Monday, November 16, 2009
Saturday, November 14, 2009
While madam Freiberga continue her networking activities Latvian complacent and provincial politicians continue to play their games. Just in my last entry I used to mention about the zero sum game activities of the ill famous Latvian AAA team. While People's party (PP) "state capturers" are preparing for their congress in November 21, 2009 the junior member of the AAA team managed to bluff big style today.
There was annual congress of the Latvian Way Latvian First Party union (LWLFP), and also the Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church Mr Pujāts gave his blessing for the bunch on liberoreligious bunch of the LWLFP . The Cardinal rather symbolically pleaded the conservative party folks to "abstain" from morally corrupting activities. In the meantime the former co-chairman of the party was crying foul about his correct strategy of saving Parex, and thus avoiding the Icelandic meltdown of state finances.
As if this would not be enough LETA and Apollo reports that the newly elected LWLFP party chairman and Vice Major of Riga in the party congress openly called the government of Valdis Dombrovskis to step down after the 2010 budget would be passed in the parliament. Bluffing big style is the specialty of the Vice major of Riga and rather ominously he announced that he does not want to to run for the parliament. Now, the politician with his initial surname Lešinskis, who took his wife's "europeanized" last name [Šlesere], joined other two members of the AAA team. Neither the head of the PP state capturers Šķēle nor the sponsor of the Greens and farmers Lembergs want to run for the parliament, because they deem themselves to be omnipotent PM candidates for the upcoming elections.
Latvian minigarch's spin doctors strategy is robust, but unimaginative, and now the youngest member of the AAA team wants to earn his brownies from authoritarian chums outside Latvia as well... . The political game the AAA team retinue plays is exhausting, and I still stick to the idea that this game should be left for the AAA team to immerse into. It is useless to compete with the AAA team whilst playing according to their rules, thus after the party of democratic choice would finish its consolidation it is essential to start to get our volunteers on ground and running on grass roots level as soon as possible. The October 2010 elections should turn out like "to be or not be elections" after all. Latvian civil society should avoid Latvian plumber (translation of Šlosers/Šlesers in Latvian slang) getting too snobbish in his imagined premiership of Latvasjuki, to paraphrase symbolic description of Chess capital from the Ilf & Petrov novel. Lets wait and see how the Latvian Independence Day celebrations would be held, and after them one would be able to notice whether it is mere bluffing or there is also some substance behind the verbal diarrhea of the incumbent Vice Major of Riga.
p.s. Here is access to my monthly TBT column, and the full access to it would be provided next Monday.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Let spin doctors spend their "minigarch" resources! The democratic alternative (New Era, Society for Alternative Politics, and Civic Union) should not participate in this half crazy spin doctor imaginative dream, but provide the democratic and Europeanized alternative to the ludicrous rat race:) The democratic party union during upcoming week should come out with the new name and the consolidation process within the democratic camp is gradually evolving.
P.S. To readers who read Latvian here is just the first result of our joint research project with Axel Reetz in yesterday's CitaDiena
Thursday, October 22, 2009
There have been rumours about oligarchic parties (People's Party, Union of Greens and Farmers and Latvian First and Latvian Way Party Union) engineering possible fall of the government after the 2010 budget would be passed in the parliament. These rumors materialized since the odious former PM is back in Latvian politics. Also rather uniquely the parliament did not appoint the judge Māris Vīgants as the new member of the Supreme Court (its neither caucus of judges nor the president who appoints new judges, because the parliament reigns supreme in Latvia), and several legal experts and pundits argue that the major reason for such unexpected decision was the fact that Mr Vīgants was the judge who ruled in favour of incarcerating odious Latvian minigarch Aivars Lembergs indicted in several charges ranging from corruption cases (proper explanation here should be state capture) to exceeding the power of his public office already back in 2007. The State Prosecutor's office is slowly proceeding with this massive and politically sensitive court case, thus Mr Lembergs was allowed out from the prison the same year and according to the latest information he is under house arrest, that still did not prohibit him from visiting parliament yesterday.
With all these events evolving major Latvian media channels already argue about the possible fall of the government approaching. While using the LETA as primary source, Diena, Tvnet, Apollo and Delfi discuss behind the tent discussions in the Saeima, where the gravest sin of the present government is deemed to be the minister of finance crossing the red line and sidelining a chum of the People's Party folks. The NRA is the only paper that argues the opposite, arguing "that the Minister of Finance found the best possible time to sideline the compromised head of the IRS". Neither the Latvian Radio nor LTV 1 have proven such news, and I am wondering why majority of newspaper and internet media are thus eager to spread the news about an end of the government approaching - is it cheap media frenzy or a part of whipping up the crisis expectations?
