Thursday, March 05, 2009

Patching together a government drags on

The formation of a new government under Valdis Dombrovskis (New Era/Jaunais Laiks) is being dragged out by political horse-trading even as the Prime Minister designate's own deadline for state bankruptcy (April or a little later) draws closer.
Until a viable or semi-viable coalition is formed, it is unlikely that the parliament (Saeima) will take any action on further budget cuts. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) cannot negotiate with anyone until a government is in place even if it was ready to change its terms of lending to Latvia (It has  been suggested that a larger budget deficit could be allowed to reduce the impact of further spending cuts on employment, etc.)
What is happening, however, is not surprising. The country and the political culture (post-1991) have no sense of solidarity in a crisis, politics "as usual" can continue no matter what is going on in the economy. Indeed, last-minute questionable deals can be signed by the outgoing government to build out Riga Airport with a Turkish company that has never worked in the European Union (EU). This is not to say that Turkish firms don't have a good reputation in areas such as heavy construction. It is simply that some of the other companies in the tender apparently were not convinced that the expansion of the airport should be as fast as the outgoing Minister of Transport  Ainārs Šlesers envisions it.  Some of them appear to have included this professional advice in their bid -- in other words, willing to do the job on realistic terms and not allow the customer to overspend and overdevelop.
It now appears that if and when a new government is patched together, it will likely carry on the earlier coalition traditions of somehow cluelessly muddling along (or earlier racing with the pedal to the floor, but not this time around) and trying to keep itself from falling apart by balancing party interests that may have little or nothing to do with a national interest. In fact, it seems that this concept, except as political rhetoric, doesn't really exist in Latvia and probably won't for the foreseeable future.

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