Latvija in brief - 2007-03-14

  • 2007-03-14
Six people suffered injuries in a fire that broke out at an art college dormitory in Rezekne on March 12. The people injured in the blaze include a 64 year-old man whose face was burned by the flames, a 22 year-old man, and four young women, aged 18 to 20, who suffered from smoke inhalation. Twelve people were evacuated from the burning building through a window, while eight others used the building's staircase to escape the flames. In all, 25 people were evacuated from the building.

Preliminary findings of a survey conducted by the Riga Addiction Prevention Center found that as many as 93 percent of teenage girls and 80 percent of boys from Riga use alcohol on a regular basis. The survey also found that 38 percent of boys and 26 percent of girls have experimented with drugs, the most popular being marijuana with 26 percent of boys and 18 percent of girls having tried the drug. The poll revealed that eight percent of teenagers had tried drugs at the age of 11 or younger. The survey polled 4,000 teenagers aged 15 to 16.

A date has been set for the signing of a border agreement between Latvia and Russia. The signing will take place on March 27 in Moscow. The agreement is set to be signed by Latvian Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis and Russian Prime Minister Mihails Fradkovs. Shortly before the agreement was to be signed in 2005, Latvia attached an explanatory declaration referring to the 1920 agreement in which the territory of Abrene (currently Pytalovo) belonged to Latvia, a move that caused the Russians to abandon the agreement. There has not been an official border with Russia since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The government has decided to freeze ministers' salaries to keep in line with its new inflation-curbing plan. Government representatives said that the move demonstrates their tough fiscal attitude. The prime minister's monthly salary is about 2,162 lats (3,088 euros), while ministers receive 1,944 lats a month. These salaries are calculated by multiplying the average salary in the public sector by eight; the premier's salary is multiplied by 8.9. Last year, the average net monthly wage in Latvia increased by 23.1 percent year-on-year to 216.49 lats.

According to a recent poll by TNS, 53 percent of Latvians consider the escalating cost of living as the most pressing current problem. A total of 42 percent of respondents to the poll said they worry about healthcare, and 32 percent are concerned about such issues as unemployment, crime, economic growth and social inequality. When asked about future problems, 47 percent of respondents said they worry about education, compared with an EU average of only 18 percent. TNS project manager Inta Priedola said this may be due to an overly complicated educational system and a growing number of paid students.