After a sharp downturn during the financial crisis of 2008-2010, the industry recovered and the sector was an engine for the upturn in the economy at the beginning of the 2010s. Subsequently, declining demand in both the EU and Russia and its vicinity contributed to a slowdown in industrial growth.
During the Soviet era, large industrial companies were located in Latvia. Raw materials and labor were sourced from the Soviet Union and produced, inter alia, ships, railway wagons, machines, minibuses and paper. Most Soviet phones were manufactured in Latvia.
After independence, production fell partly because of a shortage of raw materials and partly because the products that were adapted for the protected Soviet system could not be sold on the free market. Heavy industry had to give way to easier production.
In 1996, the industry began to recover, and in the 2000s, production doubled or multiplied in several sectors. Industrial sectors such as wood, metal and electronics have grown as well as biotechnology and pharmaceutical manufacturing. The forest industry is the largest export industry, but also food exports are significant, even though it was negatively affected by the Russian trade boycott of 2014.
- COUNTRYAAH: List of top trading partners of Latvia. Includes countries that imported most shipments from and exported most goods to the country.
The industry was relatively sluggish in the transition to a more modern production and reduced energy consumption. The slowdown in privatization has long held back investors, but now a number of Scandinavian companies have established themselves, among others, in Liepāja on the Baltic Sea coast, one of four economic zones with large tax rebates.
NATO soldiers to the Baltic
NATO decides to station a battalion of up to 1,000 soldiers in each of the three Baltic countries Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The soldiers will mainly come from the UK, Germany and Canada and serve in the three countries according to a rotating schedule.
Fight for convention against women violence
The country’s Ministry of Justice advises Latvia not to sign a Council of Europe Convention on Violence against Women. In an analysis, the ministry calls the convention neo-Marxist and argues that it contravenes the Constitution as it involves discrimination against men and is offensive to men who fought for the country’s liberation from the Soviet Union. “The Latvian nation cannot accept an international agreement that includes statements which mean that Latvian men should have oppressed women,” the ministry notes in its analysis. The Ministry of Justice is controlled by the right-wing National Alliance, which is part of the government. The ministry’s proposal poses a dilemma for Prime Minister Kučinskis, who is being pushed from two directions. The right and the church are against the convention, while human rights groups and minorities are fighting for Latvia to adopt it.
Russian-language TV channel closes
The Russian-language TV channel Rossija RTR is closed for six months on the grounds that it has spread hate propaganda and anti-Ukrainian statements.
Russian news site closes
Latvian authorities shut down Russian news site Sputnik’s Latvian internet site. It is accused of being a purely propaganda agency that delivers, among other things, dubious news about the conflict in Ukraine. The Russian Foreign Ministry condemns the closure as “grotesque censorship”.
New government approved
Parliament approves the new government led by Māris Kučinskis. The government includes his party The Greens and Peasants Covenant, Unity and the National Alliance. The 54-year-old new prime minister says he wants to work for education, research and health care reforms and to try to curb the decline of the population.
Kučinskis may form government
President Vējonis commissioned Māris Kučinskis to form a new government. Kučinskis is a member of the Federation of Greens and Peasants (ZZS) and has previously been Minister of Development. That the president chose to bypass the country’s largest party Unity is believed to be due to the wear and tear of that party.