Friday, August 31, 2007

The last day of August

September is on the threshold, thus decided to write a small piece after spending a week in Finland. My relatives from Boston arrived safely to the Helsinki Vantaa airport, and we nicely toured the South coast of Finland. Since two days I am back in Latvia now, and rather customarily there is something significant happening when person leaves ones country. This time it is the sword of Damocles that has started to slowly fall over the heads of Latvian politicanos. Also the administrative reform of local municipalities after 10 years of constant calvary is finally coming to its end. And on top of it, after ersatz visit of the ECOFIN commissioner Mr Joaquin Almunia to Riga this summer, the government after several years of budget deficits has balanced this years´ budget.

The sword of Damocles is falling over the head of Speaker of the Parliament Mr Indulis Emsis. Among his "trademarks" are colourful or outright stupid pronouncements (just for the intro. his omenous call for MP's to convene in the red glass of the parliament prior parliamentary recess in June 2006...satiksimies sarkanajā glāzē). He was called to the prosecutors office, and in addition to the ongoing investigation about shady deals of the Maire of Ventspils (so called list of stipendiats), he was also asked about the 10 000$ in cash stolen from his sack in the parliament building. It is hard to believe the clarifications of the speaker of the parliament, that he took the stack of greenbacks to pay for the tractor, which apparently he never bought. Still, the speaker is puzzled in his interviews about the fact that nobody wants to believe his integrity, thus he announced yesterday that he might even resign. If so, it would be a novel thing in the post-Soviet Latvian history and such a relief for the dormant civil society in Latvia.

The head of the Farmers Union part, Mr Augusts Brigmanis and colleague of Mr Emsis sticks to the legal presumption of innosence principle. He supports both the speaker of the parliament and the maire of Ventspils, and what else he should do in the cynical playfield of the Latvian realpolitik? Aye, the political culture in Latvia changes in a snail motion, and perhaps only exogenous shocks or endogenous implosion, or combination of both would shake up the traditional and dormant political culture of the post-Soviet nomenklature.

Anyway, the administrative reform of local municipalities is approaching its end, and the Minister, Aigars Štokenbergs has been very instrumental in getting to the end of this illogical task. There are obvious disagreements in some municipalities, and they were nicely exemplified in the Latvian "citadel of democracy" the Kas notiek Latvijā? TV show this Wednesday. Nevertheless, the old prowerb "whenever an ax cuts the chips fall" must be used here, because the political gerrymandering is possible also after the big reform is over. Thus, one big reform might have an end if the government coalition fundamentally accepts the final reform blueprint on September 3.

Finally, we come to the issue of Latvias balanced budget for this fiscal year . In today's the MEP Valdis Dombrovskis argues correctly that tactics of the government replicates the practice of Andris Šķēle government in 1996 ( It means that the balanced budget actually does not touch the sacred cow of the Latvian governance system - ever increasing and burgeoning class of state administrators. There are no comprehensive structural reforms of the Latvian administrative system envisaged. It means that the gaping hole in the 2007 budget is going to be paid by pensioners, probable privatisation of the 23% of the Lattelecom state shares, and dying research potential in the country named Latvia. Basically, it means that short term oligarchic interest prevail over the long term strategic interests of the majority of its citizens. Thus, the legitimate question here is - for how long it can continue like this?


KT said...

is there something positive at all in Latvian poltics, dear colleague?

Baltic said...

Accomplishment of the administrative reform of local municipalities is positive development ideed. Other than that, there are NO encouraging news around the corner, unfortunately. Latvia is lagging approximately 5-7 years behind Estonia in terms of its administrative capacity...

Just learned from insiders that there is a new political force looming behind the scenes. Customarily economic situation is precarious and PM is tired of all that. Government reshuffle is planned after the 2008 budget is accepted in the parliament, but ratings of governing coalitions are extremely low. According to the Latvijas Fakti pollster approval ratings of governing coalition has fallen to 25% (in comparison to 49% in 11.2006), while opposition parties get customary 31% aproval and undecided lot is 44% high. It basicaly matches the ongoing trend by the Eurobarometer survey, and here Latvia is in the same league with ROM, BUL and HUN...

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