Politics, Policy, Economics - Since 2010

Lovely Riga, Queen of the Baltics "At the beginning of this era the territory known today as Latvia became famous as a trading...

Latvia, from the Vikings to the Greeks


Lovely Riga, Queen of the Baltics













"At the beginning of this era the territory known today as Latvia became famous as a trading crossroads. The famous "route from the Vikings to the Greeks" mentioned in ancient chronicles stretched from Scandinavia through Latvian territory via the Daugava River to the ancient Rus and Byzantine Empire." - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Latvia

I've begun this thing that when we have a large number of visitors from far flung countries - or to what the editors see as far flung - we cover the land in some way, shape or form and showcase it a bit, in whatever way you can showcase without being a travel stiff. 


From the CIA factbook: The name "Latvia" originates from the ancient Latgalians, one of four eastern Baltic tribes that formed the ethnic core of the Latvian people (ca. 8th-12th centuries A.D.). The region subsequently came under the control of Germans, Poles, Swedes, and finally, Russians. A Latvian republic emerged following World War I, but it was annexed by the USSR in 1940 - an action never recognized by the US and many other countries. Latvia reestablished its independence in 1991 following the breakup of the Soviet Union. Although the last Russian troops left in 1994, the status of the Russian minority (some 28% of the population) remains of concern to Moscow. Latvia joined both NATO and the EU in the spring of 2004.


Latvia is a small, open economy with exports contributing nearly a third of GDP. Due to its geographical location, transit services are highly-developed, along with timber and wood-processing, agriculture and food products, and manufacturing of machinery and electronics industries. Corruption continues to be an impediment to attracting foreign direct investment and Latvia's low birth rate and decreasing population are major challenges to its long-term economic vitality. Latvia's economy experienced GDP growth of more than 10% per year during 2006-07, but entered a severe recession in 2008 as a result of an unsustainable current account deficit and large debt exposure amid the softening world economy. Triggered by the collapse of the second largest bank, GDP plunged 18% in 2009. The economy has not returned to pre-crisis levels despite strong growth, especially in the export sector in 2011-12. The IMF, EU, and other international donors provided substantial financial assistance to Latvia as part of an agreement to defend the currency's peg to the euro in exchange for the government's commitment to stringent austerity measures. The IMF/EU program successfully concluded in December 2011. The government of Prime Minister Valdis DOMBROVSKIS remained committed to fiscal prudence and reducing the fiscal deficit from 7.7% of GDP in 2010, to 2.7% of GDP in 2012. The majority of companies, banks, and real estate have been privatized, although the state still holds sizable stakes in a few large enterprises, including 99.8% ownership of the Latvian national airline. Latvia officially joined the World Trade Organization in February, 1999 and the EU in May 2004. Latvia intends to join the euro zone in 2014.

Economy - overview:
Latvia is a small, open economy with exports contributing nearly a third of GDP. Due to its geographical location, transit services are highly-developed, along with timber and wood-processing, agriculture and food products, and manufacturing of machinery and electronics industries. Corruption continues to be an impediment to attracting foreign direct investment and Latvia's low birth rate and decreasing population are major challenges to its long-term economic vitality. Latvia's economy experienced GDP growth of more than 10% per year during 2006-07, but entered a severe recession in 2008 as a result of an unsustainable current account deficit and large debt exposure amid the softening world economy. Triggered by the collapse of the second largest bank, GDP plunged 18% in 2009. The economy has not returned to pre-crisis levels despite strong growth, especially in the export sector in 2011-12. The IMF, EU, and other international donors provided substantial financial assistance to Latvia as part of an agreement to defend the currency's peg to the euro in exchange for the government's commitment to stringent austerity measures. The IMF/EU program successfully concluded in December 2011. The government of Prime Minister Valdis DOMBROVSKIS remained committed to fiscal prudence and reducing the fiscal deficit from 7.7% of GDP in 2010, to 2.7% of GDP in 2012. The majority of companies, banks, and real estate have been privatized, although the state still holds sizable stakes in a few large enterprises, including 99.8% ownership of the Latvian national airline. Latvia officially joined the World Trade Organization in February, 1999 and the EU in May 2004. Latvia intends to join the euro zone in 2014.