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
In a vicarious way the announcements of the Minister of Finance proved long whirling rumours about the Latvian IRS serving the needs of the governing People's Party (PP). PP endorsed the present head of the IRS, and rumours about illegal trade on the Latvian Eastern border were politically hushed down with the help of the PP.
In the evening there was the weekly KNL show where also Minister of Finance and the head of the IRS were present. The dialogue between two officials was turning into a heated debate where the Minister of Finance very diplomatically explained why he cannot trust Mr Jakāns. While the moderator of the TV show asked whether the Minister should not consider simply sacking Mr Jakāns from his post, Mr Repše answered that such a decision is within a purview of the governing coalition.
At the end of the program the KNL moderator rhetorically asked that perhaps it would be a time finally to introduce the mandatory tax and property declaration system, thus the Latvian IRS could finally know what belongs to whom, and who is who in Latvia? Now the Latvian governing coalition has announced that the mandatory tax declaration is to be introduced from January 1, 2010. However, if the promise to introduce the mandatory tax and property declaration system is as baseless as the proposed real estate tax we perhaps would earlier see the disappearance of the Republic of Latvia. You may wonder why such an apocalyptic conclusion?
Because, even though, the governing coalition has reached a compromise on the 0,1% real estate tax after PP gangsters were convinced to support its introduction, the mechanism and administration of the new tax according to the Head of the IRS and senior civil servants is impossible earlier than somewhere at the end of next year....Is the possible sacking of the acting head of the IRS going to serve as the precursor of the fall of the existing government, because the former PM is eagerly waiting his retinue producing the momentum for his virtual coup d' entreprise?
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Monday, October 12, 2009
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Friday, October 9, 2009
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
PENSIONER'S PIERCING[The Latvian Cabinet] and education, culture, health care, pensions... streams trickling out...
[former PM Godmanis] Most important thing is not to get mad! ( Diena, November 11, 2008, PM Ivars Godmanis: `` we should not exaggerate (...)annual GDP could decline this year by 1,3%``("Nevajag pārspīlēt (..) IK šogad varētu samazināties par 1,3%."))
[Chef] bon appetit! [Former PM Šķēle] I better prefer a bit devalued one (abbreviation of salmon is on the one lat coin)
Milk canisters containing social, VAT, income, despair, small and other taxes. [the tax official with the gimme fast tax] where shall I stick this sucker?
[Angry farmer] Answer me! Why isn't there money in the treasury? [an official] Look, they had the fastest pay rise, get them!
[Saeima - the Lettish parliament] and several sledges in front of it (there is a rather ill ominous story from ancient times about old parents taken with a sledge to forest to die )
[Former PM Godmanis] taken the Latvian state hostage and shouting to IMF officials: "gimme the part of the loan otherwise she is gonna die"!
[official shearer] shearing "people". [another official] "There is no time to waste here, lets get wool with all the skin!"
[One MP to another] "Since the official signature campaign started (campaign of 2008 about the amendments allowing qualified number of MP's to start dissolving the parliament), I see voters in nightmares every night with a whip clutching a cart behind me like for a horse, and whipping me through the Saeima corridors...
And here are couple of poignant & appropriate cartoons from Gatis Šļūka.
1. [coalition - orange color of PP and blue color of the New Era party]
MP with the Fatherland Party bag in his hand and piece of PP party wood in his eye pointing to the Lady [New Era party] - you have a splinter in your eye...
I am going to act irrationally if you are going to slash my salary...
Monday, October 5, 2009
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Yesterday, Latvian Cabinet after long wranglings finally agreed (it had to present the same plan already for the May 15, 2009 deadline!) on the universal remuneration system for all the state employees. The new remuneration system stipulates that the highest paid state official henceforth would be the president of the republic, but the governor of the Bank of Latvia (BoL) and the Head of the Financial Capital and Market Commission (FCMC) were left out of the new system due to insistence from the European Central Bank and EU Commission.
