Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The New Argentina?

This time twelve months ago Latvia was Europe's fastest growing economy. Now, signs of the growing recession (or creesis as my students insist on calling it) can be seen everywhere. On the high street there are sale notices stuck to every other window, and empty shops are as easy to spot as missing teeth in a boxer's mouth. Most mornings I leave my building to find a well-dressed man rooting through the bin. People tell me that traffic is lighter and public transport more crowded. At school class sizes are shrinking. Yesterday, a protest by farmers forced a minister to resign.

There have been three bail-outs already, seven and a half billion euros from the IMF, another three from the European Union, and a currency-exchange deal with the national banks of Sweden and Denmark. Last December ten thousand Latvians signed a petition calling for Sweden to occupy the country. That same week Paul Krugman called Latvia the new Argentina.

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