Thursday, April 3, 2008

Spring blues... except Latvia Ltd?

I am dealing with bureaucratic paperwork while in Latvia now. I had to acquire just few papers, but spent some time and money in order to have them in order timely. In the meantime I have spoken with several entrepreneurs in Latvia and I do understand when they curse Latvia Ltd. for its endemic bureaucracy...this country has far too many obstacles for truly free economic activity. In the meantime it is Latvian Transport Supremo who is under fire in Latvia today. He is in safe waters because the PM is his guardian, and even the voluminous report of the State Audit office is not shaking his position.

The state audit office accuses the Ministry of Transport and organization under its supervision, the Latvian Roads Plc (Latvijas Ceļi) in mismanagement of public resources. The PM biggest excuse for pardoning his buddy Šlesers is the lack of competition in the sector of road building in Latvia!!! Can you imagine, in the free market of EU the PM could find the only excuse - the lack of competition, for Gods sake!!!! In Estonia it has been Lemminkainen and Swedish road builders who have constructed roads last ten years, and I have not heard that Estonians have whined about the lack of competition. In Lithuania they have first class roads and the Latvian PM whined that Lithuanians have not showed considerable interest about Latvian road market...But why should any newcomer into Latvian road building market want to come if they know that there are the same winners in public tenders. The State Audit office in its rapport openly states that ACB company was chosen as the only candidate in 35% of cases, and couple of three companies (ACB among then) won 65% of tenders.

Latvia is not transparent market and it sets it apart from Estonia for example. Will see how long the corrupt elite will strangle the Latvian civil society? In the meantime it is weird to sea sea change of politics all around of world but not in this country. Belgium got its government last month after nine month Calvary. Poland chose to follow the way of europeanization last year. Georgia and Ukraine have changed their leadership after pressure from civil society, and also these days it was Robert Mugabe who most probably would have to step down after being 28 years in the office. Latvian quadriumvirate is holding to power and even though fall of the government is now openly spoken in governing circles. However, I am afraid that without sharp economic downturn and consequently people becoming agitated there is not chance to topple the Latvian post-soviet Mandarin class.

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