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The Buzz in Latvia: Interview with Raimonds Slaidins of Ellex

The Buzz in Latvia: Interview with Raimonds Slaidins of Ellex

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“In terms of national politics, when it comes to Latvia, the word of the day is ‘stability,'“ says Raimonds Slaidins, Senior Partner at Ellex Klavins in Riga. “The current coalition government has been in power for about one and a half years now, and other than the COVID-19 crisis this has been a good, stable period of time for us — there aren’t any indications that something might change in the near future regarding the national government.“

On the other hand, Slaidins says that the situation in the country’s capital is a bit contentious. “The biggest upcoming event in politics is, probably, the snap municipal elections in Riga which are planned for the end of August," he says. Riga, which contains almost half of Latvia’s population, has been under the control of an appointed administrator since early March, he says, because the “elected officials of Riga [were] unable to make decisions for the city, which triggered the National Government appointing an administrator until elections could be organized.“ The elections were initially planned for spring, but were postponed by the COVID-19 crisis, which led to the administrator being in charge “longer than initially envisaged."

But in terms of its response to the coronavirus, Slaidins says, “Latvia has been a success story, considered by most public and international commentators as having done a good job from the very outset, in March." Indeed, he says, although the government “clamped down, enacted strict measures, and sealed off the country,“ there has never been a “complete and total lockdown,“ and the social distancing measures proved effective. At the time of writing, the total number of COVID-19 cases in Latvia stands at 1203, with 31 deaths.

“Our success story has been pretty much the case in other Baltic countries as well, so a Baltic-bubble was formed to allow travel between the three countries, and now the country has opened up to other EU members as well,“ Slaidins adds. He points out that there have been some “flare-ups“ since this happened, but insists that the government is maintaining a “high level of diligence."

Finally, on the subject of Latvia's economy, Slaidins says that, “as everywhere else, a major blow was dealt to sectors like tourism and hospitality by COVID-19, but the government tried to help by propping up a support mechanism for the unemployed and the businesses that were hit the most.“ He says that business sectors that have performed well are, “like in most other countries, food, IT, pharma and transport.“ Slaidins concludes by saying that he believes things will get better for the economy as long as the “virus situation remains under control and people begin to feel more confident again.“

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