RIGA - Latvia's inflation showed no signs of retreating in March, ticking upward for the 10th month straight and reaching 16.8 percent.
The indicator was led by higher prices for services, which were up 17.4 percent compared with March 2007, while those for goods were slightly lower and increased 16.5 percent over the year, the statistics office announced April 8.
Food, housing and alcohol prices continue to lead the pack and provide consumers with the most headaches. Food and nonalcoholic beverage prices are up 20.8 percent year-on-year, while those for housing and alcohol (including tobacco) have skyrocketed 25.2 and 45 percent respectively.
Monthly inflation was a robust 1.5 percent thanks to higher heating costs 's up an average 6.4 percent, though heat in Riga shot up 9.2 percent 's and prices for clothes, which catapulted some 8 percent compared with February.
Considering that annual inflation was 16.7 percent in February, it would appear that the inexorable price-rise is nearing its apex. However, on April 1 a new set of electricity tariffs went into effect, and this summer it is expected natural gas prices will increase significantly.
Finance Minister Atis Slakteris told Latvian public radio that growth of energy prices would not allow inflation to fall in the nearest future.
Still, he expressed hope that the inflationary spiral would reverse direction and begin to fall soon.
"If no major crashes occur, then in the second half of the year (inflation) could decline," Slakteris said.
Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis said that the government's goal was to reduce inflation to single-digit territory by the end of the calendar year.