Sunday, March 22, 2009

Reply to Martin in Latvia

Hello!

My name is Martin and I am from Latvia.

You have been writing a great blog! I read almost half of it some weeks ago - it gave me a lot info I needed and a lot to think about.. And now I have some specific questions.

Maybe you have heard something about Latvia, but I will give very short info on whats happening here.

There are many similarities between Latvia and Argentina. We also had privatization boom in 90ties. There is also very much corruption. Also our currency - Lats is pegged to euro, the same as Peso was to dollar. In last years we also imported MUCH more than we exported. Big foreign companies invested a lot in Latvia. We have borrowed a lot too..

And now in short my country is fallowing Ukraine and its semi-failed economy very fast. We borrowed ~5 billion lats [7.5 billion euros] from IMF, EU, Sweden etc. which are being used to save our one nationalized bank and are invested in other banks, so they would give out money in credits [it's not working of course]. For comparing - our government budget in 2008 was 6.5 billion Lats. There is NO way we can repay that till 2013, especially in situation of worldwide crisis. Plus our national debt - citizens + businesses + government debt - is by now at least 26billion Lats. And now Latvia is on a verge of bankruptcy. It will happen if not this spring, then next autumn for sure. We have [the same as in Ukraine] no real opposition in our government and our people are divided and confused by bullshit main mass media and politicians are talking.

Yet there is still some hope. I am working in small independent internet news portal (www.TautasForums.lv). We, and a union of other independent media, organizations, are trying to enlighten people about what is coming, because most of Latvians believe that some miracle is going to happen - somehow economy will be fixed and it wont be 'that bad'. But meanwhile crime and suicide rates are climbing. Budget to health care, police is cut!! GDP fell 10.5% in 2008 4th quarter. Stupidity, ignorance and blindness of general population is biggest problem here. Also we are trying to unite non-governmental organizations, independent media, university professors, students [budget to highest education was cut by ~40%] - all real opposition to government there is, . We are trying to start mass movement, to unite people. We are relatively small country and this might work. It has to.

This is why recently I have been studying very carefully Argentina, Ukraine and Iceland - for signs about what is coming. We are spreading info about what happened to Argentina in 2001. We have published info about films and links to films about Argentina - "Argentina’s Economic Collapse" and "The Take". Maybe you can suggest some more films about all that happened in Argentina? Can you please tell more [or give links to some info] about factories that were occupied by workers? Are they still in workers control? How are they doing now? What are biggest problems?

Is there some real opposition to Argentina's government? Is there any real peoples movement? If yes, how are they doing?

We are preparing series of articles about Argentina 2001 economic collapse. You certainly know and maybe you can send me link to some best articles that in general covers most important things that led to crisis and covers most important things that happened after SHTF? Your blog 'Surviving in Argentina' is great, especially 'Thoughts on Urban Survival', but it is very specific. As are all other posts, which is great for your blog, but bad for translating and republishing, because we need some more general info and it will take a lot of time to analyse and edit info. As our internet news portal is run only by our enthusiasm and it is only one of many projects that are taking place now in Latvia, we are interested in saving our time as much as we can.. So if you can send some links or some specific general info about events before and after SHTF, that would be great!

Maybe you have some detailed information about Ukraine you can share? Because there is real silence in all world about whats happening in Ukraine now, only bits and peaces of info. I have insight because of all contacts I have established recently with Ukrainians, but main mass media in Latvia are silent about it.

Well.. thats a long letter and a lot of questions..
I hope you will have time and enthusiasms to answer them!

Best wishes and thank you for your time -
Mārtiņš , Latvia


Sorry I took so long to reply.

Martin, sounds you are repeating the Argentine story. These things last for decades my friend, it wont just go away. Then again, maybe you guys to things better than us and recover quicker.

These days in my country, we still have big economic problems, crime is what worries the population the most, and the political problems seem will never end.

My advice to you would be, BE VERY careful of the leaders you pick, try to create a political opposing party. It get bad once you have an unquestioned tyrant like the K here in Arg, or Chaves in Venezuela and Evo in Bolivia. These petty dictators cause great damage to a country since it undermines democracy, and democracy takes dozens of years to rebuild.

Indepedant media is SO; SO important. When media gets censored you know things are really bad. Here, most reporters are heavily censored, even comedians laugh nervously if they say a political joke and most try to avoid the issue entirely.

People working in the media preffer not to get into trouble.

Marcelo Tinelli, local celebrity, was immediately investigated, had a tax audition right after speaking out about the huge crime problems we have.

I’d all very sinister. For more information google up “censorship in Argentina”. We’re not having people hanged, but we are in a stage right now were talking about the government gets you into trouble, and if you do so you’ll receive emails and phone calls advising you to stop.

There’s also the “Media Monitor”, a gov. institution that fights (supposedly) discrimination. The weird part is that they consider “discrimination” talking against the government too.

It s political censorship tool.

We have published info about films and links to films about Argentina - "Argentina’s Economic Collapse" and "The Take". Maybe you can suggest some more films about all that happened in Argentina? Can you please tell more [or give links to some info] about factories that were occupied by workers?

Those are good films.

My advice: Read books and documentaries by Argentine reporter called Jorge Lanata.

