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Latvian government supports National Development Plan in spite of objections from ministers

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Latvia, government, NAP2027, goals, challenges, objectionsOn Tuesday, 25 February, Latvia’s Cabinet of Ministers supported the final redaction of the National Development Plan 2021-2027 (NAP2027) prepared by the Cross-Sectoral Coordination Centre (PKC). Certain ministers, however, voiced objections and concerns about it.

All ministers supported NAP2027, but Economy Minister Ralfs Nemiro, Agriculture Minister Kaspars Gerhards, Interior Affairs Minister Sandis Ģirģens and Justice Minister Jānis Bordāns wanted to have their opinions added to the final minutes of the government meeting.

NAP2027 has been sent to the Saeima for review, where it will be decided on the plan’s adoption.

In total, the plan’s execution is expected to cost the state budget EUR 14.5 billion.

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Jānis Bordāns was unhappy that NAP2027 does not cover the construction of Liepāja prison.

Interior Affairs Minister Ģirģens said NAP2027 needs to include strategic goals on responsibility for Latvia’s future, but this plan lacks it. Ģirģens also pointed towards, as he put it, strategic errors in NAP2027, as well as unreasonable priorities, as well as the planned and unjustifiably low funding for defence and security sectors.

Education and Science Minister Ilga Šuplinska said she is shocked NAP2027 has no mention of the projects the government had previously agreed upon.

Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš explained he understands each minister’s wishes. However, he added that he sees no point in expanding NAP2027 with more wishes without funding. «You have to understand – NAP2027 is not a seven-year budget, it is a roadmap,» added Kariņš.

Latvia’s education minister voiced confusion that some wishes were added to the plan and some were not. «NAP2027 does not reflect the result of the last talks,» explained Šuplinska. Kariņš also added that NAP2027 does not guarantee money. The plan, he said, outlines the current view at the future, and if money appears, it will be additional funding for the plan’s included activities.

Healthcare Minister Ilze Viņķele said at the current level of funding it will not be possible to execute the goals outlined in NAP2027 in relation to medicine.

Agriculture Minister Gerhards stressed NAP2027 is outdated, because work on its development began in April 2019 but already there are new challenges, such as EU climate goals.

«The current NAP2027 does not match the challenges we will have to put in our policy planning documents and budget requests so that we can achieve common EU goals,» adds Gerhards. He believes certain indicators included in NAP2027 may be erased, especially the ones covering agriculture area. The minister stressed he cannot support NAP2027 in such a redaction.

Read also: Latvian government to spend 14.5 billion euros on National Development Plan

PKC chief Pēteris Vilks ads NAP2027 also covers measures for accomplishing EU green goals. He mentioned that activities aimed at climate neutrality are planned to cost approximately EUR 5 billion. Kariņš also added that generally it may be possible to divert 30% from the state budget and EU funds for green goals in the coming years.

Environment Protection and Regional Development Minister Juris Pūce added that in the coming years it will be necessary to think about ways to stimulate public investments.

Pūce agreed that the text NAP2027 text is a «well-put together document» with good intentions and ambitious goals. However, the planned funding is lacking, he said. He added that goals have to be ambitious and they should be achieved with the resources available.

Economy Minister Ralfs Nemiro agreed the goals of NAP2027 should be ambitious and the directions outlined in the national development plan coincide with what is outlined in the government declaration. At the same time, he pointed towards funding problems for accomplishing goals. The minister also proposed including in the plan the already defined political directions. This proposal was declined.

At the end of the discussion, Ģirģens directed critical words towards the previous plan’s execution. «NAP2027 should start with what we have already accomplished or have failed to accomplish in the previous period. If Latvia is one of the poorest countries in Europe, this means the previous plan’s goals have not been achieved,» stressed the interior minister.

The prime minister objected to this, outlining Latvia’s accomplishments of the past 30 years. As an example the prime minister mentioned the country’s welfare level, which has increased significantly after joining the EU. «We have room to grow. But saying everything is bad means ignoring facts,» adds the prime minister.

Ģirģens stressed he is not trying to humiliate Latvia, stressing, however, that NAP2027 should be put together in a way to allow Latvia exceed the levels of other EU countries by 2027. Kariņš said he is confident Latvia continues growing and the country may become ahead of countries like Spain and Portugal in a couple of years.

Initially NAP2027 included three strategic goals – equal opportunities, productivity and income, as well as social trust. However, in November the Saeima ordered adding a fourth strategic goal – regional development.

The direction «equal opportunities» is defined as the most important social justice element for reduction of income inequality. «We will secure everyone equal rights to receive a good education and good healthcare, have an honest job, grow and live in a safe environment, be socially protected in all Latvian regions equally. This will help increase productivity, economic stability in the country, social and civil activity and stronger middle class,» the plan mentions.

The direction «productivity and income» will create the foundation for sustainable growth. NAP2027 mentions that growth of productivity can be achieved through targeted injection of resources in generation of added value and trade on the global market. By supporting domestic businessmen, introducing innovations, new technologies, more efficient work processes and improvement of skills of the employed, it will be possible to create knowledge and innovation-based advantages and competitiveness for Latvia.

«Social trust» is a direction based on people’s belief that other people can be trusted and it is possible to work together to accomplish common goals.

«It is easier to trust others if a person feels confident about themselves and knows his or her voice is heard, is able to adapt in complicated situations and was provided parental care in childhood. However, often this is put at risk by financial difficulties and lack of time to spend with family. Trust can be achieved by stimulating the involvement of the public and balancing the interests of different social groups for the common benefit and by explaining choices and consequences that affect the country’s sustainable growth more carefully,» NAP2027 mentions.

The direction «regional development» is mentioned as the foundation for sustainable and balanced growth. The plan mentions that regions’ potential development and reduction of socio-economic differences can be achieved by improving the business environment, each region using their specific resources more effectively, improving each region’s specialization and competences, as well as by creating conditions for creation of new jobs and services to make regions more attractive and more able to participate in the country’s general economic growth and thereby provide residents better welfare.

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