Alternative Latvian local government reform plan floated

The authors of an alternative administrative territorial reform program propose dividing Latvia into five or eight administrative districts - either based on the planning regions or on the administrative basis of Latvian cities, reported the LETA newswire.

During a press conference at the headquarters of the Latvian Large Cities' Association July 18, Andris Miglavs, advisor to the Latvian Association of Local Governments, Maris Pukis, professor at the University of Latvia's Business, Management and Economy School, and Peteris Skinkis, professor at the University of Latvia's Geography and Earth Sciences School, presented an alternative administrative territorial reform plan to the one being pushed by government.

Miglavs stressed that the research was carried at their own initiative as no institution had commissioned the study, nor paid for it.

The authors of the alternative reform believe that Latvia's territorial development management must be reformed as soon as possible in order to increase the population of all regions, use the existing and new human resources more efficiently, create a more efficient business environment, improve the life of local communities, and decentralize development.

The authors of the alternative reform propose replacing the current two-level government system of central government and local governments with a three-level system: central government, regional governments, and local governments.

Relations among the three levels should be based on the European Charter of Local Self-Government, and all local governments would be run by councils elected by direct suffrage.

Some current local government functions would be delegated to the new regional councils, and some ministerial functions would be decentralized and entrusted to regional governments.

Each regional government would also have a business development institution assisted by the regional development instruments of the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia.

All regional government operations would be supervised by the Environmental Protection and Regional Development Ministry, which is currently pursuing its own two-tier reform plan.

As for financial management, the alternative reform plan suggests that regional governments have predictable sources of revenue based on economic activity, while personal income tax revenue would depend on not just where the person lives, but also where he or she works.

The alternative reform plan states that the new regions should be established either on the basis of the current planning regions or on the basis of cities.

Latvian Large Cities Association's Executive Director Viktors Valainis (Greens & Farmers Union) said that the alternative plan had been sent to all large cities' mayors and the reform would be discussed on Monday, July 22. The association and Latvian Association of Local Governments are planning to also present the study to ministers and Saeima members.

As previously reported by LSM, the Environmental Protection and Regional Development Ministry's administrative territorial reform stipulates reducing the number of local governments in Latvia from 119 to 35.

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