coalition expansion talks completed, Vilnius University up in global rankings

Last week, four parliamentary parties continued coalition negotiations, two men were sentenced for spying for Russia, Government vowed to reduce shadow income in construction and car sale sectors.

BNN weekly summary: Fall of Turlais, alcohol tit for tat, Latvenergo council sacked

This week a top theme in Latvia and Estonia was the alcohol excise tax. Latest events showed that Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas does not plan to cut the tax rates an further, commenting Latvia’s possible 15%-reduction of liquor excise tax rate.

Estonia not to deepen its U-turn on alcohol excise, after Latvian move

Following Latvian plan to retaliate to Estonia’s sharp drop of its alcohol excise tax rates, Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas has stated that Tallinn is not going to cut its rates any further.

Dombrovskis gives up MEP mandate to continue in European Commission

Valdis Dombrovskis, the Latvian politician having led in the European Parliament’s elections the list of New Unity, has decided to give up his mandate of a member of the European Parliament to continue in the European Commission for its remaining term.

Latvian State Audit tasked with damage recovery rights

The Saeima has passed in the final reading amendments to the State Audit Law authorising the public spending watchdog to recover damages from persons responsible for violations of law found during institutional inspections.

Latvia bans Soviet and Nazi uniforms in protests and meetings

The Latvian Saeima has passed in the final reading law amendments that would ban the wearing of the uniforms and elements of the armed forces and repressive institutions’ uniforms of the Soviet Union, its republics and the Nazi Germany.

Proposed EUR 40 mln compensation to Latvian Jewish community retracted

Latvian party alliance Development/For! has retracted its own draft law on the restitution in the amount of 40 million euros to the Latvian Jewish community for real estate confiscated by totalitarian powers in the mid-20th century in the then occupied Latvia.

Riga city Mayor Turlais loses post in no-confidence vote

The chairman of the Riga City Council, Dainis Turlais has not survived a no-confidence vote, which lead to him losing the post of the Mayor of the Latvian capital.

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