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Regional reform bill passes final reading

  • 2008-12-19
  • TBT Staff in cooperation with BNS

The number of Latvia's regional governments will be cut from more than 550 to just over 100.

RIGA 's The Latvian parliamenthas passed a bill that will reduce the number of regions in the country to 109municipalities and nine cities from the current 553 regions.

Lawmaker started discussing the bill in the 20-hour long parliament meetinglast week, but stopped discussions after calls from the opposition lawmakersbecause they had to deal with more urgent matters such as amendments to the2009 national budget and the program for economic stabilization and recovery.On Dec. 18, after a nine-hour long debate, the bill was adopted with 56 votesto 38.

The bill provides for a new, revised map of the municipal territories acrossthe country, and criteria for formation of municipalities and possibleamendments of their borders.

According to the bill, Latvia'sadministrative territories will be districts (called "aprinkis" inLatvian), municipalities ("novads") and major cities.

The status of the major city will be assigned to Riga,Jelgava, Liepaja, Daugavpils,Ventspils, Rezekne, Jurmala, Valmiera and Jekabpils. There will be 109municipalities.

The bill sets that a municipality should have at least 4,000 permanentresidents and a city of village with at least 2,000 residents. A district willinclude administrative territories of local governments. The municipalities andmajor cities included in districts will be set by the parliament.

The bill will become effective once the president signs it. President ValdisZatlers said that he will promulgate the bill without any hesitation.

Opponents of the bill, including opposition lawmakers and ZZSrepresentatives, said that the bill would make it more difficult for theregions to develop with regards to -- low unemployment level, successfulinfrastructure, development index, social care, etc.

People's Party lawmaker Janis Klauzs said that lawmakers did not understandthe issues facing the regions well enough to hold a meaningful debate on thebill.

"When I listen to this discussion... it looks like the numb one isspeaking to the deaf one as he saw how the crippled one jumped over aditch," said Klauza.