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New alliance proposes Latvia as next 'Celtic Tiger'

  • 2006-05-24
  • From wire reports

ROLE MODEL: Latvia should look to Ireland for inspiration in becoming the next European success story, and the Latvia's Way and Latvia's First alliance has declared it would help the Baltic state achieve this goal.

RIGA - In an ambitious effort to gain the favor of voters, the alliance of Latvia's First and Latvia's Way announced a bold goal 's to raise Latvia's living standards to the level of Ireland within 10 years and increase the average salary to at least 500 lats (711 euros) in half that time. Speaking at a political forum on May 21, chairman of Latvia's Way Ivars Godmanis said the alliance strove to achieve the "general prosperity of the nation, which is what people expect from politicians."

His words were motivated by the upcoming general elections, scheduled for this October. Before anything, the alliance, formed last year to help the parties break the 5 percent barrier in this year's parliamentary election, hopes to bring Latvia up to European living standards by 2016, a goal that will require "energy, experience and work" to accomplish, Godmanis said. He asserted that, together, Latvia's First and Latvia's Way have the qualities necessary to fulfill this plan.

Godmanis pointed out that, so far, Latvia's current Parliament has not demonstrated "efficient work." As an example, he pointed to the government's inadequate distribution of EU funds, which triggered a number of scandals and political threats.
According to former Transport Minister Ainars Slesers, who formed Latvia's First Party, Latvia should follow the example of Ireland, which quickly became one of Europe's most developed and prosperous countries. Becoming the next "Celtic Tiger" is a perfectly realistic goal, he added, as long as people "do not sit at home after 5 p.m. but work actively." In order to develop successfully, Latvia must focus on becoming an international business hub, as well as also cut taxes, Slesers said. As for specifics, the former transport minister proposed reducing the personal income tax to 15 percent in three years, and reconstructing the main highways to meet EU standards by 2013.

Transport Minister Krisjanis Peters, a member of Latvia's First, echoed Slesers, saying that if Latvia maintains its rapid economic growth, "We will be able to create an Ireland here." The minister added that Irish representatives had expressed their gratitude over the high number of Latvian guest workers helping to sustain Ireland's economy. Peters said the only way to lure Latvians residing in Ireland back to their homeland was "with money 's economic development and salaries." The political forum "Three Steps to Ireland" was organized by Latvia's First, Latvia's Way and their regional partners. The conference gathered some 1,200 participants. In early January, Latvia's First and Latvia's Way signed an agreement with four regional parties to cooperate in the upcoming parliamentary elections.