Skele's demands fall flat

  • 2010-03-17
  • Staff and wire reports

RIGA - The coalition parties on March 11 rejected the People’s Party (TP) proposal to conclude a separate ‘agreement’ between TP and Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis (New Era). Such an agreement “would not be tolerated,” said Civil Union Chairman of the Board Girts Valdis Kristovskis. The prime minister said that a separate contract signing with TP would not be “collegial” in relations with other coalition partners, and would therefore not be welcome.
TP member Vineta Muizniece expressed the hope that this will not lead to her party leaving government, saying that “we hope that we won’t have to decide to work in the opposition.” Economy Minister Artis Kampars (New Era) says that TP is just trying to provoke New Era, and that “This is positioning before the election.”

Former Prime Minister Andris Skele (TP) at a meeting with Dombrovskis on March 11 put forward a so-called plan, a ‘bi-lateral agreement,’ to improve the economic situation in Latvia which includes several proposals, including the demand for an immediate signing of a ‘public agreement’ between the social partners. With the agreement, the government would vow not to increase the tax burden, thereby “boosting predictability in the business venture environment.”

Skele says his ideas cover “urgent matters” and need to be carried out by this summer, listing measures that would ensure  Latvian economic growth, international obligations, changes to the financial and tax systems and implement measures to improve public administration, specifically in reaching a non-deficit budget by 2014, repayment of debt in 10 years and again getting back to 2005 employment levels.
After the meeting, Dombrovskis stated that all proposals must be discussed by the ruling coalition’s Cooperation Council, and that there can be no separate agreements.

New Era on March 15 said that it will keep a “positive-to-neutral” stance concerning the People’s Party’s proposals on urgent tasks. New Era is of the opinion that more attention should be paid to the People’s Party’s proposals on a public agreement with the social partners, not on the ‘four points’ that the party has set forth in its ‘agreement.’
New Era has so far turned down the People’s Party’s economic proposals.
A review of Skele’s proposals shows that, despite some positive ideas that should be implemented to boost the economy, much of the plan includes difficult to implement programs with difficult to measure results; populist schemes offering little real benefit; elements of fantasy. They are an incoherent set of proposals, which don’t address long term nation-building and development issues.

Importantly, it doesn’t address limiting or removing the hold the country’s mini-oligarchs and other organized crime organizations have over Latvia’s economy, which has severely damaged the competitiveness of the country’s industry, and discourages foreign investment from investing here.
The plan also doesn’t discuss how to bolster the rule of law through a strong and independent judicial system, or actions ensuring transparent government, issues that foreign investors are looking at closely in Latvia.
New Era President Solvita Aboltina said that TP desperately wants to draw attention to itself, and that “Skele is lost in reality… and his offer is not a panacea.” She expressed surprise at why, for example, Skele has not come forward with any proposal covering social needs.

It was Skele’s People’s Party government, with former Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis at the wheel, who ran irresponsible government policies during the economic boom years that has worsened Latvia’s current crisis, therefore it is unclear why the country should put its faith or trust in Skele’s initiatives once again.
TP has said it could leave the ruling government coalition and become an opposition party if Dombrovskis turns down the proposals, says TP board member and Saeima Deputy Vents Armands Krauklis.
TP is behaving like a “chicken before hatching,” said the head of ZZS (Union of Greens and Farmers) Augusts Brigmanis, and that concerning the future work of the government, TP is just hoping that “something good may hatch” with their proposals. Brigmanis says that ZZS will continue to work in a minority government, and that there would not be any problems with a minority government.

If TP decides to leave the ruling coalition, the government will continue to work as a minority government with 46 votes (out of 100) in parliament, quotes daily Diena. As the head of New Era’s group at parliament Dzintars Zakis points out, if TP leaves the government, some posts could be offered to Latvia’s First Party/Latvia’s Way, while the Regional Development and Local Government Affairs Ministry could be completely dissolved.
Latvia has had minority governments before. This took place during the 5th Saeima, during the Valdis Birkavs and Maris Gailis (both Latvia’s Way) governments, as well as the 6th Saeima, during the Guntars Krasts (For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK) government. Former Prime Ministers Vilis Kristopans (Latvia’s Way), Indulis Emsis (Union of Greens and Farmers) and Aigars Kalvitis (TP) have also led minority governments.

As of now, opposition party Latvia’s First Party/Latvia’s Way has not changed its previous stance and will continue to support the government in issues of national importance, the head of the party’s group at Saeima, Andris Berzins, said.
Krauklis pointed out that TP is not intending to form a new coalition, and that such a coalition cannot even be formed. He also emphasized that if the party decided to switch to the opposition, the party will still support the Dombrovskis government on separate issues. “We do not wish to destabilize the situation, however, if we cannot defend the interest of our voters, we allow the possibility of switching to the opposition,” Krauklis emphasized.

Aboltina said that she hopes the People’s Party will act constructively and remain in the government.
Nonetheless, Dombrovskis urged the political parties to do without ultimatums. He considers that 90 to 95 percent of TP’s economic proposals are already on the government’s agenda, which is why if there is a mutual desire to agree on economic measures, they will be implemented.

Asked whether he is ready to work in a minority government, Dombrovskis said that he will work so that TP stays in the coalition. “If necessary, I am ready for anything that might happen,” the prime minister added.
Skele says that TP will make a decision on what to do “should the prime minister decide not to support the offer.” He added that, should the prime minister reject the plan, “everything is possible in politics” and he could move to the opposition.
He noted though that political stability in the nation will be guaranteed, and that “the People’s Party will do all to avoid a ‘no-confidence’ vote against Dombrovskis.”

Dombrovskis on March 17 confirmed the decision to not sign a separate agreement with TP.