• 2002-10-03

Prime Minister Siim Kallas last week presented Estonia's Parliament with a draft budget for 2003 focused on defense, education and regional development, the government's press office said.

The 38.7 billion kroon (2.5 billion euro) budget, together with foreign aid, shows an increase of 7.6 percent, Kallas said, while the nominal growth of GDP is expected to be 9.8 percent.

"The government sticks to its promises on financing for defense," Kallas said, saying defense spending would be set at 2 percent of gross domestic product, a level demanded by NATO, which Estonia hopes to be invited to join at an alliance summit in Prague in November.

Opposition politicians have called the defense outlays a strain on the budget. (Agence France-Presse)

Latvia forgotten?

The Estonian wood processing company Sylvester may have lost interest in plans to build a production facility in Latvia's southeastern Daugavpils region.

The Daugavpils Council of Directors, which includes top business executives from the city, said it had not heard from the Estonian company since June, when it first announced plans to look into expanding into Latvia.

Council director Pjotrs Savostjanovs said the Estonian company initially planned to explore the idea further by late July.

"Apparently, the Estonian businessmen have changed their plans," he said.

Sylvester representatives had said they were considering building on a 25-hectare site. Sylvester is Estonia's largest logging firm, posting a 2001 net-profit of 76.7 million kroons (4.9 million euros). (Baltic News Service)

Piracy pledge

The Estonian branch of the anti-piracy watchdog Business Software Alliance said it planned to reduce the percentage of pirated software in the country to 40 percent by 2005.

The company estimates that 53 percent of all software used is pirated, well above the Scandinavian average of about one-third.

"We have knowingly set a high goal," said Ahti Leppik, manager of BSA's Estonian operations. "If it's important for us to catch up with the Nordic technological society, also our attitude toward copyright matters must become similar to that of the Nordic countries."

Estonian software sellers lose more than $4 million in annual sales because of pirated material, BSA said. (BNS)

Big plans

Russia's No. 2 oil company Yukos said it intended to triple its exports by 2010, with one-third headed to the United States.

Yukos Vice President Mikhail Brudno said the company would export 45 million tons to Europe, 20 million tons to China and about 35 million tons to the United States in eight years' time.

A large portion, he said will go via a 3,000-kilometer pipeline to the Arctic port of Murmansk. The $4 billion project is expected to take five years to complete.

This year, Yukos plans to export some 36 million tons of oil.

The Russian company recently acquired a 26.85 percent stake in the Lithuanian oil complex Mazeikiu Nafta, increasing its total holdings in the company to 53.7 percent.

Yukos executives have promised a return to profitability for Mazeikiu after years of losses under its former shareholder, the U.S. energy firm Williams International. (BNS)

Lithuanian roulette

Estonian-owned Olympic Casino Group Baltija plans to open Oct. 1 its second Vilnius cathedral on premises owned by the Lithuanian news agency ELTA.

The casino will replace newsstand Zurnalistas, also owned by ELTA.

Casino manager Sven Kolga said the company had leased the premises from Ifanta, one of ETLA's shareholders, for 10 years.

The state owns 39.51 percent of shares in ELTA and Ifanta says it holds a 48.89 percent stake in the news agency.

Currently, Lithuania has casinos in Vilnius and Klaipeda, but 18 licenses to engage in gambling have been issued in this country.

The country recently abolished laws that prohibited gambling. (BNS)


Despite favorable macroeconomic indicators, most Latvians believe the country's economic situation has seen few changes in the last year and hold out little hope for material improvement in the future.

According to a poll by Latvijas Fakti, 43.9 percent of people questioned said little had changed over the past year, while 20.4 percent said their economic situation had worsened.

Only 1.1 percent of those asked expected material improvement in Latvia's macroeconomic situation in the next year. (BNS)

Lithuanian advance

Lithuania's VP Market expects sales to increase by 20 percent now that it has opened its second supermarket in the Latvian capital, Riga.

The company invested 5 million lats (8.4 million euros) in a supermarket with total area of 9,500 square meters.

The new store, in Riga's Plavnieki suburb, will share premises with Scandinavian furniture store JYSK. (Baltic Business News)