Latvija in brief

  • 2012-12-20

Minister of Education and Science Roberts Kilis’ heart surgery on Dec. 13 was successful, the minister’s representative Reinis Tukiss said, reported LETA. During the surgery, Kilis had a coronary stent implanted in an artery; the operation was successful and there were no complications. The minister will now require a recovery period of two-three months, said Tukiss. However, taking into account that Christmas is near and that the quiet period has begun in politics, Kilis’ absence should not have a great effect on the developments in Latvia. The minister is not considering resigning, added Tukiss. During the minister’s absence, the Education and Science Ministry’s work has not come to a halt, said Tukiss – talks were held with nine universities regarding a more rational distribution of budget funds, an audit company was selected for examining the assessment of universities and college curricula, a commission for accreditation of university study programs was approved, and other measures were taken. Kilis has been absent for more than two weeks due to health problems. His representatives previously said that the minister had problems with blood pressure.

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Riga transport company Rigas Satiksme estimates that about 5,500 motorists in Riga took advantage of the municipality’s offer and rode public transportation on Dec. 13 for free due to the heavy snowfall, reports LETA. Producing a vehicle registration document allows drivers to take public transport on snow days and keep their cars off the icy roads. As Mayor Nils Usakovs explained, it is meant to help ease traffic congestion and the work of snow plows clearing the streets. The offer has worked so well that alterations are to be made in the contract between Rigas Satiksme and the City Council Traffic Department so that this becomes a permanent policy. The alterations were to be turned in to the full council for review and approval. On Dec. 17 Mayor Usakovs, in reacting to criticism that the new policy is discriminatory toward other Rigans (who must pay the fare regardless of weather conditions or who don’t own a car), emphasized that the objective is to ease clearing snow from streets and to alleviate traffic jams. The mayor also underlined that the policy is not a welfare program, but serves a practical purpose. This shows that you can’t please everyone.

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Each year, Latvians abroad send home around 350 million lats (500 million euros), reports According to Foreign Ministry data, the Latvian diaspora numbers 350,000-400,000 people. The largest communities are in Great Britain - approximately 100,000 persons, the United States - 96,000 persons, Canada - 26,000, Ireland - 25,000-30,000, Sweden - 5,000-30,000 (depending on various sources), Australia - 25,000, Russia - 20,000, Brazil - 20,000, Germany - 20,000. Latvia’s population dropped by around 300,000 persons in 2000-2011, mostly due to emigration.