Figures speak for themselves

  • 2007-10-24
  • By Mike Collier

COP OUT: Godmanis (right) was keen to talk to police before demonstrations started (Photo: Mike Collier)

RIGA -- Life in Latvia was all about figures on Oct. 24.

While lawmakers were debating the merits of the government's proposed budget, the KNAB anti-corruption bureau was releasing details of how far the country's political parties had overshot their allotted spending.
KNAB's calculations show that the two biggest spenders are both members of the four-party ruling coalition.

The People's Party overshot the 279,631 limit by a staggering 190 percent, spending more than half a million lats (529,980 lats / 754,129 euros) during the 2006 general election campaign.

The only real rival to the free-spending People's Party is the Latvia's First/Latvia's Way party, which spent 401,610 lats (571,466 euros), an overspend of 144 percent. But for a party with just 10 MPs (compared with the People's Party's 23 seats) that means the alliance can easily boast of having the highest-maintenance lawmakers in the land.

No other party exceeded the limit by more than 2 percent and the largest opposition party, New Era, actually recorded an under-spend of more than 2,000 lats.

The KNAB figures seriously undermine government calls during the budget debate for the population at large to exercise financial prudence and reign in their levels of spending. Being told to economise by a party that has exceeded another budget by more than half a million lats will be regarded as staggering hypocrisy by voters.

Among the audience at the press conference called to announce the KNAB findings was the agency's suspended chief, Aleksejs Loskutovs.

From 8 a.m. onwards, crowds gathered outside the Saeima building to jeer government representatives on their way to the budget debate.

Large numbers of police were deployed to ensure public order, but not even they have been able to avoid the figures flying back and forth between government and opposition politicians. Hours earlier, police representatives were told by Interior Minister Ivars Godmanis that the police would in fact receive only 65 lats of an agreed 100 lat pay rise next year.

"We do not have any additional resources," said Godmanis, a prominent member of the Latvia's First/Latvia's Way party.