OECD chief in Riga: Baltics all members by 2017-8

Angel Gurria, Secretary General of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) gave a positive view Friday of Latvia and Lithuania's chances of joining the "rich countries' club" in the near future.

Speaking at the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga in a barnstorming lecture, the former Mexican finance minister praised Latvia's path towards membership of the organization he has headed for eight years, but warned that important work still needed to be done.

"Estonia has been a member since 2010 and Latvia's accession was launched last year... I think we can do all the technicalities by the end of next year and leave the political issues for 2016 where through the year perhaps we can finish the process.

"It's an ambitious but realistic calendar and I have to say the Latvians have been exemplary in terms of their dedication, their commitment to the process," Gurria said.

The Latvians have been exemplary in terms of their dedication, their commitment to the process"

No problems were foreseen with Lithuania's likely invitation to start its own accession process from next year, he said.

"Latvia is now in the process, Lithuania is going to have decision taken next May or June which we're sure will be positive... eventually in 2017-8 we'll have the three Baltics as full members of the OECD." 

The way Latvia has bounced back from an acute economic crisis in 2008-10 could serve as a useful example for other small countries wanting to join the OECD, Gurria told his audience.

However he also said legislation needed to be speedily introduced to improve the way state-owned companies are managed to ensure Latvia did not fall behind schedule.

"It is practically without exception that this is one of the issues that is not only analysed but discussed and debated but it is typically one of the issues that is left to the very end of the case," Gurria said, citing the example of Slovenia where reforms were left "to the last second."

"It is a critical issue because there are 94 companies involved... We're not particularly religious about the ownership - what is important is that the companies work without any particular advantages or privileges, that there is a level playing field, that they are open to competition, that they are not monopolies and that they are managed profesionally," Gurria said.

Both Latvia and Lithuania look to have leapfrogged Russia's attempt to join the OECD after its accession hopes were put in limbo by its actions in Ukraine.

"We will continue the technical [work] but discussions about [Russian] accession and when they are reinstated are really going to be defined politically by our members. Clearly will require the situation on the ground to improve. When? I hope the sooner the better," Gurria told LSM after his lecture.

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Economy
Economy