BALTIC PORTS: The Lithuanian port of Klaipeda was the fastest growing port in the Baltics in the first half of the year with freight turnover growing 43 percent, to 10.9 million tons between January and June 2000. Latvia's Liepaja came second with a 30 percent increase, but is still decidedly smaller with only 1.6 million tons. Tallinn's port turnover grew 25 percent to 15.69 million tons. The largest Baltic Sea port, Latvia's Ventspils, saw a three percent drop to 18.1 million tons. Russia's St. Petersburg port grew 22 percent to 15.12 million tons. Poland's Gdansk is the third largest Baltic Sea port, having dropped 17 percent to 9.31 million tons.
KLAIPEDA PORT SEEKS ISPA LOAN: A project to reconstruct the entrance channel at the Lithuanian port of Klaipeda might get money from the European Union's Instrument for Structural Policies for Pre-Accession (ISPA), the Lithuanian Transportation Ministry said. The total value of the port entrance reconstruction project is estimated to be $56.9 million. The World Bank has agreed to extend a loan of $35.36 million to the project and the Klaipeda State Seaport Authority is expected to provide the remaining funds. If the Klaipeda project is included in the list of ISPA projects, the port authority's contribution will be reduced by $14 million.
BUDGET CUTS: Estonia's 2001 draft state budget suggests cuts in five ministries. The ministries of transport and communications, interior, agriculture, culture and defense, will have to make do with less next year. According to Finance Ministry adviser Daniel Vaarik, this does not necessarily mean slashes in spending, as part of the decrease could be explained by redistribution of projects. The current draft sets the Estonian state budget for 2001 at 29.446 billion kroons.
EUROCLEAR CHOOSES VILNIAUS BANKAS: The Euroclear System, the world's largest clearance and settlement system for internationally traded securities, recently chose Lithuanian Vilniaus Bankas as its main cash correspondent for the Lithuanian litas clearing and treasury management services. From Oct. 2, 2000, litas will be accepted in the Euroclear System for money transfer operations as well as settlement of securities transactions within the Euroclear System. The litas will be included as an additional settlement currency into the list of 40 currencies already accepted in the system.
GROWING TRADE DEFICIT: Latvia's trade deficit has grown slightly year-on-year in the first seven months of 2000. Imports exceeded exports by 61.6 percent in Jan-July 1999, but 62.1 percent in 2000. Total exports were 656.263 million lats ($1.058 billion), up 13 percent in the period, while imports grew 13.3 percent to 1.063 billion lats. Exports to the European Union grew 17 percent, to 432.555 million lats, while EU imports only grew 8.5 percent, to 568.286 million lats. Exports to the EU account for 65.9 percent of all Latvian exports in the period, while imports from the EU are 53.4 percent of the total. Exports to the CIS are down 19.8 percent, at 13.025 million lats, but imports up 36.7 percent, to 180.49. Trade with the CIS accounts for 8.1 percent of total exports and 17 percent of imports.
RESTAURATEUR FINED: The Tallinn public health service fined the owner of the Italian Restaurant Byblos 4,600 kroons ($253) for violation of public health requirements. According to the head of the public health service, Rein Rannamae, the staff were trying to accomplish too much in too small quarters and the result was total confusion, and danger of cross-pollution of food. The restaurant was closed when suspicion arose that several patrons had contracted salmonellosis while dining there. It also turned out that the restaurant had desserts on the menu they had no right to make. Byblos owner denied the charges, adding that they sold 60 portions of tiramisu every day, so the number of victims should have been much higher. The amount is the highest fine applicable for such a violation.