Journalists look into running a small business in Latvia

Guntis Bojārs from Latvian Television's Aizliegtais paņēmiens (Forbidden methods) show has unveiled a massive story to be aired on LTV1 about a bistro called Frics. The restaurant was opened in Jūrmala, at Jomas street, and perhaps some tourists even grabbed a bite of the french fries sold there. 

Businesses like these are opened - and some are closed, too - every day in Latvia. Though what's interesting about this particular bistro is that it was run by journalists from Aizliegtais paņēmiens. They weren't trying to make some hard-earned cash, but rather wanted to understand, see and feel what's it like for a small business to face the bureaucracy and corruption behind the scenes in Latvia.

Real employees were hired who knew nothing about the operation. During the run journalists contacted institutions that checked the bistro for violations, and carried out numerous other experiments. 

The operation lasted for more than four months. About 20 people were involved in the project, and about 100 secret recordings were made.

A genre like this was chosen as people often complain about how it's very difficult to be a small business owner - interesting, since Latvia has been ranked as the 22nd easiest country in the world in which to to run a business -  while when they have to reveal something in front of the camera they say - well, better not. It's understandable as they have to go on working in these circumstances.

Bojārs revealed that during the first four months of operating the company they didn't obtain a commerce permit, even though they tried very hard to do so. Furthermore, Bojārs stated that after the shows air some of the officials will have to think whether they should continue working in state institutions.

The five stories will be aired once a week every Monday, starting November 2 on Latvian Television 1. LSM will offer recaps from the episodes that might appeal to an international audience.

The episodes will deal with the following topics:

Episode 1: Starting a small business. Is it really fast and inexpensive? Bureaucracy in obtaining construction and food permits, along with middlemen that gain from these difficulties.

Episode 2: Where to obtain the money? Support for small businesses and the role of commercial banks.

Episode 3: Where can good employees be found? Why should they work for the minimum wage and why do employers want to pay "in an envelope"?

Episode 4: Watchdog institutions and corruption in them. What fines can a small business owner face if there's something wrong? The officials' power over small businesses.

Episode 5: Tax policy. How large or small are the taxes for small Latvian businesses when compared to other countries?

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