Books on Latvia
After a brief period of independence between the two World Wars, Latvia was annexed by the USSR in 1940. It reestablished its independence in 1991 following the breakup of the Soviet Union. Although the last Russian troops left in 1994, the status of the Russian minority (some 30% of the population) remains of concern to Moscow. Latvia continues to revamp its economy for eventual integration into various Western European political and economic institutions.
Update No: 280- (29/04/04)
Repse government falls
The Latvians have a new government after a particularly sharp dispute among its top politicians. The premier earlier this year, Einars Repse, is a formidable character, who brooks no opposition to his ideas. He fired his deputy, Ainars Slesers, in early February, but thereby brought about his own demise.
Mr Sleser's Latvia First Party pulled out of the coalition, leaving it with a minority in parliament. Repse had launched an anti-corruption drive that was popular with the public, but not with several top figures in public life.
He had formerly been the central bank chairman, and as such was an appropriate custodian of probity in public life. If only Latvia was a bigger country, he would be in the running to become the next head of the IMF, a job that is likely to go instead to Poland's Leszek Balcerowicz.
New government in Riga
Latvia has posted a different sort of first by appointing to the premiership Europe's first Green Prime Minister, Indulis Emsis, formerly Environment Minister. He forms the eleventh government since independence in 1991. He is deemed more conservative than usual for a Green.
But any premier of Latvia is likely to be conservative these days. Not for nothing did the Latvians endure with fortitude fifty years of communism. Of the Latvians one can say what is true of many others today; they are more likely to believe in the end of the world than in the end of capitalism.
He heads a coalition government, agreed on the essentials of NATO and EU membership, both becoming a reality this spring. Economic reform will top his government's agenda, but he has pledged himself to remain loyal to his Green roots.
"I will always remain green, no matter what you say," Emsis was quoted as saying. "Being confirmed as prime minister is a wave that has brought me higher than I had planned to go."
Emsis promised to include his coalition partners in important decisions. "Only in different opinions is the truth born," he said. "I will keep my eyes and my ears open."
Fifty-six of the 100 members of Latvia's parliament voted in favour of Emsis and his coalition of three conservative parties - the Union of the Green and Farmers, the Peoples Party and the Christian First Party.
The coalition needed a simple majority in the 100-seat Saeima, or parliament. The new communications minister is Ainars Slesers, the new foreign minister is Rihards Piks (People's Party), economics minister - Juris Lujans (First Party of Latvia), finance minister - Oskars Spudzins (People's Party), and interior minister - Eriks Jekabsons (First Party of Latvia).
Latvia launches Eurobond presentation
Latvia began a presentation of a new 10-year Eurobond issue in London recently, Baiba Melnace, press secretary at the Latvian Finance Ministry said, the Baltic News Service has reported.
Melnace said that the volume and date of the new issue have not yet been announced, as these may change depending on investor interest in the new Latvian securities. Citibank has been chosen to manage the issue. Melnace said that the funds received from the issue would be used to finance state spending and to refinance a first issue of Latvian Eurobonds amounting to €225m, placed in 1999. Latvian Finance Minister, Oskars Spurdzins, and officials from the Finance Ministry, the State Treasury and the Bank of Latvia will participate in the presentation.
Latvia gold, forex reserves drop 2% in February
Bank of Latvia gold and foreign currency reserves dropped 2% in February 2004 and 2.5% in the first two months of the year to US$1.496bn, New Europe reported recently.
Gold reserves were at US$98.75m on February 29th, down from US$101.76m on January 31st, foreign currency reserves totalled US$1.397bn, down from US$1.424bn, special drawing rights were at US$240,000, down from US$280,000, and the reserve position in the IMF was unchanged at US$80,000. Gold and foreign currency reserves increased 15.7% in 2003 to US$1.535bn.
Latvia's Grindex to invest US$8m in BZM plant
Latvia's joint-stock company Grindex is ready to invest US$8m in the Belarussian-based Borisov Pharmaceutical Plant (BZMP) provided it can be privatised, Interfax News Agency reported recently.
According to the preliminary data, the Latvian investor voiced its intention to participate in BZMP privatisation. It plans to acquire 40-45% of shares. The source underlined that the foreign capital is needed to implement 2003 business plans aimed at reconstructing the ampoules production and constructing a new workshop for tabulating and packing.
These investment projects have been put on the economy ministry's list of strategic investment projects with the ampoules production to be reconstructed in 2004-2006, and the workshop for tabulating and packing to be built in 2005-2008. In particular, the retooling of the ampoules production is expected to boost its capacity to 400m from 360m ampoules a year and to retain and rack up the export potential of the company.
At present, the company exports over 65% of its output, which brings US$7m a year. The reconstruction is estimated at US$12.4m.
In January-February, Borisov Pharmaceutical Plant produced 11.7bn Belarussian rubles worth of commodities, a 111.5% rise against the same period last year.
Exports grew by 1.2% over the period in question. Grindex company holds a 90.98% stake in Tallinn Pharmaceutical Plant and exports to 36 countries of the world. At present, the total joint stock amounts to US$14.3m.
Lattelekom owners sign amicable agreement
The Latvian government and Scandinavian concern TeliaSonera, co-owners of telecommunications company Lattelekom, have signed an amicable agreement following an ownership dispute, a TeliaSonera report to the Stockholm Stock Exchange said recently, New Europe reported.
The agreement sees TeliaSonera paying Latvia 1m lats in compensation for court costs and says that neither party will file lawsuits against the other. The parties decided to set up a working group to discuss long-term property rights to Lattelekom and Latvijas Mobilais Telefons. Lattelekom President Gundars Strautmanis told the press that from the company's point of view the settlement was long awaited and the best that could be expected in this dispute as it provides the opportunity for the start of talks on privatising the government stake in Lattelekom. The company can now work normally, he said. The three-year dispute arose when Latvia breached an item in the contract with TeliaSonera, whereby Lattelekom should remain a monopoly on the fixed line telecoms market until 2013. Latvia cancelled the monopoly in 2003. TeliaSonera filed an 80m lats lawsuit against Latvia, the report said
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