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Off the wire

  • 2001-08-30
CUSTOMERS WIN CUTS: The chief executive of Lithuania's fixed-line telecommunication monopoly Lietuvos Telekomas, Tapio Paarma, informed Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas on Aug. 24 that the fixed-line telephone operator will lower certain service rates starting Sep. 1, in response to a government request and a sharp decline in customers. Telekomas will reduce the monthly subscription charge from 19 litas ($4.75) to 17 litas for low-income users, who number around 400,000. For all users, the off-peak local call rate will be cut from 0.08 litas to 0.06 litas per minute, and the night rate for local calls will go down from 0.04 litas to 0.03 litas per minute. The fixed call set-up charge will remain unchanged at 0.12 litas, but it will be lowered to 0.04 litas for Internet users.

MOBILE BOYCOTT: Several Latvian banks boycotted a new service launched by the Swedish-owned mobile telephone operator Tele2, offering to credit money to prepaid call cards using credit cards issued by banks. The new service offered by Tele2 in cooperation with Pirma Banka bank allows for money to be credited by sending an SMS to the operator indicating the number of the credit card and its validity term, therefore opening up wide opportunities for fraud. Latvijas Unibanka, Hansabanka and Latvijas Krajbanka announced a ban on use of their respective payment cards for such a purpose. Although Tele2 claims that people whose credit cards have been used in a fraudulent manner will be able to prove to the issuing bank that they did not made the transfer to the prepaid call card themselves. The money will then be reimbursed to them.

BIG IN JAPAN: An exhibition of Baltic goods dedicated to the 10th anniversary of the restoration of the Baltic states' independence and the resumption of diplomatic relations with Japan will be held in the Japanese capital Tokyo from Sep. 18 to 21. On the initiative of the Japanese Foreign Trade Organization, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia will each have 80 square meters to display their products in the exhibition in Tokyo. So far 23 Latvian companies have confirmed their participation at the exhibition, including 10 businesses from the timber and furniture manufacture industries. In 2000, timber exports to Japan made up 54 percent of all timber exported by Latvia. On Sep. 19 a seminar will be organized for Japanese businessmen to promote investment and business opportunities in the Baltics. At the seminar the heads of the Baltic delegations will report about the economic situation and future prospects in their respective countries. On Sep. 21 a seminar for Baltic business representatives will also be held in Tokyo.

FERRY TRAFFIC AFTER ALL: Despite the failed ferry connection from Riga to the Estonian island of Saaremaa, another island, Ruhnu, may be getting a connection with Latvia. A delegation from Latvia's coastal town of Roja visited the Estonian island last week and reached an agreement with the authorities there on opening up a weekly boat connection, Ruhnu's local newspaper Meie Maa reported this week. "In a month's time the agreements should be signed and in September traffic can start," the newspaper quoted Juri Freimanis, an ethnic Estonian member of the Latvian side who served as interpreter in the talks, as saying. The boat that will make the weekly trips between Ruhnu and Roja, situated about 40 kilometers from each other, is a fishing vessel belonging to the port of Roja. The boat has space for 12 passengers and needs "minor repairs" before the service can start. The operation is expected to continue not only in summer but during the entire navigation season.

PORK BAN LIFTED: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania on Aug. 22 lifted a ban on the import of pork from Poland imposed earlier this month due to the risk of an outbreak of swine fever and swine erysipelas in that country due to extensive flooding. The restriction was removed after Polish colleagues announced that the threat was over and no evidence of the disease was found, said Ago Partel, the director of the Estonian veterinary and food authority. Estonia banned the import of pork from Poland from Aug. 8. It imported 1,116 tons of pork from Poland during the first six months of this year.

COMMERCIAL BREAK: Estonian Culture Minister Signe Kivi sent a letter last week to the broadcasting council, warning state-run Estonian Television against entering into long-term agreements on airing commercials. Kivi expressed the hope that ETV's management was informed about pending changes in the law, as a result of which advertising has to disappear from ETV. The minister also informed the broadcasting council, the supervisory board of Estonia's public radio and television, of an article in the planned legislation that would ban ETV from concluding any new agreements on advertising after the legislation is passed. Kivi was referring to two bills on public broadcasting endorsed by the government on Aug. 21, which seek to banish commercials from public television and introduce an annual license fee for private television stations to help finance ETV. The management of ETV and the state-run radio company Estonian Radio have said they will not support plans to unite the two organizations unless the government is able to explain the advisability of such a step.

COUNTRYSIDE REVOLT: Latvia's milk producers are threatening to demand the Baltic trade agreement be lifted temporarily for milk and dairy products until production costs for milk and purchasing prices are leveled between the three Baltic countries. The price for which dairies buy milk from farmers in Latvia is currently at 0.09 lats ($0.15) per liter, lower than the production cost. The milk producers' association is demanding the milk price to be increased to 0.135 lats per liter, which, they claim, is the average production cost, the Latvian business daily Dienas Bizness wrote on Aug. 28. Latvian milk producers also want to start cooperation with milk producers' associations in Estonia and Lithuania, reaching a stabilization of milk prices. Latvia saw a total of 823,000 tons of milk produced in 2000, 398,100 tons of which were bought up by dairies.