Latvian President Andris Berzins said during a meeting today with representatives from Nakotnes Fonds (the Fund for the Future) that he was ready to cooperate with the fund and offer specific proposals for improving the demographic situation in Latvia. He said he intends to discuss this with Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma and government ministers, the President's Press Office told LETA.
Berzins' meeting with Nakotnes Fonds representatives Ilmars Mezs, Vilis Vitols and Martins Barkovskis focused on further action and cooperation in implementing the Strategy for Improving the Demographic Situation in Latvia.
"It is a question of the future of Latvia. This is the 'to be or not to be' of our nation. I therefore am resolved to cooperate with the fund and support specific proposals for improving the situation at my future meetings with the premier and ministers," Berzins said.
The problem of demographic [decline] is the most serious and urgent problem that Latvia has to tackle, and the government appears to not have realized the gravity of the problem, Vitols stressed during the meeting.
''However, all is not lost,'' said Mezs, mentioning the example of Estonia and the political decisions that the Estonian government more than ten years ago in support of nuclear families.
The current tax policy of Latvia is the main obstacle for families wishing to have two or more children, said Mezs, explaining that taxes in Latvia are currently more favourable towards childless families than families with children.
"We, in our country have in fact punished people who have more children, exposing them to higher risk of poverty than families that have none. This situation must be rectified at once," emphasised Mezs.
Participants in the meeting agreed that support for families comprised not only maternity benefits and opportunity for moms to have longer maternity leave, but that it should also translate into the policy on non-taxable minimum salary. This would mean making a choice between a non-taxable minimum equal for everyone and a higher minimum for families with children.
Nakotnes Fonds proposes that the non-taxable minimum income for persons with children be increased to the same level as that for pensioners: from 165 euros a month to 235 euros. Taking into consideration Estonia's experience, Latvia could also consider earlier retirement, indexing pension savings, supporting mortgages for families, and other measures.
Nakotnes Fonds is an organization developing proposals for improving the demographic situation in Latvia and informing the public about demographics and related matters.D