latvia senses money or… wastes it?

The Baltic Times - - OUR COMMENTARY - The Baltic Times ed­i­tor-in-chief li­nas@baltic­

In the fo­cus of The Baltic Times’ new is­sue is Latvia. First, meet Ar­mands Broks, the ex­u­ber­ant CEO of TWINO, a peer-to-peer lend­ing plat­form. The bullish Lat­vian startup pro­vides bor­row­ers a has­sle-free way to re­ceive loans from other users, get­ting the cash that they need at rates that are in­creas­ingly be­com­ing more com­pet­i­tive with the banks. To tell the truth, as a wit­ness of the col­lapse of a se­ries of bank and credit in­sti­tu­tions in the first years of Baltic in­de­pen­dence in the early 1990s, I am quite wary of any­one of­fer­ing in­ter­est rates on my de­posit in the range of 10 per cent (How can it be, right? My Swedish bank has just can­celled pay­ing any in­ter­est rate!), yet you can­not miss the con­fi­dence of the CEO, who’s spear­headed and built a ma­jor fi­nan­cial em­pire. In the peer-to-peer lend­ing plat­form in Con­ti­nen­tal Europe, Latvia with TWINO in the front, ranks third, right be­hind the fi­nan­cial su­per­pow­ers, France and Ger­many. And fur­ther­more: the Lat­vian start-up has al­ready caught up with the ri­vals’ be­he­moth lend­ing com­pa­nies. “The key ad­van­tage for Lat­vian plat­forms is the al­lur­ing re­turns of more than 10 per cent per an­num, while plat­forms from Ger­many and France usu­ally of­fer some­thing be­tween 5 to 7 per­cent per an­num,” Broks told The Baltic Times. No won­der that, ac­cord­ing to a World Eco­nomic Fo­rum re­port, North­ern Europe and the Baltics are a hot­bed of en­tre­pre­neur­ial ac­tiv­ity. More­over: Latvia is num­ber 3 on the list! “I think this is a truly rec­og­niz­able ac­com­plish­ment…. i per­son­ally feel that there ex­ists a very strong startup cul­ture among young peo­ple. Be­sides, in 2017, the new startup law came into force which will set Latvia apart from other neigh­bour­ing coun­tries. I be­lieve that the new tax regime will ef­fec­tively dou­ble ven­ture cap­i­tal in­vestors’ money in young Lat­vian star­tups,” the CEO told us. How­ever, Latvia’s other en­deavor – erect­ing a cut­ting-edge na­tional con­cert hall in Riga has been stalling amid the on­go­ing dis­pute among the city of Riga, the pub­lic and one of the most real­is­tic in­vestors. The de­bate over a much needed hall has spanned a pe­riod of over twenty years and is un­likely to lose heat any time soon, as more and more par­ties get en­tan­gled in the dis­pute, trad­ing barbs of mis­trust and re­crim­i­na­tions, too. Read our jour­nal­ist Michael Mustillo’s ar­ti­cle on the sta­tus quo of the project on page 5. Dis­turbingly, our other jour­nal­ist Doire­ann Mc Der­mott writes in her ar­ti­cle on page 7, that Latvia has sur­passed Es­to­nia in hav­ing the largest amount of new cases of HIV. The Baltic coun­tries un­for­tu­nately suf­fer the most in the EU when it comes to HIV trans­mis­sion. Clearly, not the best thing to lead the pack.

Li­nas Jegele­vi­cius

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