teisipäev, detsember 23, 2008

here's €1.7 billion, next time be more careful

Just two days shy of Christmas, jõuluvana, also known as the International Monetary Fund, decided to present Estonia's southern neighbor Latvia with a gift worth €1.7 billion.

The aid is part of a broader €7.5 billion package for the lätlased, which includes financing from the EU, all the nordic countries except Iceland, the Czech Republic, Poland, and the World Bank.

Despite horrible Eurovision entry after horrible Eurovision entry, jõuluvana has taken pity on poor Latvia, and the country will continue to peg its currency to the Euro. In explanation of its gift, the IMF attributed Latvia's problems to "years of unsustainably high growth and large current account deficits" that have "coalesced into a financial and balance-of-payments crisis."

Hmm. That sounds vaguely like the scribblings of that open-faced sandwich-loving analyst from Danske Bank, Lars Christensen. Poor Lars. So many people said he was wrong, but he was actually right, though the ability to forecast economic upheaval is hardly a skill that wins one friends.

In Estonia though, unlike in Latvia, there is moderate faith in the government. The Ansip malaise has morphed into the Ansip apathy. It is not that the people are apathetic about what is going on around them. I think instead they are resigned to the leadership that fate has dealt them. If not the stubborn liberal Ansip, the ardent patriot Laar, and the pig-farming social democrat Padar, then who? Savisaar?

The Mayor of Tallinn himself has been active as of late. He even sent me a Christmas card. It is hard to make sense of Härra Savisaar. Once in awhile he says something relatively cognizant, but most of the time, I have no idea what he is talking about. From my foreign perspective, he appears to be desperately throwing ideas at the wall, hoping one will stick. But Savisaar was last prime minister in 1992, and he wasn't even elected to that position. He's about as shiny and new as Color Me Badd.

President Ilves meanwhile has cautioned against the rise of economic populism while reassuring us that Estonia has seen worse in its history. Next year will see two elections in Estonia, with European parliamentary elections in June and municipal elections in October. If anyone were to play power politics in Estonia, some time before either of those elections would suffice. True, true, and indeed.

And so we sit eating sauerkraut and gingerbread, patiently awaiting what 2009 will bring us, a year for which nobody, including Lars Christensen, has forecast good news. For the rest of 2008, I am looking forward to more tasty küüslaugujuust and the final episode of the historical drama Tuulepealne Maa. How about you?

23 kommentaari:

Kristopher ütles ...

"Nadezhda, take some hay out to the animals. Your Christmas will be the merrier for it." - Priceless. Did he really record all those names? Is Jenny really pronounced "Yenny"?

Which of the options did Good King Savisaar ask you to do?

Martasmimi ütles ...

How about this for some Holiday spirit in the USA..

2008Christmas_casa-iluminada-musica-navidad3

Giustino ütles ...

There was no "Giustino" option, so I had to go with "Rinaldo."

Pēteris Cedriņš ütles ...

Note that we will not be participating in Eurovision because we will be taupīgi. Feel relieved. Note, too, that Estonia is among the countries lending us money, thereby magnifying our festering inferiority complexes.

Anyway -- a loan is not a gift, as might have been learned during the recent orgy. Of course, pensioners, book publishers and other undesirables can be made to pay for this borrowing, too, if there are any left.

Inner monologue ütles ...

G - have you become friends with sült by now?

Just checking on the progress of your integration.

Lingüista ütles ...

Dear Cedriņš, if at least one Brazilian who is trying to learn Latvian out of sheer love for a language/culture and country I've never seen can help redress the inferiority complex that you've mentioned -- here is my Sveiks!

Pēteris Cedriņš ütles ...

Sveiks Brazīlijā! As an adolescent, I fantasized about following in Sasha Siemel's footsteps. I even bought a knife...

Here is Pauls Raudseps' recent op-ed on Estonia's millions. We have one thing on the Fenno-Ogres -- Latvian texts can be converted into Dadaist poetry at Google Translate.

Head uut aastat!

Lingüista ütles ...

Sveiks Pēteris! Funny, I actually work with the Bakairí Indians in the state of Mato Grosso in Brazil (I study their language), so I have at least that in common with Mr Siemel's (though I'm much more the absent-minded professor than the Indiana Jones type...)

I'm curious about the differences between Latvia and Estonia. Is the Estonian economy so much better managed than the Latvian one? Are Estonian leaders better than Latvian ones? Is it a question of looks? Or is it just PR, as Raudseps' article suggests? Are Latvia and Estonia going to take different paths in the future, despite their similar histories up to USSR times?

Kristopher ütles ...

