President: economy is 'problem number one'

  • 2007-11-21
  • By Talis Saule Archdeacon
RIGA - President Valdis Zatlers has stated that the country's next government would have to focus first and foremost on the economy, pointing to his clear preference for a prime minister with an economic background.
"This is the next government's problem number one," the president said in a television interview with "The State's First Person" on Nov. 15.
Zatlers pointed to rapidly rising prices fed by government administered tariffs as the main source of the country's economic problems, echoing a statement the same week by Bank of Latvia President Ilmars Rimsevics. 

The president's comment came as the country's political elite began intense negotiations over the make-up and priorities of the next government.
A recent survey conducted by Latvijas Fakti found that the most popular candidate for the next prime minister is opposition New Era member Valdis Dombrovskis.
Dombrovskis, who has previously served as finance minister, is currently one of Latvia's members in the European Parliament.
New Era spokeswoman and former presidential nominee Sandra Kalniete highlighted the role that the party will play in the new government during a Nov. 20 interview with Latvian state radio.
"We feel that TP [the People's Party] had the chance to use all its possibilities. Now we need a new head of government… setting up the same old government a third time won't work," she said.
Latvian independent TV channel TV3 reported on Nov. 18 that 30.6 percent of the respondents to the latest survey expressed approval of Dombrovskis. However, the outgoing four-party coalition seems determined to keep the reins of power and is likely to propose a number of new ministers, nothing more. With the exception of For Fatherland and Freedom, the coalition is loathe to cooperate with New Era.
Other popular candidates in the poll included Culture Minister Helena Demakova (15 percent), Riga City Council lawmaker Edmunds Krastins (12.9 percent) and former Health Minister Gundars Berzins (11 percent).
Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis 's who is due to step down on Dec. 5 's said that the People's Party is considering proposing six possible candidates for the position following a Nov. 14 meeting with the president.
Meanwhile, another poll suggested that Latvians have lost faith in state officials.

A recent survey conducted by GfK Baltic pollster found that the vast majority of respondents feel that state officials do not hold any meaningful dialogue with their constituents and that they tend not to keep their election promises.
"The current frame of mind of Latvian residents is characterized by uncertainty about the future, disappointment with the increasing distance of the power from the public and a lack of trust in the changes coming from above," Iluta Struzkalne, director of GfK Baltic, said.