LITHUANIA PAYS FOR LOST RUBLES: The Lithuanian government started Feb. 25 the second round of compensation to depositors who lost savings due to the ruble's hyper inflation in the early '90s. The government has earmarked 827 million litas ($206.75 million) for the program. People aged 85 and older are eligible for compensation beginning Feb. 25. Large families with four and more children, and the disabled will be able to withdraw their money beginning April 1. Depositors aged between 70 and 85 will be able to withdraw their savings on May 12, and those who will turn 70 after May 12 will be able to do it one month after their birthday. The government will continue to offer a savings program for three or six months under which depositors who opt to keep the money received in their accounts are paid an interest of 1.5 percent to 3 percent higher than the average rate.
RAILWAY PRIVATIZATION IN AGENCY'S HANDS: At its last session Feb. 25, the Estonian Parliament passed a bill that delegates privatization of Estonian Railway to the Privatization Agency. The bill, adopted after a prolonged debate, was carried with 36 votes for and seven against. According to the bill, proposed by the Parliament's United Opposition group, the railway company is to be restructured and sold into private hands in accordance with the privatization law to secure transparency of the sale. Before that, the idea was to hand the railway to the Transport Ministry for privatization.
FOGGY FUTURE FOR SAULES BANKA: Saules Banka, a subsidiary of Estonia's Uhispank, will for the time being carry on independently in the Latvian market, but the bank's future is under discussion, said Ott Saame, who was elected chairman of the Latvian bank's council Feb. 26. "For now, the only decision is that Uhispank will carry on developing Saules Banka as its subsidiary," said Saame. "If a different decision is made later, the situation will, of course, change." Saame admitted that a logical option would be to merge Saules Banka with Unibanka, since both Latvia's Unibanka and Uhispank have a common investor Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken. Another option would be for Saules Banka to continue as a specialized bank, to avoid competition with Unibanka on the Latvian banking market. "Swedes, too, are apparently aware of both options, but no decisions have been made," Saame said. The Estonian bank acquired Saules Banka last year through a merger with Tallinna Pank.
LITHUANIA, UKRAINE PRAISE FREE TRADE: Lithuania and Ukraine stated that the free trade agreement between the two countries signed in 1993 had a positive effect on mutual trade. Over the first nine months of 1998, trade between the two countries amounted to 1.57 billion litas. The Lithuanian and Ukrainian delegations met in Kiev Feb. 25 to discuss issues connected with observing the agreement and further liberalization of trade between the two countries. Lithuanian representatives reiterated their concern that the resolution passed by the Ukrainian government last September setting a duty of 0.01 ECU per kilogram on imported oil products violates the free trade agreement.
SWEET-TOOTHED INVESTMENT: Shareholders of the Ukraine-based candy factory Zaporizhya are expected to endorse March 19 the terms of a new share issue, in which Estonia's Kalev confectionery will acquire up to 70 percent of the factory's shares. Kalev plans to invest up to 30 million kroons ($2.14 million) in the Ukrainian firm, after the confectionery's council supported a proposal to acquire new Zaporizhya shares at the end of January. It will pay 14 million kroons in cash, and the rest will be covered by a new production line the Estonian company will install, said Tiina Altmets, Kalev's information manager. The Ukrainian company's stock capital is about 15 million kroons, and last year its turnover reached 76,650,000 kroons.