Plan to nationalize Latvia's largest ports met with cool response

A New Conservative Party (JKP) initiative to nationalize Latvia's largest ports - which are currently under municipal and state control - has received a cool response from potential coalition partners in the new government.

The initiative was suggested by JKP's candidate for Transport Minister Tālis Linkaits, an industry expert and former council member at airBaltic, Latvenergo and the Rīga International Aiport. 

The nationalization plan is included in an unofficial draft of the government declaration, and Linkaits points to the examples of Tallinn and Klaipėda, both under state control and doing a much bigger job of attracting freight.

"The principle that has rooted in Latvian ports, that they are controlled both by the state and municipality, often prevents ports from functioning and making decisions. There is a lot of unused land in Rīga's port, and it's not being offered to investors. [The ports] are working in the interests of the parties ruling the municipalities, and there are big expenses on advertising and marketing," Linkaits told Latvian Radio January 16.

The first order of business, according to Linkaits, would be returning port assets to state ownership and, later, nationalizing the ports. He stressed that the plan would be implemented gradually, exploring legal and ownership aspects of the transfer. 

Meanwhile Kārlis Leiškalns, the head of the Port Association, voiced objections to the idea. "I don't understand what it is they want to nationalize. The land? The port? They are interested in the port fees that could be distributed as dividends instead of being invested into port maintenance," he said. 

Political partners are likewise skeptical over this proposal. "We've had a discussion. We'll see what the final edition [of the government declaration] says," said Kaspars Gerhards (National Alliance).

Previously the port city of Liepāja, western Latvia, voiced dissatisfaction with Linkaits' proposal. 

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