In the middle of Baltic states right at the border with Russian Federation lies small post-soviet country of Latvia. Country with less than 2 million population and capital city of Riga. Latvia got independent at 1991 as the result of falling Soviet Union. At the time Latvian people was full of hope that quality of life will become better and democracy will bring prosperity to every person’s home. But hopes came true only to some of them.
Hopes left, reality came…
Latvia 27 years later…
What happens when dreams and hopes are left and hard reality comes. When reviewing Latvia and its past since 1991 up to 2018 it is reasonable to say, there was little or no sign of progress. Latvia lost its good state and shine right after the proclamation of independence dooming they people and country to drown in poverty and depression. As for starting most of sometimes popular and very welcomed factories were closed, like “VEF”– Flagman of Soviet-Union Factories bringing electronics, radios, and telephones to all the world. Bringing Latvia down on economics. As after closing almost every factory, Latvia has not created anything else known and popular to worldwide society as it was with VEF.
If looking to country from “then and now” perspective, we see the sad story of the once bright country. As soon Latvia joined European Union at 2004 and open it, borders, for people to freely travel, work and live in other countries without having problematic application process the mass emigration stormed all over the poor country as people fled. By 2018 over 800 000 Latvian citizens have fled Latvia and settled in more evolved countries like United Kingdom, Switzerland, Finland, Sweden, Germany, and others… By that leaving Latvia with less than 2 million people, from which more than one-third of the population are elderly. But who could blame them? High corruption led to a situation where people were unable to get a well-paid job and was earning less than minimum set by the government. Prices were skyrocketing and hope for better life was left in 1991.
What seems normal to Latvian, might not be acceptable even to the average person in other countries. As average Latvian in 2018 is earning less than 1000 euros pay even with high qualification and high school degree. Average Latvian student have student loan up to 6000 euro, just to have higher education and qualification in hopes of better job possibilities in future. But that might never come as highly qualified staff earning less than 1000 euro per month. But it looked even deeper we find that every third citizen of Latvia have more than 4 active loans and damaged credit score as at some point person have struggled to repay loans in case of losing job, getting sick or in case of mass job loss like in 2008 when Latvia faced property price crash in result of what even more Latvians fled country in fear of not being able to repay mortgages, loans and losing their job. More than 50% of average population at least 3 times have reached out for a personal loan for everyday costs, or to buy everyday items or medication. More than 75% have reached out for a personal loan to buy home appliances of cost less than 150 euro like a washing machine, stove or furniture. More than 60% have applied for a personal loan just to get to their job.
At this point in this country majority of people accept and feel as normal to see when at the central train station multiple homeless people are sitting at the entrance and having a day chill with some alcoholic drink in hands or sometimes even with cologne bottle. It is accepted as the norm to bribe police officers, never than fewer officers quite often are not only accepting bribes but encourage a person of interest to give one. When questioned local residents on corruption topic, a majority of respondents with pride and laughter can tell a story when bribed some of the government officials to get out of administrative or even criminal responsibility. Some of the respondents even admitted of being the victims of some crimes and not reaching out for police, as there is no trust but more of believing that it might make a situation even worse. As offender might bribe police and instead of receiving punishment might seek for revenge.
As it was in 1997 when an owner of once known supermarket “Interpegro” was shot right at the doorstep. A murder took place in front of his daughter. 7 shots were made from TT pistol. That time murderer Sergejs Dmitrijevs was sent to prison for 7 years for attempted murder. One year for every bullet shot. As bad as it sounds, 7 years for taking the life might be too little of punishment. As the murderer walks free again by now.
The same as it was in the year 2000. When a bomb exploded in the main shopping center of Riga- Old town. Injuring 7 people. At that time local authority was accused in terrorism by which he was sentenced to 12 years in prison. After 3 years released by appeal court as for lack of evidence.
If looked into business fields and companies in Latvia, most of the companies do not give goods or manufacture anything, but working in service providing area like car service, shops, hotel business, property etc. People don’t keep secret to tell that almost every company in Latvia have illegal income called “Black till”, what might seem shocking that even employees of such companies are keeping silence and does not bring it up to authorities. Loudest case in recent years where restaurant “Gan Bei” who was accused of having 800 000 euro of illegal income. But not to look far, the most popular place for corruption in government halls, where schema of loyal companies is blooming. In a hall of Latvian government hall, there is a painting which gained popularity, not by its beauty but as it was rented from a private company for 4000 euro a month. An investigation proved that real owner of painting is a close friend of the high ranked government official. And such schemes are most popular even in highest levels of government.
For the overview, Latvia is good place for tourism, with its beautiful and stunning nature, fantastic bars and cuisine. But apart from that Latvia is far from place where you might be willing to raise children, settle for living or plan for stable future.
Latvians are proud people, proud of their ability to sing and dance, of their festivals like “Staro Riga” and some might bring out that Latvia have most beautiful woman in the world. And all of that might be true. But after such statement average Latvian will go back to their apartment which is less than 63 square meters and will try to figure out, how possibly he will live till next pay check arrives. As most of Latvians live such way… with local saying “Paycheck to paycheck”
As sad it might be once beautiful country now is on the edge of extinction, torn apart by corruption and driven by money. Without any doubt you might say that in this country you might feel like in marketplace as on everything there is a price tag. Just one thing… you have to negotiate the price.