While the governor of BoL has agreed to keep solidarity with the rest of the civil servants and to lover his salary, the head of the Latvian FCMC still receives her EUR10 thousand monthly salary. And all this after her odious pronouncements, and absolute inactivity to guard taxpayers interests after crash of the Parex bank, which now undermines already shaky stability of the Latvian Cabinet. The State Audit should publish its official evaluation of the Parex Affair tomorrow, but it already has made Prime minister and prosecutor general their statements made.
While some civil servants in Latvia are busy working on structural reforms other public persons are sinking deeper in their debts. The structural reform process is one hell of a haphazard process in Latvia. Without any discussions now the kids would start attending school at the age of six. Alright, then the government discussed all summer about the plans to emulate a good example of merging Competition Council with the Major Regulator in neighboring Estonia. Latvian Cabinet motley coalition yesterday started their obstructing games, and the whole process of merging those two institutions failed, even though it is long known that the head of the Latvian Regulatory Agency Ms Andrejeva is gambling addict , even though she believes that it is her hobby, and in addition her name is found also in the ill famous list of indebted officials....
The new system of public officials remuneration is a very wise move in a right direction, even though Roberts Zile (MEP) argued that such systems exist only in autocratic countries... .The reform process is too strained and inconsistent due to Latvian constitutional shortcomings (Art. 59). The previously mentioned article makes the PM constantly worry about the stability of the coalition government, because replacement of any minister needs approval in the parliament. Thus, in the Latvian present circumstances where parliament was illegitimately elected and PM cannot devote his full time to structural reforms there is no better and democratic cure than snap elections. This question is on agenda of the president however, because according to Latvian constitution he is the only power who can call for early elections. Involvement of former and present ministers and public officials in openly shady or quasi shady deals tarnish the honest members of the Latvian government. Thus, all in all, the whole Latvian governance system makes me to recall an old Turkish proverb about a person moving one step forward and two steps back...
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Monday, August 24, 2009
However, I was missing the feeling of Baltic unity. It is a fragile concept this Baltic unity, because its existence came about more like an historic paradox. And it was not missing just because Estonia and Lithuana in Latvia sounded just as a point of reference for the event commemorating the historic event, when about 3 million Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians joined their hands in defiance of the Soviet empire of evil and so reminding the world that injustice of August 23, 1939 and subsequent June 16/18, 1940 would be undone one day. I missed the feeling also because I believe that the present governors of Latvia do not deserve neither to commemorate nor celebrate this event. First, they have miserably failed doing all the necessary homework required to enable sustainable governance of their represented nation state. Second, their complacent behaviour is far from over, because former ministers and present MP's still dare to speak out like boorish politicians from the state that just learns to coexist in the family of nation states. As a proof here you have just a quick excerpt from an interview of the worst Latvian minister of finance (Atis Slakteris) given to the July 2009 number of O KLUBS.
Q: What makes you to enjoy politics, why aren't you the simple Atis, who works on his farm?
A: (Waits for rather long time) "All in all I am still the simple Atis. (while laughing) I came to politics gradually, because I never aspired to be in politics. But I became a minister because I had mobile telephone (!transl. note), which I had because I bought a used one for 800 USD, and it had an antennae - like a big whip. You see, people could reach me, and so I became a member in the first Šķēle government."
Those are the former ministers who still kill their time shamelessly in the Latvian parliament that is habitually in recess when the worst economic crisis has hit Latvia. Politicians like the official court jester of Latvian Saeima Juris Dobelis happened to run with his family, and rather positively he did not start his filibustering diatribes on the route. Other politicians still believe that that they can continue their short term back stabbing policies and they believe that their mishaps are possible to undo with the help of some money and effective PR campaign. Probably, just like some of them did also during the 20th Anniversary of the Baltic Way celebrations. Anyway, end is good and all is good. Some 50 000 Latvian active citizens were shaken up from their daily routine and probably made to think also about how atomized the Latvian society is today. I hope that at least some of them thought about it prior the economically harsh autumn and winter sets in. Freedom, accountable political class, and rule of law does not land from heaven, those virtues must be won first and what is as important - those virtues must ensure continuation of the domestic checks and balances system that would enable the vigilant civil society to enjoy comfort of the commonwealth continuously.
