Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Latvian farmers protesting, and political brinkmanship continuing...

The triple crisis is getting deeper in Latvia and the inability of the the present political class to manage the state affairs becomes visible by hours already. Promises to the political cronies during the era of high economic growth have transformed into the inaccessibility of the ministers and outright smug attitude of the Latvian government.

Just finished watching the Latvian TV 100.pants live interview with two gentlemen representing food processing industry and dairy producer´s association. Both Messrs concluded rather poignantly, that `while the PM understands their problems it is the rest of the cabinet and the civil service that is simply unable to deliver (nespej aiznest vazi no kabineta A uz kabinetu B)`. Both representatives pleaded other social groups not to give in to rumours that are being spread about the `´ungrateful farmers``who´s situation as if should be solved by taking away financial means from pensioners, policemen, teachers, and doctors. Such rumours signify how desperate the present governing coalition is, and also a prime example of the present government living in a power bubble.

Whoever you speak today in this Baltic country recognizes that discontent about the present political class is simply unbearable. Association Sustento, that represents people with physical and mental disabilities, was protesting in front of the government today about the unexpected rise in price of medicines. The teachers trade union threatens the government with strikes, and farmers are becoming really restless. The Farmers Federation and Farmers Parliament(Zemnieku Saeima), two organizations representing farmers in Latvia demanded resignation of the Minister of Agriculture Martins Roze (Union of Greens and Farmers) already half a year ago, but the minister probably forgot to notice it because he was too busy with his other hobbies, and which are long known for the local public in this country. In reality the minister who´s tenure already lasts for six years in a row (since November 2002) failed to defend Latvian farmers in the acquis communautaire negotiations, thus the latter receive the smallest CAP payments in comparison with the other Baltic neighbors.

Thus, farmers are becoming really desperate and it is calculated that unless government does something immediately (help them negotiate bank holidays for a year, establish export credit system, pay the local subsidies within two weeks after signing a contract, provide the EU direct payments until March 31, and providing 2,5% of annual budget payments for agricultural subsidies) about 1500-2000 dairy farms will bankrupt within weeks. In addition to dairy farmers also farmers specializing in wheat and cattle growing are expecting desperate situation within couple of months, thus the demand for the EU direct payments to be paid by the March 31 deadline, because otherwise most of them will fail to sow grain for the next harvest.

You may see the video about farmers activities here, and the following couple of photos from Diena show that farmers are determined to reach their goals. Farmers are relatively free in the winter season, thus they are sticking to their plan to see the government meeting their demands within seven days from today. If government would not meet their demands farmers would start blocking major highways and bring manure to the houses of the parliament and the cabinet.

Prime Minister Godmanis! Do not kill penguins, because who is going to lay golden eggs for you?











I am FOR the Agriculture!

Photos: Uldis Briedis



President Zatlers already gave one deadline for the government and the parliament until March 31, 2009. While government chose two candidacies for the next round to pick the new head of the corruption prevention bureau (KNAB), the parliament has not even started to discuss the amendments in the election law. While the PM first promised to weight the biggest opposition party (New Era-JL) proposal about the apolitical prime minister, then today Mr Goodman changed his mind and announced that JL should forget about taking part in the remodelled government. Party political games continue in the government and many members of the parliament keep representing no one.


While the State Audit Office accused the Latvian Transport Ministry in failing to provide transparent bookkeeping at the RIX airport Mr Slesers in his usual manner asked to glorify his accomplishments in providing cheap flights for the Latvian consumers. While asked about direct accusations about mismanagement at the airport he traditionally counterattacked the journalist and asked to scrutinize behavior of Lithuanian and Estonian airport authorities. Colleague Iveta Kazoka in her blog (in Latvian) described several ways of peaceful disobedience, and also suggested that Latvia could easily live with seventy MP´s instead of one hundred!? The reason is very simple, since November 2006 one third (!) of the Latvian parliament members participated in parliamentary debates less than five times (six of them have not taken a word even once...)...very sad indeed...

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