These are lean times in Latvia. People in the Baltic state are being asked to tighten their belts after the parliament approved deep public spending cuts.
The drastic measures, which are are aimed at preventing economic collapse, include slashing public sector wages by 20 percent and pensions by 10 percent. One elderly woman in Riga said: “We’ll probably all be taken to the woods to either die or survive. It’s so bad! They do not think they’ll be old themselves one day.” The budget cuts were required to secure massive loans from the EU and the International Monetary Fund. While politicians and economists agree on the need for austerity, others are outraged. A market stall holder in Riga said: “Already now pensioners are utterly poor. No European country has such small pensions! And if they take away 10 percent, I don’t know…” Latvia has been hit particularly hard by the global recession. Without international aid the country was said to have been facing bankruptcy and the devaluation of the Lat currency. The crisis may not be over. Unions plan a big protest tomorrow and some politicians have predicted widespread social unrest.