Thursday, 26 March 2009

Latvian freefall

Paul Mason (coincidentally one of the competition in the Orwell blog shortlist) has been examining the financial crisis in eastern Europe. His report from Latvia is worth watching, particularly because the Baltic state was being heralded as an economic success story in the very recent past. The pattern of huge borrowing to encourage unsustainable growth is replicated across the former Soviet bloc, with a few more robust exceptions.

Coincidentally ‘Prospect’ also contains a dispatch from Riga in its latest issue (I‘m not on commission for the magazine by the way). Tom Chatfield considers the over capacity available in a country with a rapidly dwindling population. The capital itself has 20% fewer inhabitants since 1991. Chatfield hints that many of the people who have left Latvia come from its Russian speaking minority. He doesn’t investigate the discriminatory language and citizenship laws which have hastened that loss.

An economy in freefall and a large minority which feels it has experienced institutional disadvantage. Not a happy combination. But at least part of the picture was fully available to EU leaders who were so eager to see Baltic countries accede.

6 comments:

dub said...

Janey Chekov your a great man for the aul Engliah and that and then you come out with "has underwent"!!!

that bit about large minority being discriminated against, crap economy and forced emigration sounds oddly familiar...

Tom Chatfield said...

Glad you noticed the piece, sorry I didn't have the space to go into more detail - there are books waiting to be written about the Baltic states, although I do wonder if anyone over here will read them! There was a handy summary some time ago here http://russianelection2008.blogspot.com/2007/11/latvian-language-and-citizenship.html about the essential Latvian citizenship/language setup.

Chekov said...

"Janey Chekov your a great man for the aul Engliah and that and then you come out with "has underwent"!!!"

Well it just goes to show I'm not a professional at this game. I bang things out of an evening or at lunch and sometimes a mistake or two crops up! ;-)

Thanks for the info Tom. I think in its haste to let the Baltic countries accede a great chance was lost to improve the lot of the Russophone minority.

Still, Riga is a charming city. I hope you enjoyed your stay.

Chekov said...

a great chance lost by the EU.

Anonymous said...

A russian minority who were placed there without the permission of the Baltic countries.

Chekov said...

So a minority isn't entitled to rights unless it's had prior consent to live somewhere.