Prime Minister

Good evening in Valmiera and Daugavpils! Hello in Liepāja, Alūksne, Ventspils and Jelgava! Good evening in Rīga and all over Latvia!

At this moment, many of you, together with families and friends, are sitting at the festive table and counting the last moments of the outgoing year. Tonight, I am at my country home near Valmiera, and together with my family contemplate upon what has been and has not been done this year. Tonight, you also linger in memories and think if this year has been a good one or not so good, but afterwards... Afterwards, you will predict the future and believe in what you see. It will come true. It has to!

It is 98 years since the foundation of the State of Latvia. This was the year of success and, of course, also failures. This year, Latvia became a member state of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, notwithstanding the fact that at the beginning of the year, there were many who disclaimed such a possibility. In spite of them, we did it!

This year, the government made the first steps towards reformation of the education and health care systems. The first steps are always difficult due to lack of experience and support, but they still need to be made. Decisions have to be made that will inevitably raise criticism. The critics are usually the ones who have lacked courage. Those who have comfortably stood aside, smirked and kept quiet; those who have never wanted to do anything. The government does its best to make high-quality health care available to every resident of Latvia.

Next year's budget will be the first where the funding for health care will be higher than before the financial crisis. This is the first step, which enables us to state that we are making the health care system more accessible and safer. But only the first step, which will be followed by many more!

The government is implementing reforms in the education system to ensure that every student, living with his or her family far away from the capital city will be able to compete against Rigans of his or her age when applying for university. Is this an impossible promise? No, that is our chance! The knowledge test that was recently carried out for the Latvian students showed that, in the common scoreboard, we are in the middle of all countries, but the Latvian students who are studying in Rīga can compete with the leaders of this test – the Singaporean students! We need to reform the school network and ensure the availability of high-quality education for everyone. There is no such thing as untalented children! There is only a system that has not been created to develop children’s abilities and open a path towards their dreams. We have talented teachers, and we have to provide them with the opportunity to work for our future. This is the only path to create a fair and united Latvia; develop a country in which we can trust.

I also mentioned the mistakes that were made this year. I know that politicians usually do not speak openly about them, but I will break with tradition. Politics need to be open.

As regards the minimum social contributions and the changes in micro-enterprise tax, for a long time I was confident that it is a good and fair solution. Unfortunately, the real business activity is far more complicated than it is laid down by laws, and the current micro-enterprise regulation for some has become a tax optimisation scheme. It should not be that way!

The second issue: what should be done by the enterprises that operate in provinces far from Rīga if they want to work, but cannot provide all employees with full-fledged jobs all year round, whilst still needing to pay compulsory social contributions from their minimum wage every month? They cannot afford it, and are prepared to go towards the 'envelope salary' business.

I do not want to play a blame-game, because we need to go forward. The changes in tax rates prevented the threatening fire that would break out tomorrow, on 1 January.

The tax system of Latvia will experience considerable reforms, and they have already been included in the plans of the government and the coalition. The goal is to create a simple, easily understandable and fair tax system that will protect also the ones who do not participate in the labour market, and will encourage those who fear bureaucracy. Everyone needs to change! State institutions have to be flexible and fast, because the early-stage ideas should not be missed.

The next year also has a lot of promises. The funding of the European Funds will considerably increase and will give new impetus to the construction sector, which is experiencing a crisis, will create new jobs and beneficially influence the development of the Latvian economy. Our task is to use this investment of the European Funds to develop the national economy and promote its export potential.

Above all − do not believe those who promise to do everything in a simple manner, fast and all at once. I also want everything at once, fast and in a simple manner, but I understand that it does not work that way. The history teaches us a small nation's wisdom - not to allow those who hold the power to make mistakes. Participate!

Honourable compatriots!

The State of Latvia is neither its President and the Prime Minister nor the Members of Parliament. We all together make the State. All together, regardless of where we live – in Latvia or in other part of the world, regardless of the language we speak at home! Memories, doubts, hope for the future, also disappointment and happiness − if all this is related to Latvia, then you surely know that you belong here! Every voice needs to be heard, if it speaks about hope for our country, our Latvia! Let's respect ourselves and be faithful to free Latvia!

Happy New Year to all of you! God, bless Latvia!