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Cablegate: Latvia's 2009 Budget

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RUEHLZ RUEHNP RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHRA #0702 3221317
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R 171317Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY RIGA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5385
INFO RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
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RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS RIGA 000702

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON EFIN PGOV LG
SUBJECT: LATVIA'S 2009 BUDGET

1. On November 14th, the Saeima (Parliament) passed the government's
2009 budget, with plans to run a deficit of 1.5% of GDP. Revenue
next year is projected to be LVL 5.316 billion (USD 9.4 billion),
while expenditures are planned to total LVL 5.564 (USD 9.9 billion).
The budget assumes a 1% fall in GDP in 2009.
2. In light of nearly all macroeconomic indicators showing no sign
of early recovery (Latvia's GDP in the third quarter experienced the
steepest fall in the EU - a contraction of 4.2%), the new budget
should be viewed as temporary. Falling tax revenues will soon call
for further cuts in both panned revenues and expenses. Several key
political figures, including the Minister of Finance, have stated
publicly that the budget will be amended in early 2009 to reflect
updated economic conditions.

3. Economists attending a lunch hosted by the Ambassador on the day
the budget was being reviewed in the parliament agreed that at the
proposed budget is far from perfect and noted the risks of running a
deficit in the current global environment. However, they all also
acknowledged that further cuts in spending would be politically
impossible at this time. The Governor of the Bank of Latvia, Ilmars
Rimsevics, was supportive of the government's decision to cut an
additional LVL 228 million (USD 404 million) in spending and
lowering projected revenues by LVL 145 million (USD 258 million)
prior to final passage, but reiterated the critical importance of a
balanced budget given the current state of the Latvian economy.
4. We will be seeking further information on how this reduced budget
will effect government operations in key areas.

Larson

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