Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Minister of Transport (and telecoms) fired

Prime Minister Aigas Kalvitis asked Minister of Transport Ainars Slesers to resign, which the minister did. The reason was that Slesers "had lost the public trust" because of his alleged involvement in a bribery scandal surrounding the election of the mayor of Jurmala, a Riga suburb by the seaside. Transcripts of an eavesdropped telephone conversation seem to indicate that Slesers was aware of an attempt to bribe a city council member to vote for the candidate of Sleser's Latvian First Party. See the earlier item about "the biggest cretin". Slesers has denied any wrongdoing.
I won't go into the bizarre and sordid politics of the whole affair, but will instead mention a few things that happened on "his watch" as MoT.
Most of the events under Slesers were on the "physical" transport side. Ryanair and Easyjet were brought to Riga, opening low cost travel to and from Latvia to new groups of people, from Latvian middle class families to boozy British bachelor party groups (they spend their money here, fine with that).
In telecommunications, Slesers was running the ministry when the third UMTS/GSM licence was auctioned to Bite Group. This has been a major stimulus to competition for mobile voice and data services. His time as minister also saw the implementation of number portability which has generated a "churn" of around 9000 mobile customers and 1000 fixed line users. With more than 1.8 million mobile and 600 000 fixed line users, this was less than trivial and had nothing to do with who was MoT.
Slesers seems to have a fairly competant team of professionals in the MoT under the Communications Department, who have their fingers on the pulse of most things. However, the market is mature enough to move ahead without much prodding from the government and we will see such things as very fast and affordable broadband, fast mobile internet, VOIP as the default voice platform for broadband users, IP TV, user-generated TV, HDTV etc. etc., all coming through a fast fixed or mobile link regardless of who is the new MoT. Rumor has it that the post may be filled until the elections in October by Latvian First Party (LPP)parliamentary whip Juris Lujans. That is, unless the LPP leaves the government and brings the whole shithouse down. But that is unlikely.


Peter Ljungqvist said...

Latvia is certainly not the only place where politicians and others with power misuse it.

Another violator is TeliaSonera, which from what I read is not wholeheartedly welcomed in Latvia.

In Sweden, TeliaSonera regularly overbills its customers (is there an easier way to make a profit?), knowing that nobody dares to challenge them.

Well, now someone has. The first Class Action Suit ever in Sweden has been brought against TeliaSonera (with more to come).

The background can be found here:

Although most of the blog is in Swedish, it should be easy enough to spot the English caption, and download the material.

Juris Kaža said...

Thanks Peter. I speak and read Swedish fluently and will have a look at this blog.

Pauluss said...

Of course, all these things happened while Slesers was in office - however, if you dig into details, you'll see that good things happened despite Slesers, not because of him. (Just check blog by J. Kazha on latvian telcos)

And about bringing in low-cost carriers - I'm happy about tourists coming in, but have you ever tried taking bus 22 after incoming flights? People with a bit of brains would have thought of adjusting public transport schedule according to increase in passengers, at least if they pretend to be doing their jobs.

zupen-pusen said...

I truly doubt the good intents of our dear ex-MOT. If you take a closer look at his interference into the telecoms business (or lack of it), attempts to channel major state funds to VITA (with a reasoning that would make a 10-year old laugh) then you can just think how good it is that Elvis has finally left the building.
Well, probably not much will change since other members of his party will take the chair.

Anonymous said...

> I won't go into the bizarre and
> sordid politics of the whole affair

That's a pity. It could be quite enlightening and much appreciated if you you would provide your opinion on it.

Anonymous said...

One more site dedicated to TeliaSonera corrupted links, unfair business practicies, spying competitiors and many more other violations in Litrhuania: