“When establishing a working group to examine the situation in Latvian ports, the Transport Ministry already knew that there will be no results. It becomes clear judging from the composition of the group, which includes officials from the Ministry and associations employed by the Freeport of Riga,” says Aivis Landmanis, advisor to The Baltic Association of Transport and Logistics (BATL).
“Basically, the working group did not examine anything. Neither did it raise any problems. All of our proposals were neglected,” he told BNN.
He stresses that neither the Competition Council, nor the Latvian Employers’ Confederation, the American Chamber of Commerce, the Latvian Foreign Investors Council and other independent experts were offered to join the working group. So the Transport Ministry’s interim report made in cooperation with associations managed by the Freeport did not bring any surprises.
BATL believes that the interim report aims to prove that changes in the management of ports overburden public officials and are not necessary in the first place. Besides, BATL has already pointed at responsible officials and Transport Minister Aivis Ronis’ failure to arrange a transit sector under its direct supervision. The leading Latvian ports are an essential component of the sector.
“Members of the Saeima Economic, Agricultural, Environmental and Regional Policy Committee must show some backbone and take over the initiative from the Transport Ministry. It is the parliamentarians duty to take action, so that the state of Latvia meets the promise that the Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis made to the European Commission and voters. He promised to sort out issues concerning management of ports,” Landmanis stresses.
Asked whether he feels any MPs’ support to port reforms, he reveals that it depends on the affiliation to certain parties. BATL calls on the Committee to decide on the opening of the Law on Ports, because the issue simply must not be put off any longer.
On Tuesday, April 17, the Saeima Committee got acquainted with the Transport Ministry’s interim report on the efficiency of the current management model. It called on the responsible ministry to attract independent World Bank experts, whose task would be to assess management of Latvian ports.
“There are many issues that can be solved without experts from the World Bank. Anyway, it is better than nothing. Independent experts’ advice is important and we hope that in this case, when reforms are clearly necessary, it will help resolve the situation,” he says.
Besides, also the Chairman of the Committee – Vjaceslavs Dombrovskis believes that the working group’s performance is dissatisfactory and shows superficial approach to port issues.
“The Ministry has failed to ensure quality performance of the working group, sufficient public participation and international experience. There is an impression that the group was established with an aim to reject proposals for port reforms. Therefore, the Committee is set to call on the Transport Ministry to attract technical assistance from the World Bank, while two largest ports will be asked to co-finance the research,” says Dombrovskis.
“The current methods of managing the leading Latvian ports, the State Audit Office’s reports as well as port authorities and boards members’ arbitrariness often voiced in the media clearly show that management of ports is subject to private, selfish and possibly corrupt interests. So there are no reasonable grounds for the Transport Ministry’s passive standpoint, which follows methods practiced by “old oligarchs” in the years of prosperity.
As reported, recently there have been emerging more and more calls on the responsible bodies to introduce better port management principles in Latvia. «Reforms on ports come so slow, because the issue is politicized. The three things we stand up for – clear goals of ports, fair competition and transparent management are not such a complex issue,» Liga Smildziņa – Bertulsone, Executive Director at the American Chamber of Commerce, told BNN.