GDP (purchasing power parity):
$37.04 billion (2012 est.)country comparison to the world: 107
$35.46 billion (2011 est.)
$33.62 billion (2010 est.)
note: data are in 2012 US dollars
$27.19 billion (2012 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
4.5% (2012 est.)country comparison to the world: 73
5.5% (2011 est.)
-0.3% (2010 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP):
$18,100 (2012 est.)country comparison to the world: 75
$17,100 (2011 est.)
$15,000 (2010 est.)
note: data are in 2012 US dollars
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 4.4%
industry: 26.3%
services: 69.3% (2012 est.)
Labor force:
1.139 million (2012 est.)country comparison to the world: 140
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 8.8%
industry: 24%
services: 67.2% (2010 est.)
Unemployment rate:
14.3% (2012 est.)country comparison to the world: 141
12.8% (2011 est.)
Population below poverty line:
NA%
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 2.7%
highest 10%: 27.6% (2008)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
35.2 (2010)country comparison to the world: 88
32 (1999)
Investment (gross fixed):
22.2% of GDP (2012 est.)country comparison to the world: 68
Budget:
revenues: $9.451 billion
expenditures: $10.18 billion (2012 est.)
Taxes and other revenues:
34.8% of GDP (2012 est.)country comparison to the world: 71
Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-):
-2.7% of GDP (2012 est.)country comparison to the world: 99
Public debt:
44% of GDP (2012 est.)country comparison to the world: 79
43.7% of GDP (2011 est.)
note: data cover general government debt, and includes debt instruments issued (or owned) by government entities, including sub-sectors of central government, state government, local government, and social security funds
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
2.5% (2012 est.)country comparison to the world: 55
4.4% (2011 est.)
Central bank discount rate:
3.5% (31 December 2011 est.)country comparison to the world: 98
3.5% (31 December 2010 est.)
Commercial bank prime lending rate:
6% (31 December 2012 est.)country comparison to the world: 136
6.39% (31 December 2011 est.)
Stock of narrow money:
$8.237 billion (31 December 2012 est.)country comparison to the world: 81
$8.174 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
Stock of broad money:
$12.09 billion (31 December 2012 est.)country comparison to the world: 101
$12.12 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
Stock of domestic credit:
$19.76 billion (31 December 2012 est.)country comparison to the world: 86
$21.08 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
Market value of publicly traded shares:
$1.076 billion (31 December 2011)country comparison to the world: 106
$1.252 billion (31 December 2010)
$1.824 billion (31 December 2009)
Agriculture - products:
grain, rapeseed, potatoes, vegetables; pork, poultry, milk, eggs; fish
Industries:
processed foods, processed wood products, textiles, processed metals, pharmaceuticals, railroad cars, synthetic fibers, electronics
Industrial production growth rate:
9% (2011 est.)country comparison to the world: 17
Current account balance:
$-462.9 million (2012 est.)country comparison to the world: 93
$-363 million (2011 est.)
Exports:
$12.49 billion (2012 est.)country comparison to the world: 85
$12.03 billion (2011 est.)
Exports - commodities:
food products, wood and wood products, metals, machinery and equipment, textiles
Exports - partners:
Russia 15.7%, Lithuania 14.9%, Estonia 11.2%, Germany 6.9%, Sweden 5.2%, Poland 4.9% (2011)
Imports:
$15.92 billion (2012 est.)country comparison to the world: 85
$14.83 billion (2011 est.)
Imports - commodities:
machinery and equipment, consumer goods, chemicals, fuels, vehicles
Imports - partners:
Lithuania 16.6%, Germany 11%, Russia 7.7%, Poland 7.2%, Estonia 6.8%, Italy 4.2%, Finland 4.1% (2011)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$6.925 billion (31 December 2012 est.)country comparison to the world: 81
$6.383 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
Debt - external:
$35.34 billion (31 December 2012 est.)country comparison to the world: 65
$37.49 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - at home:
$13.36 billion (31 December 2012 est.)country comparison to the world: 79
$12.11 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad:
$1.037 billion (31 December 2012 est.)country comparison to the world: 76
$887 million (31 December 2011 est.)
Exchange rates:
lati (LVL) per US dollar -
0.55 (2012 est.)
0.5 (2011 est.)
0.53 (2010 est.)
0.51 (2009)
0.47 (2008) 













All Data From The (CIA) World Fact Book

Latvia, Europe Economic Data, GDP, Purchasing Power, Utilities, Government of Latvia, Economics of Latvia, Data on Latvia, Intelligence on Latvia

From The Economist: Last year 12m people in the world had $1m or more in investible assets. That is 1m more “high-net-worth individua...

Where The Rich Live (Reprinted from The Economist)



Last year 12m people in the world had $1m or more in investible assets. That is 1m more “high-net-worth individuals” than in 2011. After falling in two of the previous five years, their combined wealth increased by 10% in 2012 to a record $46.2 trillion. America, home to 3.4m very rich folk, Japan (1.9m) and Germany (over 1m) account for more than half of the world’s wealthy. Of the 12 countries with the most super-rich people, only Brazil failed to swell its numbers last year, as its economy slowed. North America reclaimed its position from Asia-Pacific as home to more extremely wealthy people than any other region, but its lead is unlikely to last, as Asia has many of the fastest-growing economies.

Russia is located in northern Eurasia. I've never been to Eurasia, but I find it interesting. Being a proven Westerner, I often...

Thoughts on Russia










Russia is located in northern Eurasia. I've never been to Eurasia, but I find it interesting. Being a proven Westerner, I often forget about Eurasia and Russia. I forget how Russia looms over a tremendous landmass and holds a staggering amount of natural resources, history and population. In fact Russia is so large that it eclipses all other land masses aside from Antarctica. The coastline alone encompasses a few oceans and countless seas, stretching for 22,991 m. 


