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Demographic crisis tops agenda

Oct 31, 2012
From wire reports

RIGA - Last week, the board of the World Federation of Free Latvians (WFFL) convened for a session in Riga, adopting several resolutions of which one urges the government to allot at least two percent of gross domestic product (GDP) to demography, said WFFL representative Janis Andersons, reports LETA.
The WFFL urges the prime minister, the government and Saeima parties to declare overcoming the nation’s demographic crisis as one of Latvia’s main long-term priorities, envisaging at least 2 percent of GDP for demographic development programs. At the same time, the WFFL welcomes the government’s decision to allot additional funds from the 2013 national budget to support Latvia’s young families.

The remaining six resolutions contain specific appeals to the main Latvian organizations abroad, the Latvian Language Agency, The Prime Minister’s Office, the Culture Ministry, the Education and Science Ministry, the Foreign Ministry, the Cabinet of Ministers, President Andris Berzins, Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis (Unity) and Saeima Speaker Solvita Aboltina (Unity).

Prime minister’s track record
Demographic issues have been on the prime minister’s mind. Dombrovskis, in discussing his third government’s main accomplishments, mentions the demographic challenge, along with important decisions on facilitating Latvia’s economic development, employment and improving the country’s reputation on international markets.

In the future, the prime minister resolves to continue working to reduce poverty, improve the reproduction of Latvia’s population, employment figures and ease the tax burden.
Among the tasks completed, the prime minister mentions increasing salaries for teachers, ratifying the European Union’s fiscal discipline treaty in Saeima and drafting the National Development Plan for 2014-2020, all of which impact the country’s demographics.

“The National Development Plan is a road map for Latvia, where we want to live in seven years, setting specific goals and envisaging instruments for achieving them while focusing on the country’s overall development,” highlights Dombrovskis.
The prime minister emphasizes that several important decisions have been made on improving the demographic situation in Latvia, uniting all of society by explaining the basics of state formation, history and national values.
The introduction of ‘zero declarations,’ the white list of companies, open voting in Saeima and approving Jaroslavs Strelcenoks as the Corruption Prevention Bureau’s chief is also on Dombrovskis’ list.

Asked about the most important future tasks, Dombrovskis mentions raising welfare, the European Union’s multi-annual budget for 2014-2020 in compliance with Latvia’s interests, preparation for the country’s accession to the eurozone and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), as well as Latvia’s presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2015.

October 25 marked Dombrovskis’ one year in office for his third government.
Dombrovskis is the first prime minister in Latvia’s history to head three governments in a row. He has been Latvia’s prime minister since March 12, 2009.

Don’t blame the government
Re-emigration is only one part of solving today’s problem of emigration; the most important thing is to overcome prejudices against the State of Latvia - as well as prejudices on the part of the State, Latvian Ambassador-at-Large Rolands Lappuke said in an interview with the daily Latvijas Avize.
The government should not be held responsible for the sum total of all factors that resulted in the continuing emigration from Latvia, believes Lappuke. “The government policies are the same for everyone, but the ways the people react to them may be very individual.” Regardless of whether a Latvian national has left the country a long time ago or recently, what matters most is what the person is ready to do for Latvia, and whether this person wishes to cooperate, notes Lappuke.

It is very important to eliminate the main reason for emigration, by improving the economic situation in the country, Lappuke says. It is important to work with every individual emigrant, he believes; therefore, the Foreign Ministry will have a special staff member to develop a database on the Latvian diaspora abroad.
In terms of economic development, intellectuals and those who have received a good education or learned new skills abroad should be the first to return. For instance, Valmiera fiberglass plant has contacted several former employees who had left Latvia, offered them competitive salaries, and now they are back working at the plant, says the ambassador.
On the other hand, working out debts to banks has to continue in Latvia, so those people who left the country because of them could finally return. “Why should they be working in Ireland, and paying taxes there, so they could repay their loans, which eventually will go to Sweden anyway,” says the ambassador.

Some progress made
The ruling coalition parties on Tuesday signed a protocol of agreement about additional allocations totalling some 12 million lats (17.1 million euros) from the 2013 national budget to deal with the demographic issues, reports Baltic News Service
The agreement provides for support to parents with children under 1.5 years old, support to eliminate waiting lines for places in pre-schools, an increase in non-taxable minimum income per dependent, allowances to buy teaching aids and more.

The allocations for supporting parents till their children turn 1.5-years old total eight million lats, and 3.2 million lats will be granted to deal with the problem of a shortage of pre-schools through a monthly payment of 100 lats to parents whose children cannot attend municipal pre-schools as the existing number of pre-schools is insufficient to admit all children, but this allowance will be paid for no more than three years and will replace the planned babysitting allowance.
Starting from 2013, the non-taxable minimum income will be raised by 10 lats per dependant, and this has already been planned in the draft national budget for next year.

In addition, 1.0 million lats will be granted in allowances to buy teaching aids, including text books.

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