Latvian Finance Minister Atis Slakteris has told reporters that he believes his English skills are among the most valuable in Latvia. His basis for the statement was that he secured a 7.5 billion euro loan from the IMF, World Bank and other organizations. "I got 7.5 billion euros, I assume this is one of the most valuable English languages in Latvia," said Slakteris in an interview with Latvian public radio on Jan. 19. He said that he will head to the EU finance ministers meeting in Brussels without an interpreter, despite the fact that most ministers speak in their own language and have translators. Slakteris' ill-fated English language Bloomberg interview has been the subject of much criticism and humor throughout the nation and Europe.
Due to the generosity of sponsors, Latvia will be able to participate in the Eurovision Song Contest 2009, said Martins Pucka, a spokesman for the public LTV. Latvijas Krajbanka and the newsstand chain Narvessen have responded to the appeal by LTV for financial support to Latvia's participation in Eurovision 2009. Due to austerity measures introduced in Latvia in response to the global financial crisis, allocations to public television for 2009 had been cut by 3.4 million euro and participation in the Eurovision song contest among the things that LTV could no longer afford. With support from the sponsors, LTV will not be required to spend any public money on the Eurovision song contest, explained LTV director general Edgars Kots. The national finals to pick the Latvian act for Eurovision 2009 will be sponsored by the Ventspils City Council in north eastern Latvia. In light of Latvia's difficult economic situation, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has agreed to reduce the participation fee for Latvia in the Eurovision Song Contest 2009, which will be held in Moscow May 12-16. Latvia has participated in Eurovision since 2000, and even hosted the event in 2003 after Latvian singer Marie N. won Eurovision 2002.
In 2008 and early 2009, a total of 5,905 positions have been liquidated in state administration, including positions to be liquidated by June 30. This number is 9.1 percent of the total number of employees, which according to Finance Ministry data would save an estimated 16.2 million euros. The ministry stated that last year the government decided to downsize ministries by 5 percent by Dec. 31, 2008 and 10 percent by June 30, 2009.
Latvian President Valdis Zatlers has sent a congratulatory letter to Barack Obama, who was inaugurated as the U.S. President on Jan. 20. In the letter, Zatlers said that Latvia highly appreciated the intensive political dialogue, constructive cooperation and special relationship between the two countries, reported presidential spokeswoman Ilze Rassa. Zatlers also said he was confident about further strengthening of cooperation and again thanked Obama and the Democratic Party for their support of the U.S. Senate resolution highlighting the illegitimacy of the Soviet occupation of Latvia.