Politics

Again, being an American, Russia has always been in the news. The US & Yeltsin relationship was interesting -  Putin is equally as interesting, and so are his supporters. 
To say the Khodorkovsky incident is interesting would be a gross understatement. Have you seen the documentary? He is still in prison. Per the documentary -  Russia had two options when they were privatizing their various state owned industries - sell to foreigners or give to Russians. Those in charge decided against the former and picked a group of Russians, thereby forming an elite and bourgeois class overnight. 

Natural resources & Numbers
Oil & reserves....population
What about this city and the importance of its port? 
Kaliningrad, Russia

Commerce

Let us not forget the corruption. 
There was a great 36 hours type piece about a visit to Moscow in Nat Geo a few years ago. At that time Russian's were lighting cigars with America's hundred dollar bills, but times could have since changed....
Magnit - a Russian retailer - is taking growth in Russia to a whole new level.  


VC & Startups
Recently, Russia’s leading online fashion site, Lamoda, announced a $130 million investment infusion, the biggest deal in the history of Russian online retailers.

On that - A message from Sloktech & MIT Ideas Lab: Skoltech and MIT Ideas Lab Sept 23-27 in Russia We are hosting an Innovation Ecosystem Ideas Lab, a workshop to identify new research
projects. The workshop will be held September 23-27, 2013 in Russia. We areasking: "How can an institution or government seed, grow, and maximize technological innovation and entrepreneurship?" The deadline to apply is July 5, 2013. To learn more and to apply, visit http://www.skoltech.ru/innovation/ideas-lab


Performance Persistence by Harvard Business School from chaganomics I simply appreciate SlideShare.net for document delivery al...

Performance Persistence Report on Serial Entrepreneurs by Harvard Business School - (circa 2008)



I simply appreciate SlideShare.net for document delivery alone. Here is an informative and insightful article on serial entrepreneurs and their success - specifically why they tend to be more successful than single business owner types.

"Bitcoins are strings of numbers that can be electronically owned by and transferred among individuals and organizations...

Bitcoin News - June 02, 2013














"Bitcoins are strings of numbers that can be electronically owned by and transferred among individuals and organizations. For now, the currency is primarily used for payments by fringe retailers or illegal transactions, but it is being accepted more and more widely (Coinbase was created to help that process). And organizations that exchange Bitcoins for standard currency are now being approved to operate as banks." - from Business Insider

I know a lot about Bitcoin. In fact, I even thought about mining for it but I pulled the plug. This past December - New Years actually - Bitcoin was at $15.00.  I again pulled the plug and moved on. I actually thought there was more activity and opportunity in the Egyptian Pound. Nevertheless, Bitcoin has seen major fluctuations and a hefty stream of market investment this year. Last I looked the price per coin was at $121.5 - a missed investment on my part.


Bitcoin is now in the news daily and scores of people around the world know about it and/or have bought some. A major aspect of reporting on Bitcoin has been the illegal activity that is said to take place around it. There has been chatter in the forefront from day one about crime syndicates using Bitcoin and the companies that service Bitcoin for illegal activities, and of course the massive amount of proven illicit purchasing that takes place around the clock on deep web portals like Silk Road - which allows purchases for anything from drugs to illegal contraband - has only agitated the situation.  

Does Bitcoin really attract crime syndicates that launder money?
With the recent takedown of Liberty Reserve it seems so. Officials are calling this the worlds largest money laundering case. Liberty has over 1 million users - 200K were from the US. The Justice Department says that since the founding of Liberty Reserve - 2006 - it has handled more than fifty-five million transactions,totaling more than six billion dollars.

Eastern European crime groups are big on this, it's the No.1 growth area of money laundering

So - what is the danger with Liberty Reserve?

It works like this, if you want to launder money - or send money - you would open an account with Liberty Reserve, give them any name, and an e-mail address. The key to the scheme was that users had to work through middlemen "exchangers.” Typically unregulated people in distant countries like Malaysia, Nigeria, and Vietnam, who would buy Liberty Reserves in bulk from Liberty Reserve. You would pay these guys dollars (or another currency) for Liberty Reserves. From that these reserves would be deposited into your account. When you wanted to make a withdraw, the process would be reversed - sometimes with an exchanger. Liberty Reserve itself took a one-per-cent fee and the exchangers charged five per cent or more. This way Liberty Reserve would have no identifying data for you. The deposits and withdrawals were done through exchangers.


Liberty Reserve dollars and euros - which were pegged to their respective currencies - were popular as forms of digital currency too. 

A bleak outlook for libertyreserve.com. The anonymity of payments and anonymous transfer-ability of money led to their breakdown. 












Away from that, it is important to note how obvious it is that the pressure is on those who accept and exchange Bitcoin. 

VC money is pouring into Bitcoin related companies, and governments will have a tough time limiting the peer-to-peer system. On that, I don't think Gov has the right to regulate Bitcoin - and maybe, just maybe Bitcoin will become tied to a more stable measurement eventually, leading to the adaption of Bitcoin as an official currency in some way, and opening the door to other mathematical based virtual currencies. If any of my readers have studied monetary policy before they will know how free flow currencies operate - freely floating in the worlds largest markets, and often manipulated. How is Bitcoin one of the bad guys? There is a need for alternative currencies.