latvia senses money or… wastes it?
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.