That would be a great blog post. There's a really good Latvian economy blog kept by a Briton, but I have yet to see a head-to-head rundown (in English) of the key differences. I suspect there's a bit of a "Latvia paid for our sins" theme. And the Latvian government seem to be book-hating philistines, but the Estonians aren't much better at all, with the tax hike on live performances, and I always hear grumbling about cultural policy.

When's the Google app for Latgalian due out?

Pēteris Cedriņš ütles ...

Or is it just PR, as Raudseps' article suggests

Raudseps is saying that the ruling gang tried to convince us that it's just PR -- no serious person believed that, and the current Latvian débâcle makes it obvious that the differences are very real. You can compare Estonian investment in education and R&D, for example. Veiko Spolītis, who knows both countries well, has a number of posts on why.

Latvia is at a crossroads. I agree with Veiko: "The choice is simple - to reform the post-Soviet education, political and economic structures or to become a murky dependency relying on the Russian oil and mineral resources transit commissions."

When's the Google app for Latgalian due out?

I think it's supposed to be released on the same day as the Võro app.

Lingüista ütles ...

The impression I get from reading about Latvia's current plight -- and especially from your blog, Pēteris, and also Veiko's and Juris Kaža's -- is that Latvia is more, let's say, 'Slavic' (as in Balto-Slavic) and thus emotional, hierarchy-sensitive and control-oriented -- with the possible risk of becoming more autocratic like Russia -- while Estonia is more 'Scandinavian' and thus less emotional, more egalitarian -- Finland's poor cousin who is now not doing so bad anymore.

I would be curious about a comparison between the solutions found by Latvia and Estonia to the same problems. I've read several reports on both countries' policies towards their Russian minorities, and even though there's criticism for having kept so many people without citizenship, Estonia usually comes out as having found more practical solutions than Latvia. Am I right to guess that this would be similar in other areas as well?

By the way, is there much interchange and cooperation between the two countries, since so many of their problems seem to be the same (or to have started out as the same in 1991)?

Giustino ütles ...

Estonia is more 'Scandinavian' and thus less emotional, more egalitarian -- Finland's poor cousin who is now not doing so bad anymore.

One problem with using Finland to gauge "normalcy," is that few of us really know how, say, corrupt Finnish politics are because the press still tends to self-censor anything related to Finnish-Russian relations there.

We don't know how corrupt the Helsinki city government is compared to the Tallinn city government. We only know that it appears to be better run!

Inner monologue ütles ...

Latvia is going to do alright, if you listen to their minister of finance. All this money problem, bah ... 'nothing special'.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mhyJW65h-BU&feature=related

Andres ütles ...

Woow. Did he borrow the infamous pink glasses from Ansip or something? Even Ansip wouldn't get away with saying "The situation is very good at the moment" when you have to take loans in the magnitude of half a yearly budget. Also the "I think you're nothing special" was pretty nice :D Reminds me of Parts's interview to some British station.

Inner monologue ütles ...

Isn't it great? I would think hard before I would hire aguy like him, with this kind of demeanor and mumbling diction, even to housesit my summer home, but there he is ... supposedly in charge of country's finances. This must mean that Latvians have collectively decided that he is good enough for them.

Isn't it fcuking amazing!?

Makes you wonder who's the idiot.

Inner monologue ütles ...

Isn't it great? I would think hard before I would hire aguy like him, with this kind of demeanor and mumbling diction, even to housesit my summer home, but there he is ... supposedly in charge of country's finances. This must mean that Latvians have collectively decided that he is good enough for them.

Isn't it fcuking amazing!?

Makes you wonder who's the idiot.

Inner monologue ütles ...

Isn't it great? I would think hard before I would hire aguy like him, with this kind of demeanor and mumbling diction, even to housesit my summer home, but there he is ... supposedly in charge of country's finances. This must mean that Latvians have collectively decided that he is good enough for them.

Isn't it fcuking amazing!?

Makes you wonder who's the idiot.

Imant ütles ...

If You are in Latvia, I like Your ideas and would like to meet You! I am an American and would like to talk to You more about such things as our bad officials. Please, e-mail me at my e-pasts.

Imant ütles ...

at my e-post, I mean, of a private company on my profile.

Inner monologue ütles ...

Sure Imant. Sure. Can't wait to have this enriching discussion.

ontark ütles ...

It is weird how an economic crisis can tear down anyone in the power. Ansip's ratings went down, while Savisaar's ratings grew. As long as the economy boomed, Ansip was the positive guy in the newspapers, now he has become the person who caused the world wide economic crisis. In the meantime, I don't remember Savisaar warning us for any crisis at all...but ahh...it doesn't matter that much. All such problems will eventually fade. there are better things to do than blame political leaders all the time.

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