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COVID-19 state aid could have been bigger, says former Finance Minister

In order to make employers and workers more comfortable in the COVID-19 crisis, the benefits provided by the State could have been higher, former Finance Minister Andris Vilks, member of the Bank of Latvia, said in an interview to Latvian Radio October 5. 

Comparing the economic crisis a decade ago and the crisis created by COVID-19, the former minister pointed to fundamental differences: “Absolutely not comparable: day versus night. Latvia's situation in 2008, 2009, 2010 was unsavory, we were the first to receive shocks due to overheating of Latvia's economy and international events. There was a double crisis. We didn't count, we were pushed aside, and we didn't have anyone to address. (..) Latvia now has sound finances, enough savings, good ratings, we are taken seriously.”

In his view, the State and businesses have learned from the previous crisis. “It stuck in our memories so deep that there is now a deeper crisis in Latvia than in Lithuania and Estonia.”

In his opinion, the government and businessmen must be prepared to react very quickly and look at the opportunities opened by the COVID-19 crisis. “This is a crisis that can end at any moment. It's kind of floating,” Vilks said.

He predicted that getting out of the COVID-19 crisis could be quick for Latvia. 

Vilks said the direction  of the state to support entrepreneurs was correct but not the right extent. “We saw in a recent study by the Bank of Latvia that Latvia has directed a relatively small part of the money available to entrepreneurs and citizens to overcome the consequences of the crisis. There could have been bigger programs, volumes. The number could have been twice as big at least,” Vilks said.

“We are more cautious about potential spending. We think someone will rip us off,” Vilks said.

In his view, it will take about two years for Latvia to recover completely.

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