Alleged foot-dragging and delays in moving ahead with an European Union (EU) mandated program to bring broadband internet to rural and underdeveloped areas in Latvia, the possible loss of LVL 4 million in EU funding for this purpose and charges of "populism"were traded between Latvia's "E-minister" Ina Gudele and Raimonds Bergmanis, the head of the Ministry of Transport's Communications Department.
Gudele says that LVL 1.7 million have already had to be reallocated to related projects, since broadband development has failed to move ahead. She doesn't believe there is time to take action before the end of 2007, when the EU funding could be forfeited. Bergmanis says that tenders for rural and remote area broadband can be prepared by the end of the year and said that Gudele, a non-partisan minister appointed with the support of the Green/Farmers' Alliance (ZZS), was engaging in pre-election populism. He said that his plans for broadband involve spending LVL 11 million and raising funds in a public-private partnership with the hope of engaging other participants besides Lattelecom.
This blogger has learned that Gudele will be asking Minister of Transport Krisjanis Peters to explain whether these remarks by Bergmanis, who is a high ranking civil servant, reflect the views of the Ministry. Behind the scenes, both the minister and Bergmanis have had harsher words for each other. Although the election is less than three months away, Gudele's complaint to Peters could make more trouble for Bergmanis, who, it is understood, has been criticized by other members of the Cabinet for the slow/non-implementation of the broadband concept written up by Bergmanis' department as early as 2004. The E-minister has suggested that oversight and policy making in IT and telecommunications (Bergmanis' field) be put under one authority. This could be seen as a strong suggestion that the new government that will be formed after the election should put this all under the E-Ministry and have Gudele's successor take over Bergmanis department. Another issue is whether Bergmanis have the confidence of the new minister if his department is reshuffled.