LATVIA'S GDP GOES UP: Latvia's gross domestic product was positive in 1999, growing by 0.5 percent, according to the Economic Ministry's report on the development of Latvia's national economy for 1999. The ministry said that Latvia's foreign debt totaled 9.3 percent of GDP last year, whereas the total state debt was 12.9 percent of GDP. Inflation was 2.4 percent in Latvia last year and is expected to reach 3.0 percent this year.
GOING, GOING, GONE: The Lithuanian Labas company on Jan. 21 launched the first site in Lithuania for Internet auctions: http://www.aukcionai.lt enables any user to sell and buy goods via Internet without leaving home. The seller needs only to type in data about the item, its starting price and duration of the auction, from one to 14 days. Seller and buyer know each other's contact data only after the auction is finished. The Labas Co. hopes that this new and convenient way of trading will become popular not only among computer fans, but also among those wanting to sell home appliances, furniture, cars, construction material and real estate.
POLAND, LITHUANIA CHARGED UP: Lithuanian and Polish experts are expected to present their conclusions on an electricity bridge from Lithuania to the West construction project to the governments of both countries by the middle of May. Two working sub-groups, one for economic and legal issues and another for technical issues, were approved. The joint findings of both groups will be presented to the Polish and Lithuanian governments. Deputy Minister of Economy Vytenis Junevicius stressed that construction of a power bridge to the West was envisaged to join Lithuanian and Western electricity systems oriented to a liberal electricity market and integrated European and Baltic electricity market.
CONSTRUCTION PRICES STABLE: The construction price index remained unchanged in the fourth quarter of last year as compared to the third quarter, the statistics office of Estonia said. The year-on-year growth of construction prices was 1 percent in the fourth quarter. The average construction price index for the 12 months of 1999 was 2.2 percent higher than the average for 1998. In the fourth quarter, the private residence construction price index grew 0.3 percent and the apartment building construction price index by 0.2 percent; that of industrial buildings fell 0.2 percent and that of office buildings grew 0.1 percent compared to the third quarter. The statistical office said that the construction price index was influenced in the fourth quarter mostly by a fall in labor costs.
PARLEZ-VOUS FRANCAIS?: Estonia's foreign minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves told the Parliament on Jan. 20 that by 2003 all Estonian diplomats should be able to speak French since French is one of the main languages used in the European Union. The foreign ministry plans to start training of diplomats for this purpose together with the French Embassy, Ilves said. The Estonian government's aim is to achieve complete readiness for joining the EU by Jan. 1, 2003.
TO FINLAND IN 20: A Finnish company plans to open a regular helicopter route between Tallinn and Helsinki in the spring, enabling people to fly from Estonia to Finland in only 20 minutes. Since the necessary time for flight preparation is just 10 minutes, the clients go from city center Tallinn to city center Helsinki in just 45 minutes, Copter Action Estonia spokesman Tänis Lepp said on Jan.20. A one-way ticket from Tallinn to Helsinki would cost about 2,500 kroons ($167), similar to a business-class airline ticket. There will be 12 flights on business days from both cities. Two new nearly 100 million kroon, U.S-produced Sikorsky S76 C+ choppers with 12 seats will start operating on the route, Lepp added. Chopper terminals will be built in both cities at sites not more than five minutes from the city center.