Yesterday there was a public discussion in the Riga New theatre organized by the Latvian European movement, ELJA, LATO and Transparency Internatioal local organization Delna yesterday. The forum was well attended, but the size of the meeting hall did not allow to grasp the real size of civil society in Latvia. The intelligentsia, emigree Latvians, and leaders of the opposition party Jaunais Laiks (New Era) were omnipresent and discussions were rich. Most of the panelists, profesionally moderated by the TV journalist Baiba Strautmane and using quotes from the George Orwell's Animal Farm, expressed their disatisfaction with the present style of governance. At least two of the panelists, Arta Ģiga and Edgars Šīns, rather omenously pointed out that one issue is the upcoming referendum, but quite another one is what would happen after it?
For the yesterday's forum the major issue was to consolidate dissatisfied part of the society, thus mobilizing them as agents of support for the upcoming referendum. For this purpose actually half an hour would have been enough and, therefore, the forum actually achieved its purpose! But what next? Shall folks be continuously lulled into another oblivion of the slow growth of the middle class, or they would be active deciding for their own future in the globally changing world? Being pragmatist I assume that the first option is the most probable, and the omnipresent oblivion of the "seven fat years" would be shaken off only due to tremours of the international economic system.
Edgars Šīns rememered his on-plane discussion with a European bureaucrat prior the May 1, 2004, and the eurocrat expressed his view that the Baltic States would not join the EU due to the huge size of its agricultural sector. According to international standards the agricultural sector in Latvia is really peanuts, and regardless of the fact, whether you are an efficient entrepreneur or a peasant, the Brussels monies are actually endowing Latvian agricultural sector in a very distorted way today. Aquis communautaure seems not so effective tool to ensure good governance of the new EU entrants, thus the graft and dissatisfaction amidst the overheated economy in today's Latvia. The promulgation of laws as well as civic control of the public servants depends on knowledgeable human resources, but they are hemorragheing out of Latvia (also Lithuania and to lesser extent Estonia)! This allows the governing post-Soviet elite to number crunch any public problem, because they know and scan the ability of the general public to bear the ineffective and robust style of crony capitalism. Therefore it is not internal dissatisfaction but external shocks that would probably change the traditional style of governance in Latvia.
Tremours of the international economy combined with Latvian inflation (8,2%), current account (26%!!!) and trade deficits should in principle make Latvian present political elite members cautios. However, when I follow the reclessness of the economic policy, timidity of the anti-inflationary measures, and behind the screen crony deals I feel really uneasy. Macroeconomic situation in Latvia and also Estonia (it must be admitted) is out of sync due to the cheap credits from mostly Scandinavian banks, and loundered taxes of Russian businessmen. What if cautious Scandinavians would start pulling their monies out? I do not see any reason for this, but they must be convinced otherwise if Russian asertivenes should start boiling over, and the question is when? What, if the Russian depositors in Latvian banks decide unanimously to withdraw their renumerations? There are many whats and ifs in Latvia today. Therefore, it is paramount to keep at least an order in ones own home, which essentially means that in the long term Latvia needs good governance for its very survival as a nation state!
After all, it is probable that the 450 thousand or so citizens would appear in the voting booths in Latvia and its diplomatic representative offices abroad, but then we should return to the question about what happens next? The international system is reshaped today but Latvian political elite has put all its golden eggs in the US basket only. The health of the international economy although prudent is not the healthiest one. One must just follow what happens in the US, Scandinavian and Baltic housing markets and worrisome signs are in all of them. In the meantime, not the best sailors are at the helm of the Ms Latvia rudder. Recless sailing on the board of the dilapidated Ms Latvia in rough waters of international economy may finish on the rocks of economic decline very soon.
To legitimately change the helmsman now, and to prevent similar situation repeating in the future, there is a need for active civic participation. There is also need for people to decide which political party they participate in, because political parties in the representative democracy are the only legitimate contenders for power in the political system. Ilma Čepāne (JL) in the last statement of yesterday's forum reiterated my thoughts, that without broad participation of the Latvian public in political parties there would be neither acountability of the political process within Latvian parties nor in Latvian political system as a whole. The participation of the Latvian public in the public life once during the four year election cycle is among several causes that made the outgoing president to veto the law of security organizations. Latvian citizens once and for all must decide which spectrum of the political system they belong to. In this way they could either found the party of their own, or join existing parties en masse and through the intra-party political debate get rid of the demagogues and oligarchic idiotes (using the meaning of its original meaning in ancient Athens:) Thus paraphrasing the omenous expression of the 19th century founder of the Latvian seafaring Krišjānis Valdemārs there should be slogan for majority of Latvian citizens today - "ejiet latvji partijās!"
P.S. Just after posting this piece of writing into this blog I learned that Alan Johnston (for 140 days kidnapped BBC correspondent) is FREED, good Lord!