The Latvian 2009 budget must be slashed by another 1 billion euros in order to receive next tranche from the International Monetary Fund, and avoid bankruptcy by June 2009. While the PM is looking for possibilities to cut expenses several investigative journalists have been looking where is the money really spent in Latvia. TV3 discovered that there are shady schemes created where money for non exiting projects are generated through the Latvian Investment and Development Agency (LIAA) with EU funds money squandered. Apparently Arvis Auziņš who was beneficiary of such a scam is the municipal councilor (Union of Greens and Farmer) in Ogre and he also tried to bribe a journalist.
While different scams are engineered for getting access to the EU funds monies, the Latvian civil service remuneration system is still a part of the party political "feudal fiefdoms" system and it causes a lot of bad blood. Legally the civil service should be apolitical, however it is long known that civil service does not act as a corporate entity in Latvia, that would act independently from whims of political parties. The system of remuneration in civil service is having similarly shady rules to the system of salaries in the State Enterprises boards, which served as a prime generators for monies into the political party coffers. Now most of the State Enterprise boards are liquidated, but the political party financing from the state budget has not replaced the old system yet.
The law introducing party financing from the state budget and the mandatory tax and property declaration system should be the major agenda for the present parliament. Without these two laws it is impossible to introduce the principles of transparency especially during times when there is increasing public awareness bout it. During times of global financial and economic crisis, which affects all countries participating in the era of global flows of goods, finance and ideas, particularly those countries with ineffective government are affected the most severe way and we may witness it very strongly in Latvia. As a proof that not only I am concerned about the way Latvia is governed today, you may have the very unique Gatis Šļūka view on the working methods of the Latvian parliament.
Text in Latvian: QUESTION: puk,puk,puk...tuk,tuk, tuk...bu, bu, bu...AN ANSWER: bla, bla, bla
Today's Diena had a nice report about salaries of the top - notch civil servants. And it just gives you insight about the questionable system of remuneration at the highest level of civil service in Latvia.
Average monthly salary of Latvian under secretaries*, before taxes (Ls)
Ministry / Under secretary /2008./2009.
Agriculture /Dace Lucaua /6532 /3539
Finance / Mārtiņš Bičevskis / 6043 /3564
Economics / Anrijs Matīss / 5217 / 4330
Municipal Affairs / Laimdota Straujuma /5122 / 2852
Children's Affairs / Iveta Zalpētere / 5058 / 2850
Education / Mareks Gruškevics / 4146 / 2852
Transportation / Nils Freivalds / 4003 / 3313
Welfare / Ringolds Beinarovičs / 3888/ 2852
Electronic affairs / Juris Jansons / 3496 / 2450
Defense /Jānis Sārts /3391 / 2744
Environment / Guntis Puķītis / 3372 / 2664
Justice / Mārtiņs Lazdovskis / 3148 / 2094
Foreign Affairs / Andris Teikmanis / 2947 / 2975
Health / Armands Ploriņš / 2890 / 2150
Internal affairs /Aivars Straume / 2746 / 2506
Culture / Solvita Zvidriņa / 2347 / 2000
*Under secretaries (Valsts sekretārs) are the top level civil servants in Latvia responsible for administering ministries. Monthly salary, vacation allowance, bonuses, additional premiums forms the average monthly salary of the under secretary
P.S. For those of you reading in Estonian here is my interview to Sirp.