A grand-sized scandal was created when the first draft of the budget was seen to include proposals for a new concert-standard instrument costing nearly 184,000 euros.
According to the Chancellery, the application was originally made because the "approximately 100-year-old concert grand piano, which is currently in the Riga Castle Festival Hall, is no longer able to provide high enough sound quality". Rīga Castle does have another piano, a white Bosendorfer, located one floor below the Festival Hall but the Chancellery said it was not possible to move it without causing damage.
"It should be noted that the Chancellery of the President submitted the budget plans for next year to the Ministry of Finance at the beginning of this summer. At that time, we were optimistic about Covid-19 prevalence and vaccination coverage, but now, considering the current situation and how much the Riga Castle Festival Hall could be used for public concerts in the foreseeable future, the Chancellery has decided to reconsider its priorities and buy a grand piano when it will be possible to hold concerts with a large number of visitors," the Chancellery said in an October statement which it reasserted November 15, though the negative public reaction to news of the extravagant purchase at a time when healthcare, education, law enforcement and other essentials are under intense funding pressure, must also have been a factor.
Nevertheless some media have reported that the pianoforte purchase is still going ahead, raising the tempo of the Chancellery's protestations so that on November 15 it said fortissimo:
"Media that publishes false information about the funds provided for the Chancellery of the President are asked to go into the state budgeting procedure, which stipulates that changes between the 1st and 2nd readings are made by applying to the Ministry of Finance... We ask the media to withdraw false information."
Here at LSM we have duo-checked the budget documents and they do indeed include a "Reduction of the allocated funding for the priority measure - Acquisition of a concert grand piano for the Riga Castle Festival Hall" so for the time being the Castle will have to make do with its two existing pianos.