Latvia will not develop into an influential business center as long as problems such as corruption and economic transparency continue to scare away investors and hinder local businesses, the U.S. ambassador to Latvia said.
The remark by Brian Carlson came in an address to the annual general meeting of the American Chamber of Commerce.
Carlson said Latvia was moving closer to Western Europe with each passing day and, with low inflation and an explosive growth rate, "Latvia is one of the pearls of both new and old Europe."
But, he noted, challenges still remain as "Latvia cannot and will not become a robust, vibrant and dynamic center of international business unless investors can trust that they will find a transparent economy, an economy where one can readily identify the costs of doing business, where one knows both the risk and reward from investing, where all competitors have equal opportunities."
Carlson said elimination of corruption would promote democracy and economic development as well as the country's security.
"We need Latvia to be an ally we can trust. With NATO accession we pledge our support for Latvia's security, but we need to entrust Latvia with critical, sensitive information," he said.
"Frankly, we fear people who take bribes or profit from smuggling or don't pay their taxes. Well, those people may also sell out Latvia's and NATO's secrets for money."
Carlson said that today there were too many costs involved in doing business in Latvia and that the country should improve its image in the eyes of both its own people and the world.
The U.S. ambassador said that the establishment of the new anti-corruption bureau and commitments of the new government to fight these problems looked hopeful.