While a bit too liberal for my taste, he openly tells it as it is and for that he was pretty much forced out of television.

No channel wants to risk having him on the air.

http://www.jorgelanata.com/

http://www.jorgelanata.com.ar/cv/home/index.html

http://www.criticadigital.com.ar/

Are they still in workers control? How are they doing now? What are biggest problems?

Some did ok, they struggle a LOT. Mostly because of poor management, high taxes, and lack of political connections that open more windows of possibilities.

IN Argentina, with our level of corruption, you needs “friends”, if not official inspectors and high taxes makes running a factory a daily struggle for very little benefit compared to what you have invested in it.

Most of these workers, they have a lot of will to work, but as most of of know working makes little money, working a lot still makes you little money, it just increases the cut of the ones profiting from your work.

Reno-Mahely is a good example. It’s a small air rilfe-22LR firearms factory that have been around for over 50 years.

http://www.mahely-reno.com.ar/indexreno.htm

Today its run by it’s workers. Their website is a good example of their desire to progress but how the lack of possibilities keeps them down.

http://www.mahely-reno.com.ar/indexreno.htm

Is there some real opposition to Argentina's government? Is there any real peoples movement? If yes, how are they doing?

Just now are we starting to see a bit or true Opposition. And its still pretty fragile.

Surprisingly, the vice president Julio Cobos is probably the greatest honest opponent the gov. has. Their differences started when the K regime wanted to create a farmers tax that pretty much left them with 20% of their work, the rest was taken away from them with one for of tax or another.

These days more and more rats are leaving the K lines. Reason why they moved the elections forward, in an attempt to surprise the opposition and place mr K as the governor of Bs As.

People yes are protesting, mostly because of the terrible crime we suffer here. But the political machinery and media control is still to big. We saw that in the march last Wednesday. Few people went, mostly scared of incidents, and there were government goons filming those that attended.

Maybe you have some detailed information about Ukraine you can share? Because there is real silence in all world about whats happening in Ukraine now, only bits and peaces of info. I have insight because of all contacts I have established recently with Ukrainians, but main mass media in Latvia are silent about it.

Unfortunately I don’t have much information about Ukraine. Other than knowing that they are going through some hard times themselves.

Any of you guys in Ukraine, I’d love to post a letter telling how the situation is over there. If anyone has the time to write something about the situation, I’ll post it right away. I think we can all learn from it a lot.

Take care guys.

FerFAL


4 comments:

Sixpackoverhere said...

I lived in Ukraine when I was small and have many relatives there now. The way I understand the situation is simple. The government is rotten to the core. They have several factions, one that wants to stay in favor with Russia and another that wants to join NATO.

The people controlling the government could care less for the avg Ukrainian. When they had the orange revolution big money started to flow in. The government looked promising and all the fairy tale stuff.

Frequent infighting chased away the investors. They have useless mountain terrain that some one wanted to buy out and plant rare nut trees. The investors backed out.

The money that was given by IMF and investors was put into politician's bank accounts and disappeared. Billions of dollars several times the GDP of entire Ukraine vanished. They did not even bother to pay their bills that they owed Russia (4 billion $? I am not sure). Restructuring of the national industries changed hands several times.

Political rallies is a good way to make a living. Show up get paid to chant then at 2 pm go to the opposition camp to do the same.

The real estate crashed after confidence was lost.

Now the opposition parties are pretending to play nice to get another IMF loan.

The crime is high, it was always high. However I never realized that while I lived there. I was small 9 years old (19 now). It always looked like part of life. Only after thinking about what ferFAL said did I realize that it was probably on par with Argentina.

eskil said...

Latvia (and Estonia and Lithuania as well) have weak economies compared to other european countries, but they still have far better prerequisites than Ukraine, Belarus and a lot of other east european countries. Being a member of EU is of outmost importance. The freemovement of goods, workers, services and capital will make sure that when economy is getting up to speed again in the rest of Europe, Latvia will not be left behind.

One thing (that I believe is a mistake) is that Latvia together with Lithuania, Estonia, Denmark and Sweden have retained their national currency. Litas, Lats, Kroon and Kronor have lost much value compared to Euros since last summer. Although this will make it easier to get production and export going again, it also means that old loans are getting more expensive to repay and that private savings have lost in value.

On the other hand Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia have other problems that neither Iceland nor Argentina has. Ethnic tension. All three baltic countries have a big minority (about 25% of population) of ethnic russians. From my side of the Baltic sea I see ethnic violence as a far greater risk than economic collapse.

Mārtiņš said...

Thanks for answer FerFAL!

to eskil..

Litas, Lats, Kroon are pegged to Euro. They cant lose their value. Its the main problem with our currencies.
We have kept our currency because in previous years we couldnt meet Maastricht criteria - inflation was too huge.
Being member of EU is good but it is not cure to everything because EU is in recession too and it too has VERY big economy problems ahead.
In Latvia we have ~45% ethnic minority [in general - russians] of whole population. It has been and it still is major problem. And yes, we fear that government can try to play Latvians vs russians card to distract general population.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Mārtiņš,
I'm from Ukraine. What do you want to know?

You can read some info about crisis in USA here http://russtv.ru/ekonomika/hazin/ (in russian)
He shows the mechanic of crisis, not artefacts.