Vilks breaks hotseat endurance record

Take note – story published 9 years ago

It may not be quite the sort of staying power exhibited by Queen Victoria or Metternich, but Latvian Finance Minister Andris Vilks exhibited endurance of his own Friday, becoming the country's longest-serving finance minister. 

August 22 marks Vilks 1,388th day in charge of the nation's purse strings during which time he has won credit for helping turn the economy around.

Until now the record was held by Oskars Spurdzins, who managed 1,382 days at the helm between 2004 and 2007.

When he took over from predecessor Einars Repse on November 3, 2010 the country was still deep in recession, though some of Repse's reforms were already starting to have effect.

Nevertheless, Vilks' down-to-earth approach helped improve relations with international lenders such as the International Monetary Fund who were occasionally nonplussed by Repse's unpredictable behavior and penchant for pinstriped leather suits.

Paying off the country's 7.5-billion-euro 2008 bailout loan well ahead of schedule and a return to 5% GDP growth two years running saw Vilks lauded in international press as an example of effective austerity and he was awarded the "Finance Minister of the Year" award in 2012 by the financial publication The Banker

The chief achievement of his stint in charge will inevitably be regarded as Latvia's smooth accession to the eurozone on January 1, 2014.

However, the end is nigh even for long-lasting Vilks. He is not standing as a candidate in October's parliamentary elections and is expected to return to his former career in banking with Sweden's SEB bank.

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