RIGA - The new U.S. Ambassador to Latvia, Judith Garber, says Latvia "needs to develop a competitive economy in order to exit the economic crisis more successfully," speaking to guests at the American Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Riga Oct. 2, reports news agency LETA. The ambassador stressed that Latvia's 2010 state budget has to reflect long-term goals, and that the government has to carry on with structural reforms. She hopes that Latvia will use the opportunities the crisis presents, and will be able to adjust to the new circumstances to ensure long-term growth.
In her view, the government's work on the budget and reforms is, to some extent, encumbered by the approaching 2010 Saeima elections.
The ambassador said that in talks with ministers, she has been reassured that most government members are aware of the gravity of the situation and are putting in the effort, however, the government "lacks unity of opinion to successfully carry on with the works undertaken."
Garber pledged to promote stronger economic cooperation between Latvia and the U.S., and pointed out transport, logistics and energy as sectors with vast opportunities for cooperation between the two countries. Latvia should focus more on energy security, paying more attention to opportunities provided by renewable energy resources to lessen dependency on energy supply from Russia.
She pledged to work on strengthening freedom of the press in Latvia, as well as to engage in active cooperation with state institutions to promote transparency in the political system and eradicate corruption. This is all important in making Latvia more attractive to foreign investors, she emphasizes.
The ambassador also said she was certain that the U.S. would remain strongly involved in ensuring regional safety here.
President Valdis Zatlers accredited the new ambassador this past August. Garber previously served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs at the Department of State with responsibility for Nordic, Baltic and Central European countries.