But that is only the beginning. Next year's government budget will also have to be cut by an estimated LVL 500 million, followed by another similar cut in 2011. In other words, one scenario is where there are further salary cuts and reduction of minimum wage, or there are massive lay-offs of public sector employees, something that has been partly avoided by across-the-board wage cuts.
It is reasonable to say that these estimated budget cuts are based on optimistic assumptions about tax revenues, not taking into account (although Minister of Finance Einars Repše seemed to say in a radio discussion show that tax base deterioration was taken into account) the impact of mass unemployment, reduced purchasing power (less VAT revenue), drastic falls in corporate tax revenues and rapid growth of the grey and black economies. People, seeing that the taxes they have paid up to now are either wasted or result in no entitlements (pensions, health care, education), will simply evade paying taxes as a waste of their rapidly declining income. Others (tens of thousands, if economies outside Latvia recover first) will become economic migrants, most never to return, thereby leaving the Latvian tax base.
I can see how the 2009 cuts were, somehow, pulled off, although I suspect, by September 1, I will have to start thinking about home-schooling my son, since the public education system in Latvia is being de-facto abolished. What I don't see is how the other cuts can be made on top of what has already been done. A public sector can be drastically slashed or abolished if the population, at the same time, is given a sufficient increase in purchasing power to afford private, competitive alternatives and such alternatives (modest cost private/cooperative/non-profit education) can be started and up and running as state-financed institutions wind down.
What is likely is that when the "real" figures on which the 2010 budget cuts must be based come out, the deficit (due to tax base deterioration and lower revenues) will have increased by several hundred millions and the downward spiral toward disaster and economic stagnation will continue and accellerate.
The Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis, on a morning TV show as I write, says that the EUR 1.2 billion in international loans will be entirely spent on keeping the government running, not a cent for economic stimulus. This will be left to the EU structural funds, caught in a bureaucratic log jam or used (hitherto) for such interesting projects as a laser show in Latgale, the rural eastern part of Latvia.