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Vol 2, No 31
18 September 2000
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News from Latvia
All the important news since 9 September 2000
Daria Kulagina


The Finance Ministry drafted amendments to the 2000 state budget that would put the fiscal deficit at 2.4 to 2.7 percent of GDP, which is an increase from the original two percent plan. The government approved a deficit of 1.74 percent of GDP, which was higher than was expected, for the 2001 fiscal year, with planned expenditures for the year at around USD 2.4 billion. Officials at the Bank of Latvia predicted that the International Monetary Fund's reaction to the planned increase will be negative.

During talks with Latvian politicians and businessmen, China's Parliamentary Speaker, Li Peng, expressed his country's interest in the Baltic Sea region as a trade corridor to Europe. China wants to cut its export costs by routing some of its trade to the European Union through Latvia's Baltic Sea ports, linked to China by a rail network across Russia. Li's delegation discussed similar issues in Estonia, while Latvians claim that their more-developed rail connections to Russia give it an "economic edge."

Experts from Australia, Canada, Germany, Israel, the United States and Great Britain met in Rīga to discuss the cases of two Australian citizens who, Nazi hunters say, helped Germans slaughter Jews in occupied Latvia during the Second World War. Prosecutor General Jānis Maizītis acknowledged that international experts have helped Latvia work out a way to continuing the investigation but gave no indication of whether or when charges against the two Latvian men, Konrāds Kalējs and Kārlis Ozols, would be filed. Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff, who heads the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Jerusalem office, expressed his desire to see a trial for Latvian war crimes suspects.

The four-party centrist coalition remained split, after the Saeima failed to confirm former Minister of Finance and ex-Prime Minister Andris Šķēle's close ally, Edmunds Krastiņš (People's Party), as the head of a new securities and capital market watchdog committee. For Fatherland and Freedom argued that the commission ought to be headed by a politically neutral person. Andris Šķēle, meanwhile, pointed to the lack of a parliamentary majority in support of the current government.

Einars Repše, the president of the Bank of Latvia who was active in politics in the early 1990s, hinted he might return to politics, if the current government were to break down and political parties had difficulty agreeing on a prime minister. He emphasized, however, that he feels very good about being the president of the central bank and, at the moment, has no particular plans in respect to political activities.


Economics in brief

Latvian petrol prices will remain at their current levels, following promises of small quota increases from OPEC.

The government approved Latvia's initial response to a lawsuit filed with the international court of arbitration by Tilts Communications, the strategic investor and co-owner of the national telecommunications monopoly, Lattelekom. The government retained the largest global law firm, Clifford Chance, to represent Latvia in the litigation with Tilts Communications.

Fish product exports to the EU could increase in 2001, following an EU proposal to scrap export quota restrictions for the Baltic countries' fish processors.

The European Commission approved Latvia's Rural Development Plan. Now, Latvia will not lose this year's SAPARD funding.

The unemployment rate keeps falling in Latvia. At 8.1 percent as of 1 September 2000, it is the lowest it has been since 1997.


Social and local interest

Latvia's 15-year-old pupils are more eager to go to school than their peers in 27 European states and in the US, according to a survey conducted by the World Health Organization. The major motive of the pupils is to see friends and teachers. Options for obtaining education are limited in rural areas, however, concluded experts from the Latvian Adult Education Union. Adult education is not seen as a priority by the government, even though a lack of experts is constantly an issue.

The US State Department's Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Bureau concluded in its annual survey on international freedom of religion that bureaucratic restrictions are the only problem faced by religious minorities in Latvia.

Latvia, along with Zambia, ranked 57th out of 90 nations in a study of corruption, according to the index released by the corruption watchdog Transparency International. Estonia ranked 27th, while Lithuania came in at 43rd.

A penalty of LVL 250 [USD 403] was imposed by the State Labor Department on entrepreneurs who employed workers from Portugal and Poland for the construction of a department of the Bank of Latvia branch building in Pardaugava. The Portuguese will have to leave Latvia, while the fate of the Poles is still in question.

Interior Minister Mareks Segliņš proposed stricter regulations on penalties for driving while intoxicated. The minister suggested major alcohol producers print warnings on bottle labels and the mass media find time for a drunk driving prevention campaign. Only last week, the number of car accident casualties increased twofold, rising to fifty-five injuries (with the youngest being a four-month-old baby) and five dead in a weekend. At least three road accidents were due to driving while intoxicated.

Vide Infra Group, a private e-solutions company, debuted its site. The "What's new" is basically a digest of links to all the latest news on other recently launched portals and Internet publications, such as diena.lv, apollo.lv, tvnet.lv and the "veteran" delfi.lv.

The Association of Latvian General Practitioners (ALGP) asked physicians to ignore restrictions imposed by health insurance funds and to prescribe all medications needed by a patient. The ALGP feels that the state has to either provide for the possibility to prescribe state-covered medicine in accordance with the cabinet's regulations or declare itself insolvent.

Exchange Rates
As of 15 September 2000
Currency Latvian
1 US dollar 0.62
1 British pound 0.87
1 German mark 0.27
1 euro 0.53


Daria Kulagina, 15 September 2000

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Alexei Monroe
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Kai-Olaf Lang
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The Value of a Life

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Ticket, Please!

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A Bubble Burst

Tiffany G Petros
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Greener Grass

Emil Kerenji
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Press Reviews:

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