P.S. Also Gatis Šļūka has added his poignant view on the Baltic Way 2009
Text in Latvian: EST & LIT talking about LAT: "She is absolutely sick! Should move farther away in order to not to get infected"
Friday, August 21, 2009
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Sunday, June 7, 2009
Text in Latvian: ``Everything is gonna be alright!``
Friday, June 5, 2009
Text in Latvian:
There are only idiots in the goverment! When are we going to see new persons there?
I am going to run for the office! What, are you an idiot?
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Text in Latvian: Lowest point of decline is being reached & got to climb up now!
Numbers I have had hold on are not reliable yet, but political developments have taken their own path. The Minister of Education and former undersecretary of the Ministry Mrs Tatjana Koke just sacked the incumbent undersecretary Mr Mareks Gruskevics.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Friday, May 8, 2009
Today the governor of BoL Mr Ilmārs Rimšēvics openly confronted the former PM and concluded that the irresponsible calls for devaluation are due to the fact that former politician wants to earn money on devaluation! It is the first time when the high ranking official in Latvia indirectly questions moral standards and wish of someone from officialdome to earn money from manipulating the state economy for his private profit. Would there be additional brave revelations similar to Mr Rimšēvics?
Sunday, April 26, 2009
It is hard to follow all the events because the whole state governance system is forced to transform now. In meantime there are many unknowns due to expected massive layoffs. By the end of the years there is a plan to lay off about 4000 teachers and cut the number of hospitals by half (from 56 to about 23). The reality is harsh and long postponed reforms have to be managed all at once in Latvia now. Scenarios about the future range from apocalyptic visions of Ivars Ījabs to moderate assessments of Latvia coping with the existing crisis for the next twenty years. Latvia is transforming and to paraphrase young people of the late 1980's from the Juris Podnieks movie "Is it easy to be a young person?" ("Vai viegli būt jaunam") one may conclude that it is not easy to be a Latvian citizen in 2009.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
It is Wednesday morning and today Saeima must pass constitutional amendments in Art. 78 and 79 in final third reading, thus giving 1/10 of the electorate a right to initiate early elections. Latvian PM Dombrovskis just gave a very concise interview on Latvian radio, where he explained that the government simply cannot afford to back off from plans to overhaul the economy. The strategy for the budget making, that should be accepted somewhere in the early June, is to bring the government expenses down to the 2006 level, good. Valdis Dombrovskis must clean up the mess of previous and very complacent "apparatchiks", and while there is some whining here and there the overall comprehension among the majority in society hopefully is - you reform or you die!
Reforms are piecemeal so far and communication between the government and IMF is secretive. While the Minister of Health Mr Eglītis (People's Party) announced that he disagrees with the proposed budget cuts in health care system PM disagreed with him, thus Mr Eglītis must figure out how to overhaul the system of health care after all. The same is expected from the Minister of Education and Science Mrs Koķe (Union of Greens & Farmers). Sending her own employees from the ministry to participate in the Teachers Trade Union organized march was not the most brilliant idea. New ideas for overhauling the relic of Soviet past, stagnant and ineffective system of education are required from Madam Koķe, does she & her party have them, if they do not even have a real candidacy for Maire's post for the upcoming municipal elections?
Required administrative reforms are very well showing other bottlenecks in Latvian governance system. Hopefully the early spring endogenous reforms will brake a way in for a new generation coming into the Latvian political field. The spring weather is promising so far.
P.S. And while Latvian government has to overhaul their economy with the means possible Estonians are recalling the role of Finnish YLE to provide the cultured elites of Estonia during the Soviet occupation. There is documentary released about the same phenomenon that is so often brought up in discussions, when Latvian and Estonian economies & societies are compared these days.
P.P.S. Those of you reading Latvian here is my piece I wrote for Diena on April 2, 2009
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
2) Latvian electoral law is amended and the so called "electoral locomotives" would not help MP's with questionable qualities coming into the parliament. In addition legislation preventing organized crime is finally incorporated into the Criminal Code;
3) parliament finally accepted [but the procedure to choose the new head was utterly murky, although politicians agreed on following transparent and understandable rules of the game] the new head of the Corruption Prevention Bureau (KNAB);
4) plan for stimulating economy [there are numerous plans in Latvia, but what is lacking is political will to implement them in their fullness] is accepted in the government and the state administration reform was started. Remuneration caps were established for state and municipal employees, and also most of the state company politicized boards were liquidated;
Text in Latvian: Latvian PM Dombrovskis, Minister of Finance Repše holding on & President ["I will not pull the hand brake, because..."]