Latvia Country Guide

by Jose Marc Castro on August 5, 2009

FLAGlatvia200Situated in the Baltic region of Eastern Europe, Latvia was initially part of the Soviet Union until September 1991 when it was officially recognized as an independent state. Since declaring independence the country has gone from strength to strength and was granted membership of the European Union on 1st May 2004 (the country has also been a member of NATO since March 2004).

Latvia currently is a unitary parliamentary republic divided into cities and municipalities, with the country’s capital being Riga. It was admitted into membership to the United Nations since its independence.

Contents: Economy in LatviaProspects in LatviaLatvia Facts

Economy in Latvia

Membership of the EU has brought many benefits to the country, including access to development grants, assistance from EU partners as well as free movement within the European Union.

This has resulted in high GDP growth rates in the early 2000s.  However, it has also resulted in a net migration to countries such as the UK and Republic of Ireland where many perceive employment prospects to be greater.

Official statistics show unemployment has fallen form over 20% prior to EU membership, to only 7% in early 2007, with the economy growing by more than 10% in 2006. On the face of it this may seem like a perfect scenario for future growth, but inflation is currently running at over 7% per annum, and national debt is growing.  The current economic “bubble” which has seen the economy grow by over 10% in 2006 is worrying many economic observers who believe that it is not sustainable. The Latvian did burst in late 2008 and 2009, together with the recession felt worldwide. There are also concerns about the property market which has gone unchecked by the government, with house price inflation currently running at approximately 5% on an annual basis.  Tax changes are inevitable in due course, and the sooner the better.

Dependent upon agriculture and low skilled manufacturing, Latvia currently operates a flat tax rate system, whereby all of the population is taxed at the same rate, no matter what they earn (currently 25%).  There is some disagreement in economic circles as to the success of such a system, and whether this is truly compatible with the objectives and rules of long term EU membership.  There are plans to review the tax system, although historically these tasks have always encountered numerous political hurdles.

Latvia Tourism Brochures

Official publication by the European Travel Commission. Warning: All brochures are very large PDF downloads.

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This latvia accomodation brochure is a great place to look for Hotels in Latvia. The guide also contains information on Hostels and Campsites to suit the needs of all types of tourists in Latvia. This Agent’s brochure in the more typical tourist brochure for Latvia. Here you should find all of the major tourist attractions that Latvia has to offer. There is also a useful list of tour operators. A very useful brochure detailing the varied options for meeting venues in Latvia. From restaurents to castles – most venues can be found here.

Prospects in Latvia

While Latvia has yet to really be embraced by the world tourism industry, there are signs of more interest in the area.  The untouched countryside, the beautiful culture and the great mix of different ethnic groups as well as the welcoming nature of the Latvians are some of the country’s best selling points.  The infrastructure of the nation needs further development, however this will come as a consequence of membership of the EU, although the current state of the economy is a concern.

The country is looking to move to the Euro currency as soon as possible, but inflation needs to fall sharply before this can happen.  This has not stopped speculators selling the Lats to buy Euros, although this has further highlighted the potentially volatile currency of these new entrants to the EU.

As the country continues to develop we will no doubt see the emergence of new industries, and slowly but surely the drain of the working population will slow.  While this may push up the rate of employment in the short term, the increased tax revenue will allow further infrastructure development, which will benefit the country.  The country has great prospects for Expats in the future.

Key Facts of Latvia:

Capital: Riga

Bordered by Estonia, Lithuania, Belarus and Russia

Food: Lamb and Fresh Fish

Temperature: 0 C to 35 C

Industries: Agriculture and low skilled manufacturing

Education: Compulsory Education of 9 years

Health: Life expectancy 71 years

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Robert Caballero August 8, 2010 at 5:09 pm

Hi,

I'm looking to buy stuff for the kitchen and living room and would like to surf some Latvian websites to see what's available and what could be delivered. I can't read Latvian though. Can anyone recommend Latvian websites that allow searching/buying in English? A Latvian equivalent of amazon.com would be perfect. The stuff I'm looking for is what you would typically find in Sears, Target, Wal Mart, etc. Two specialty stores that I like a lot are Bed, Bath and Beyond and Crate and Barrell. If you know of any Latvian websites that I can surf in English and offer the types of things sold in these stores, it would be much appreciated.

Thank you!

Robert

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