Dear people of Latvia,
Let me address you in these last minutes of the year 2007.
Majority of you celebrate the New Year among close and dear people. Those are the people that you have shared your joy and sorrow, success and failures, hopes and frustrations with. They have been by your side both on bright and gloomy days.
The same as Latvia has.
I would like to conclude: this has been the year of contrasts to Latvia which has been not so bright on both sides... and not green in the middle. Rather saturated year. It has brought rapid growth of economy and loud scandals in the politics. We have experienced credit and leasing euphoria, as well as a collapse of illusions. This year has tossed us from fortune to misfortune and back. However, if I was asked to define this year by one phrase, I would say: this has been the year of valuable lessons.
The year of realising the reality.
It has lead one to the conclusion that it will no longer be possible to earn ten times as much in the field of immovable property.
Others have realised that loans and leasing will have to be repaid and interest rates will not be low.
For politicians this year has given tough yet very valuable lessons:
a) the society has to be approached;
b) the public opinion has to be heard;
c) the public opinion has to be respected.
For Latvia’s society, however, it has been a year of civil growth and involvement. You, the people of Latvia, have grown in terms of power of mind, national awareness and solidarity. In the last fifteen years, your opinions have often been restricted only to discussions within families, criticising the establishment at the dining table. This year your opinions came out of your domestic walls and reached the public. Your opinions have forced them to be heard and eventually have changed the politics in Latvia.
It has been in my destiny to head Latvia during contradictious and responsible conditions. That was back in early nineties and also now. Many say – we have crisis now, and its Godmanis’ duty to set it right.
You know, it is not completely correct.
In comparison to 1990, the year 2007 has been only like a slight breeze.
It is only a new, however, difficult examination, a passage to a new quality, to a new growth. Today’s situation cannot even be compared to that in 1991 when the inflation was up to 950 percent, when the USSR temporarily halted supply of fuel to Latvia, when there was the Soviet army, shortage in foodstuffs, sales of illegal alcohol at booths, there were no laws, we had practically nothing. Yet there existed a hope, selflessness and solidarity. Today, we have gone a long way and have re-established Latvia by creating a democratic society and market economy. Irreversibly!
Many people might think – so, how Godmanis is going to frighten us this time… But this year Godmanis will not frighten.
Because I know – in upcoming years Latvia will also show growth. But it will be a balanced growth. Yes, one will no longer derive a profit ten times as great. One will probably need to revalue their solvency and change an expensive car to a cheaper one. Other might need to cancel their annual trip. But only thus we can truly become aware of our actual financial opportunities and not to put bonds of future debts to our economic freedom. We will see the actual situation and not the one we have on credit, and will learn to plan our expenses similarly as people do in wealthier countries of Europe.
How we – the Government – can contribute to this idea? I can assure you – the country at its full capacity will pay particular attention to these three social groups: children, pensioners and disabled.
Full stop. There is no discussion on that.
That means we will provide free lunches to first year pupils, continue to raise benefits for pensioners and disabled. We are resolved to increase the minimum tax-free allowance, we will raise the minimum salary.
Sure, we will provide support to our businesses, employers, teachers, policemen, export activities and culture – to the extent possible. And our capacity grows.
But children, pensioners and disabled will be a priority. Because they are not able to take care for themselves as it is possible for the economically active members of the society. And they cannot be blamed for that. This is Government’s responsibility.
Next: in 2008 the world will become yet more open and reachable. This was the seventeenth year since Latvia has regained its independence. This was the third year since we can feel safe and secure within NATO and since we have become a Member State of the European Union. And this was the first year since we can freely pass Europe from Daugavpils to Lisbon within the Schengen Zone, even without our passports. The European Union and NATO have made us a full-fledged and respected member of geopolitical events.
At the same time we face equalisation with the European prices. This the most painful part of the new reality. But there is no tragedy. After the World War II all European countries began their run at the same time, after one start shot. The Baltic States were brought out of the global stadium in handcuffs for a period of 50 year. When we regained independence and returned, others were far ahead. It is my deep conviction that today we are just some ten laps, ten years to go in order to reach them. And we will catch tem! This is a complicated task but we can manage to do it. This will require commitment and endeavours of politicians and also of every resident of Latvia.
– Is my commitment and devotion sufficient?
– Do I stand for my country?
– Do I regard my country as my family?
These questions cannot be answered solely by politicians. Each of us should find the answers and teach them to our children and grandchildren.
Those who do not respect their past have no right for future. Therefore, this evening, 17 years since Latvia has regained independence I would like to say sincere thank you to those who are forgotten too often... To those who stood at the cradle of the re-established Latvia. Many countries could be envious of our ability to join our forces in historic moments and to look at the reality.
Dear people of Latvia, I will always remember our way to freedom and as a politician, as a citizen of Latvia I would like to express my deepest respect and say „Thank you!” to all of you who came together when Latvia needed that and showed the power of freedom and unity. Without you – and many of you are now pensioners – we would not have regained independence, we would not have joined the European Union and NATO.
Thank you to all of you who have worked with devotion for many years, thank you to entrepreneurs for ensuring jobs to our people, thank you to teachers for teaching our children, to doctors for saving our lives and health, thank you to countrymen for their hard everyday work. And thank you to all those people who ensure security and peace in Latvia and abroad.
I would like to express my appreciation to all those people who work honestly – you are ‘the salt’ of this land. We all know – every New Year in independent Latvia is a witness of our will, courage and unity.
Every Prime Minister must be able to answer the question „Where are we going?” I would state it this way. We have chosen the development path of the Nordic countries. We belong to this region, to this social model and to this democracy. We have chosen the path on which the young, strong and rich earn money and pay taxes. But the old, weak and needy feel protected and secure about their future.
Perhaps somebody expects a consoler, a healer. I do not assume such a mission. I am a patriot of this country and I assume responsibility – by your support and using my own experience– to take my best efforts in order to ensure the rule of law, security and prosperity in Latvia.
Let the New Year demonstrate our awareness that each of us is necessary for our next of kin, for our people, for our country.
Happy New Year!
God bless Latvia!