Saturday, March 28, 2009

More than coincidence -- and a no-future scenario?

Recently I participated in public panel discussion of Latvia's international image, certainly the focus of bad news (see BBC's Newsnight series on collapsing Eastern Europe). When it ended, the person sitting next to me, a Latvian academic married to a foreigner, announced that she was moving to her husband's European home country. "I have two children," she said, adding that her doctoral studies in the other country would be less expensive than in Latvia.
Today flying to Stockholm, I stood near two Latvian women and a little girl (the younger woman's child) waiting to board my Ryanair flight. We got to talking, and it turns out they were both leaving to work as caregivers for triplets born to a Swiss woman running a hotel in Grenoble. The somewhat older women ended up sitting next to me on the plane and told me she had lived and worked in the US for seven years, then come back to Latvia in 2006. 
"I discovered no one needs me and my excellent English or any other skills," she said of her decision to move away from Latvia. 
Is this all coincidence or are more and more educated, skilled people leaving despite high unemployment in other European countries? We shall see.
One thing is clear -- if you have kids in the Latvian public education system, it is now time to consider private school  if you can afford it, or to emigrate. With the budget cuts proposed for education (both elementary, secondary and higher), it is likely that the quality of education will plummet based on attrition of teachers. It is not outrageous to say that public education in the country will start to disintegrate over the next two years.
At the same time, wage cuts of up to 40 % for the police mean there will be a severe decline in public security, a rise in bribe-taking opportunities and probable attrition of the police force to levels where it will barely be able to investigate crimes and keep public order.
All of this could have been mitigated by different, more cautious economic policies in the past three years. These opportunities were missed by previous governments, and there is nothing the present government can do to undo these mistakes. The government of Valdis Dombrovskis will preside, in all likelihood, over the nearly complete collapse of the Latvian economy.

1 comment:

MrVariant said...

Now doesn't that education budget cut sound just like the United States? Speaking of which, we got CEO's as pizzamen and Master's Degree students as janitors.