Latvia is encouraging the brightest minds of the high-tech sector in Belarus to move their business here. They are offered an easier acquisition of a visa, reduced bureaucracy in opening bank accounts and special encouragement for start-ups.
“It's a mutually beneficial deal. Interest is from both sides. In Belarus, under the current political situation, large companies are looking for new homes. And Latvia has shown itself to be a safe country in the COVID-19 crisis, both from the economic and health point of view," said Economics Minister Janis Vitenbergs (“KPV LV”).
“At the moment, we have 29 companies that are seriously considering moving. 12 have already decided to move in part or in full, and in general we are talking about a little under 500 employees, for whom a decision has already been taken,” said Kaspars Rožkalns, director of the Latvian Investment and Development Agency (LIAA).
At this volume, Belarusian entrepreneurs would add about €250 000 per year to Latvia's budget in taxes in salaries alone. But officials hope the interest of Belarusians will still grow.
The Latvian IT industry expects the arrival of Belarusians with mixed feelings.
On the one hand, the industry representatives are worried whether there will be market-distorting privileges for arrivals. On the other hand, they are looking forward to the possibility of attracting the most capable employees, because in Latvia the remuneration of IT specialists is on average higher.
“It would certainly be in our interests to attract these specialists so they can work. Many companies already use the opportunity, and that cooperation already exists,” said Signe Bālina, head of the Latvian Information and Communication Technology Association.
“Of course, it is important that Latvian IT companies are not discredited in some way,” added Bāliņa.
The Ministry of Economics hopes that Belarusian businesses will not be concentrated in Riga, but in various regions of Latvia. Especially attractive to them could be Daugavpils, which is geographically closer, with the benefits of large Belarusian communities.