Thursday, June 18, 2009

Controversial former PM quits Lattelecom advisory board

Aigars Kalvitis (People's Party/TP), a controversial former Prime Minister of Latvia, has resigned as chairman of the advisory board of Lattelecom, a high-paying post he got in political horse-trading when the current government of Valdis Dombrovskis (New Era/JL) was formed earlier in the spring. The deal at the time was "either Kalvitis gets the Lattelecom job, or Dombrovskis doesn't get to head the new government". This was reported by Latvian media and confirmed as recently as just hours before Kalvitis resigned (in a radio interview with Finance Minister Einārs Repše where I took part on June 15). Kalvitis said the reason he resigned was to encourage austerity and the abolition of unnecessary advisory board for companies jointly owned by the government and private investors. The Latvian state owns 51 % of Lattelecom, 49 % is owned by TeliaSonera.
Kalvitis appointment cast an undesirable political shadow on Lattelecom for two reasons. First, many Latvians and the media have blamed the ex-prime minister for ignoring signals that the economy was overheating already in 2006 and 2007, leading to the present economic collapse. The appointment was seen as a sinecure for a failed and despised politician (Kalvitis, who is of portly build, has been compared to the anti-littering character Cūkmens -- Piggyman, an actor dressed as a pig who discourages littering in forests and nature preserves). Secondly, the ex-politician is trained as a dairy farmer and could bring little value added to a post paying around 2800 LVL per month in what is a telecoms and high-tech company. His reputation as a manager can be summed up by the current near-depression in Latvia.
With Kalvitis gone, Lattelecom, a company that should not be associated with partisan politics, can yet again continue its work without the aura of somehow coming under the influence of a political party, the TP, with one of the lowest ratings among established Latvian parties.

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