In Brief - 2002-09-12

  • 2002-09-12
Unemployment steady

The Lithuanian unemployment rate remained stable in August for the third month in a row, at 10.7 percent of workforce, the Labor Bureau said.

The unemployment rate dropped by 1.4 percentage points from the figure in August 2001. The bureau said 186,600 people were registered as unemployed on Sept. 1. (Agence France-Presse)

Baby bust

Latvia continues to have the lowest birthrate in the Baltic states, according to the latest figures from the Latvian statistics office.

The number of deaths exceeded births in Latvia by 6,920 in 2001. Lithuania's respective figure was 5,697 and Estonia's was 2,656.

The natural birthrate was negative in all Baltic states.

In the first six months, 15,120 children were born in Lithuania, 9,990 in Latvia and 6,624 in Estonia.

At the beginning of this year Latvia's population was 2.34 million, Lithuania's was 3.47 million and Estonia's was 1.36 million. (Baltic Business News)

Back to work

Estonia's unemployment rate has dropped by more than 13 percent compared with last year's, according to August figures.

There were 44,100 unemployed people looking for jobs in August, according to statistics from statewide unemployment agencies, putting the nationwide unemployment rate at 5.4 percent, a 2.6 percent drop from the rate in July and 13.4 percent less than in August 2001.

Unemployment was highest in the eastern counties of Ida-Virumaa and Jogevamaa. The fewest unemployed were in Parnumaa county and Tartumaa county.

Unemployed benefits in August were 7.2 percent less than in July and 21.1 percent less than a year earlier. (BBN)

IT upgrade

The main shareholder of Vilniaus Bankas, Swedish group SEB, has approved a program to allocate 40 million litas (11 million euros) to 50 million litas for IT system upgrading.

The bank has not yet revealed for which specific projects the money will be allocated.

Vilniaus Bankas President Julius Niedvaras said no decision had been made as to whether the source of the funds will be bank reserves or additional SEB investments.

Neither did he say anything about specific IT projects – whether it is the hardware or software the bank is planning to upgrade.

"This is a commercial secret," said Niedvaras.

The major Lithuanian commercial bank earned 64 million litas in net profit in the first half of 2002, 88 percent more than in the same period last year. (BBN)

Mobile blues

Estonia's communication regulator said that a revision of figures showed that Radiolinja, or RLE, had less than 25 percent of the domestic mobile telephone market.

The business daily Aripaev writes that, as a result, RLE will not be included among telecom operators that may be designed to have significant market power.

RLE has said its market share is about 26.65 percent, a figure communications regulators dispute.

Since the initial data submitted by RLE to the regulator was incorrect, authorities said they were now considering whether to fine RLE. (BBN)

Farm deal

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania will press for a better deal for their farmers after entering the European Union when the bloc's farm commissioner, Franz Fischler, visits September 16-17, a Latvian official said.

The three Baltic countries' farm ministers will tell Fischler at a meeting in Riga that a proposal to give farmers from new countries just 25 percent of the level of farm aid given to farmers in member states is not good enough, said Martins Roze, an official at Latvia's Agriculture Ministry.

They will also reject an EU proposal to impose quotas which in some cases cap agricultural production at levels lower than at present, he said.

"This means we are giving part of our market for free to the other member states - we can't agree with that," said Roze.

Latvia and the two other former Soviet republics in the Baltics face an year-end deadline for concluding entry talks if they are to join the EU as planned in 2004. Although they are well advanced in their negotiations, the toughest part, on agriculture, is yet to come.

Fischler will travel to the Baltic states after a two-day visit to Poland, the EU candidate country with the biggest farm sector. (AFP)

Latvian business abroad

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development may soon help Latvian firms expand their business activities into other countries, said Roberts Zile, special tasks minister for cooperation with international financial institutions.

The bank, Zile said, has adopted a new strategy that calls for supporting business expansion of the most advanced beneficiary countries.

Zile said Latvia should be able to take advantage of the privileged creditor status under EBRD rules that would help businesses fund overseas projects. (Baltic News Service)