Roberts Ķīlis, a political scientist who heads the SAK, presented its findings to an extraordinary meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers (the government) called by President Valdis Zatlers to ask for an accounting of the reform process. The meeting, broadcast live by Latvian Television, lasted more that six hours and included heated exchanges between ministers, between the President and ministers, as well as statements (and outbursts) by third parties (representatives of unions and NGOs).
The findings of the report stated, among other things:
Latvian society is dominated by unprecedentedly low trust in both the government, the parliament, and, as surveys from the summer of 2009 show, also in the entire political and party system. Even though Latvia's inhabitants have never shown significant trust in their democratic representative institutions, the spring and summer of 2009 are illustrative of a permanent crisis of confidence. In this context, it is unlikely that it is possible to regain even a part of the lost trust in a few months time, In order to renew trust in the political system, it is essential to achieve a positive dynamic in the crisis (breaking a negative vicious circle).
The report goes on to say that there will be an inevitable new wave of emigration (both for economic reasons, and to seek social and political stability). This addresses the point I have earlier made in this blog, that emigration is not only a choice in favor of higher salaries (offset by a higher cost of living and sometimes, higher taxes that emigrants don't anticipate), but also a choice of governance. Emigration is also seen as a kind of final break of any loyalty to the Latvian state and society.
The report also points out that the municipal elections did not decrease what they called "social tension" and that voters, in effect, voted for politicians and parties they deeply mistrust. This is likely to continue or worsen as the national parliamentary elections of 2010 approach
On a positive note, the report concludes that Latvians are not yet ready to trade democratic freedoms for economic security. But on the economy, the SAK forecasts that recovery will not bring wages and living standards back to 2007 levels for at least five or six years -- by 2014 or 2015. This conforms my view, and that of blogger Edward Hugh, that what Latvia faces is essentially an "L" shaped recession. While Latvia stagnates, other European economies will recover and grow, drawing away skilled labor and professionals that would be needed even to make the slow and feeble recovery forecast by the SAK. After all, what kind of a recovery is it when you catch up with 2007 in 2014. Ironically, the "seven fat years" now look like seven pounds of flesh and seven years irretrievably cut from Latvia's development.
I would say the SAK report is more evidence of the main thesis of this blog -- that Latvia is a failed state lite.