BIG MACS IN TROUBLE: McDonald's Estonia, which strictly uses only Polish meat, is waiting for a reply from the veterinary and food board concerning a ban on the import of Polish meat, while using its earlier supply. "The situation has not yet changed for us, because we still have a supply of checked meat imported from Poland before the ban was imposed," said McDonald's Estonia business consultant Dmitri Shalov. "If the ban remains in effect, we really do not know from where McDonald's will start importing its meat." In connection with the mad-cow-disease risk, the Estonian Veterinary and Food Board imposed a ban on the import of cattle, cattle embryos, beef products and animal feed from Poland as of March 19 until additional information is received. Neither Lithuania nor Latvia has banned beef from Poland.
SOCKS SWAPPED FOR BANKS: For the first time in the past three years, more than half of Estonian residents had savings in 2000, mostly in the form of bank accounts. According to a survey carried out by the Estonian market research institute, Eesti Konjunktuuriinstituut, last December, 48 percent of residents didn't have any savings. In the two previous years, 52 percent of residents had no savings. Contrary to 1999, when 1 percent of residents considered their savings to be sufficient, no one regarded their savings as sufficient last year. Thirty-one percent said the savings are "for a rainy day." Nineteen percent save in order to buy durable goods, 17 percent to support close relatives and 16 percent to pay back loans. Thirteen percent save for old age, 11 percent for holidays and 9 percent for the acquisition of housing. Twenty-nine percent deposit their savings. Fourteen percent keep their money at home, 6 percent invest it in non-life or life insurance and 5 percent into real estate.
SHRIMPING DAYS LOST: The Northwest Atlantic Fishing Organization has cut the number of days of fishing for shrimp by 15 percent which for Estonia means the loss of 278 shrimping days. Whereas last year Estonia was assigned 1,667 fishing days, this year the number dropped to 1,389, the Environment Ministry reported. Ain Soome, chief specialist with the ministry's fishing department, said researchers advise to limit the annual catch of shrimp in the NAFO zone to 30,000 tons. In 1999 the catch was 42,000 tons and last year, more than 50,000 tons, or nearly double the amount recommended by scientists. To protect the stores of shrimp, something had to be done fast, as prolonged fishing exceeding the recommended quota would have endangered the stores, Soome said. Estonia last year caught more than 12,000 tons of shrimp in the NAFO zone, more than any other country fishing in the area.
DEAL APPROVED: The Lithuanian State Property Fund and Hansapank initialed on April 2 in Vilnius an agreement on the privatization of 90.24 percent of the shares in the Lithuanian savings bank Taupomasis Bankas. The supervisory council of the state property fund and the Lithuanian Privatization Commission will confirm the agreement this week. The Lithuanian government will give the final endorsement to the deal probably next week. The deal has been surrounded by controversy after the merger announcement of two Swedish banks, Swedbank and Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken, which combined control more than 70 percent of Lithuania's banking market. SEB holds around 99 percent of shares in Vilniaus Bankas, Lithuania's biggest commercial bank, and Swedbank has a 57.7 percent stake in Estonia's Hansapank, which owns the Vilnius-based Hansabankas.
NO COLLISIONS: The European Commission decision under which only airplanes equipped with special anti-collision devices for determining the distance to other airborne objects will be allowed to make flights across Europe will not affect Latvian airlines' operations. The Latvian Civil Aviation Administration reported that the required equipment had been installed on most of the airplanes operated by Latvian airlines but some airlines had been granted an extension until September and will be able to make flights without the anti-collision device in the meantime. Anti-collision devices cost from $150,000 to $200,000 each.
LUCRATIVE PURCHASE: Lattelekom, the Latvian fixed-line telecommunications company, will give its car fleet a major boost, as agreements have been signed with car dealers about the purchase of vehicles for a total of almost 900,000 lats ($1.43 million). Lattelekom has chosen Citroen's Berlingo and Xsara models for a price tag of 530,000 lats to serve as the company's operative vehicles. The tender for the supply of cars for Lattelekom's management was won by car dealer Baltic Motors, which will supply the telephone company with Ford Focus, Ford Mondeo and Ford Ranger cars for a total of 366,000 lats.
DISCRIMINATION?: Data from the central statistics office show that women in Latvia are paid lower remuneration for work than men, National Human Rights Office representatives told reporters March 28. In the first quarter of last year the average monthly salary for men was 161 lats ($256) while for women the figure was 126 lats, according to the data. It appears the trend of previous years is continuing and employers pay women less than men for the same type of work. Data for 1999 show that the monthly pay for men averaged 144 lats, while for women it was 113 lats.