RIGA - In a bid to further cut back on government spending, Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis has announced that he will disband all the special affairs ministries and merge two ministries.
The decision came in response to a need for the government to cut back on spending in the face of decreased tax revenues. On Sep. 4, Godmanis and the Cabinet resolved to freeze all public sector wages until 2009 and cut ministry spending by 10 percent.
"Obviously, we will not be able to do without a wide restructuring of the government. However hard it would be, I believe that we will discontinue the work of all three secretariats," Godmanis said.
The prime minister said the special affairs ministries duties would be redistributed among existing ministries.
The absorption of the European money will be delegated to the Finance Ministry, while integration issues will be taken over by the Family and Children's Affairs ministry.
E-affairs secretariat functions may be divided between a specially established agency and the Education and Science Ministry.
Latvian Integration Minister Oskars Kastens said he respects the decision on the liquidation of the secretariats.
"The prime minister is my boss and I respect his opinion," Kastens told the Baltic News Service.
Kastens believes that the elimination of secretariats will not leave a considerable economic impact on the budget, and said that he will not confront the prime minister, who belongs to the same party, on the issue.
The prime minister said the European funds will not be lost due to the elimination of secretariats.
Godmanis said that after the regional reform is completed, the issue of merging the Regional Development Ministry and Environment Ministry will have to be raised again.
The liquidation of the secretariats is set to become an ongoing issue, as negotiations continue. There is no certain date yet set for the elimination of the three ministers.
"As soon as the budget is adopted, the prime minister will have to account for the issues that have been postponed to secure the peace," People's Party faction head Maris Kucinskis said earlier, adding that the party will stand in strong favor of the liquidation of the secretariats.
Kristiana Libane-Skele, a member of the People's Party board, told BNS the party is ready to redistribute the minister's positions in the government proportionally to the representation of the parties in the parliament.
Opposition party New Era representatives have said that the currently established secretariats have until January 1, 2009 to be eliminated according to the procedure set forth by the law.
New Era proposed delegating the functions of e-government to the Transport Ministry, the society integration functions to Latvian Justice Ministry and EU money absorption functions to the Finance Ministry.
The decision is not final. Although Godmanis has the power to finalize the decision, there will be further discussions in the upcoming months.
Latvian President Valdis Zatlers had said earlier that he also thought the special issues secretariats were unnecessary and said that their functions have to be turned over to ministries.