Eternal Concurrence

WHILE everyone seems to agree that Latvia is the biggest mess since Jackson Pollock’s Mum told him to tidy his room, no-one seems to have much of an idea what to do about it.

There’s plenty of talk about strategic this and prioritised that but the more people talk, the woollier their ideas get. Even the more prominent debates such as devalue/don’t devalue the currency contain more of “what might happen if…” than “what will we do when…”

There’s a lack of agency, if not a lack of agencies. Latvia is somehow a rudderless boat caught on a rolling tide and all we can do is wonder which way the waves will throw it – onto the rocks or the beach. Attempts to cobble together a rudder are being hampered by disagreements over what sort of wood to use.

What we are left with is a situation in which panels of “experts” (either self-appointed or appointed by another panel) sit around a table, fill a conference hall or cross-examine each other endlessly on TV.

They always reach the conclusion that things need to be done urgently, without really getting into the details of what those things are and by when they need to be done. Indeed the main action they take is a decision to form another group/committee/panel to draw up “concrete” proposals – the first of which will be to form another group/committee/panel.

So a lot gets said and everyone gets to air their pet greivance, but all this amounts to is a sort of simulacrum of action: everyone is very busy, so something must actually be happening, right?

Well, no. Everyone is busy preparing to begin something that never quite commences. Certainly schools close, people lose their jobs, wages get cut, but no-one seems quite sure to what end. Where does it fit in the grand scheme of things? No-one knows because the experts are still sorting that out. The whole of the Latvian “structural reform” effort still has the feel of prototype policy proposals, prequels to the real thing that will assuredly happen some time soon.

This explains why, even with the very real hardships being faced by many people, there’s still something of a “phoney war” feel to the economic crisis. That was understandable during the summer when people didn’t need much more than a place to sit in the sun, but with winter closing in with its general sense of gloom and claustrophobia working in the background, it suggests that at some point the veneer of normality is going to be violently ripped asunder.

So the figures don’t add up at the moment because they keep changing, and the cuts seem lopsidedly drastic in one sector (healthcare?) but surprisingly benign in another (financial sector?). However, everything will be much clearer once the master plan has been fully implemented.

Once the committee responsible for enacting the recommendations of the working group looking into priority areas (usually a synonym for “everything”) has forwarded its amendments to the senior advisory panel reporting to the minister, the matter will be debated in a civic forum and then any resultant proposals will be despatched to the cabinet for approval, as long as they tally with the conclusions of the presidential think tank formed from a representative group of stakeholders and non-partisan wise men, some or all of whom may or may not also sit on any or all of the aforementioned groups.

Look, seagulls!

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