Off the wire

  • 2001-05-24
UNEMPLOYMENT LOSSES: Within the past two years, Estonia lost 2.4 percent to 2.8 per cent of its GDP because of a high unemployment rate, Geneva University's institute of international studies assistant professor Lauri Luiker claims in the monthly Luup. Luiker's studies also reveal that unemployment and crime rate in Estonia are closely connected. "A few dozen unemployed people will mean an average of one theft," he notes. Although the economy of Estonia is developing fast, social tensions have continued, said the former vice president of the Bank of Estonia, Peeter Lohmus, who established the political research center PRAXIS. The Estonian daily Postimees reported that despite the growth in the number of enterprises and their profitability, the number of workers active in the business sector has not grown. According to the state statistical office, at the end of the previous year there were 24,754 companies in Estonia, which employed a total of 342,702 people. Within a year, the number of companies increased 12 percent, while the number of workers increased by 0.5 percent. The unemployment rate in Estonia was 13.7 percent in 2000.

WEST PREFERRED: Most of Latvia's population see employment with a branch of a Western company as more prestigious than a position with a local firm, according to an opinion poll conducted by the polling firm SKDS. Work in a Latvian branch of a Western company is seen as prestigious by 50.3 percent of respondents, down slightly from 53.3 percent last year. In addition, 19.9 percent of respondents are absolutely sure that employment with a foreign company carries more prestige and 30.4 percent are somewhat inclined to agree to the statement. The poll showed that employment with a Western company seemed to be especially prestigious for youngsters, but the trend declined as the age of respondents grew. Such work was seen as prestigious by 61.1 percent of those between 18 and 24 years of age; 57.3 percent of those 25 to 34; 51.1 percent of those between 35 to 44 and 50.5 percent of those between 45 to 54. Only 38.5 percent of those over 55 held the same view.

STAFF TO SUE: The staff of the Estonian-owned Latvijas Rigas Aditajs knitwear manufacturer has submitted to the Riga Regional Court a claim to declare the company insolvent. The insolvency claim was made because five Rigas Aditajs' employees believed that the company had not paid social taxes for them since 1996. They claim that over this period Rigas Aditajs failed to pay into the state budget social taxes totaling 7,900 lats ($12,500). A judge still has to decide whether to review this claim, adding, that the claim will probably be turned down as employees are not creditors of the company. Estonia's Hipo knitwear holds 78 percent in Rigas Aditajs, which the Estonian company acquired last year for more than 76,000 lats. According to the State Revenue Service, as of April 1, Rigas Aditajs owed to the state 1.18 million lats in overdue taxes, including social tax and personal income tax payments.

SMOKING DOWN: Cigarette sales have decreased in Latvia this year while output has surged, according to the excised goods supervision authority. In the first quarter of 2001 a total of 40.27 million packs of cigarettes were sold in Latvia, down 0.96 percent from 2000, the Excised Goods Administration reported May 17. From the total, more than 15.46 million packs of cigarettes produced in Latvia were sold during the period, a 2.57 percent drop from the first quarter of 2000. In the first quarter of 2001, 24.83 million imported packs of cigarettes were sold, an increase of 3.32 percent over the same period last year. In the first quarter this year Latvian-made cigarettes accounted for 37 percent of the cigarette market. Currently the only cigarette producer in Latvia is House of Prince, which produced 32.49 million packs of cigarettes in the first quarter this year, an increase of 41.8 percent year-on-year. In the first quarter of 2001 a total of 7.32 million lats' worth of imported tobacco products were sold in Latvia, down 5.21 percent year-on-year.

LIBERALS LAX: The Liberal faction in the Lithuanian Parliament has decided to take into consideration President Valdas Adamkus' critical stance on ending capital gains taxes for corporations. After discussing tax reform for two hours, the Liberal faction on May 17 decided to introduce the change gradually. The faction decided capital gains shouldn't be abolished next year, but that the tax rate levied on corporate profits should drop from 29 percent to 15 percent. The liberals also decided that the minimum level of untaxed revenues should increase from 214 litas ($53.50) to 250 litas from July 1 this year, and that the tax levied on individuals should be reduced from 33 percent to 31 percent from the start of next year. The Lithuanian government's program called for abolishing capital gains for corporate entities from the beginning of 2002. The liberals' partners in the ruling coalition, the center-left New Union social liberals, publicly stated they didn't approve of doing away with capital gains.

TOURIST CENTER: A Polish-Lithuanian tourism center will be established soon in the Polish city of Sejny near the border with Lithuania. The aim of the new center is to encourage village and eco-tourism in the Polish-Lithuanian border region, famous for its natural beauty, lakes and primeval European forest. One of the initiators of the planned center is a resident of Punsk, Poland, Romualdas Vitkauskas, an ethnic Lithuanian. He was district administrator of Punsk for a long time and the director of the Polish-Lithuanian minority publishing venture Ausra. Vitkauskas said he was sure the clean air, nature and relatively low prices would draw large groups of vacationers to the region from Poland and elsewhere. The tourism center plans to present demonstrations on the manufacture of ethnic handicrafts by local masters, and to sell the items they produce to guests. The founders of the Lithuanian tourism center are hoping for financial support from the EU, which often helps international projects uniting people from different countries, they said.