On 5 March politicians of coalition parties announced their support of the new port management model and that they plan to submit it to the government, thereby leaving port users in the dark as to their future and port-related fees.
Politicians explain the need for the reform or the «capital repair plan» by saying that from now on ports would have to work only as companies with a clear and efficient management model, good management and transparency. At the same time, the opinions of the port businessmen active at Latvia’s biggest ports are ignored even though they represent the main source of income for port authorities.
Businessmen of Latvia’s largest ports – Riga, Ventspils, and Liepaja – stress that they do support efficiency, transparency, and good management practices. At the same time, however, these slogans will likely remain loud and empty: «Unfortunately, politicians do not seem to have an appropriate plan to put to rest the risks and problems we have warned them about for a long time. On top of that, many of our questions remain unanswered.»
Politicians also have not performed sufficient economic evaluation. Since last year there has not been a meeting of the Latvian Ports, Transit and Logistics Council. This means it has not been possible to approve the new port reform.
There is also the issue of port-based companies and their role in the post-reform state of ports. There is no mention of the role of municipal administrations at ports, nor is there any clearly defined guidelines for the involvement of businesses and investors in the new management model, which is something required by the European Union Port Services Regulation, businessmen note.
They also note that the issue of unanswered questions in regards to port management changes has been pointed out by the Foreign Investors Council and Latvian Employers’ Confederation. The Competition Council and municipalities involved have also outlined certain risks that may appear as a result of an unreasonable reform.
This leads port businessmen to conclude – politicians have made their decision in regards to the reform without discussions.
«As we all know, aside from solving objective problems, the ‘capital repair’ effort in the financial sector also created a number of obstacles for businessmen. If the port reform ends up handled similarly, instead of efficiency we may see a decline of freights and Latvia’s overall international competitiveness with negative consequences for many of the country’s economic sectors, as well as the state budget, municipal budgets and taxpayers. Hopefully our politicians will not repeat the mistake committed with the creation of the Vaccination Project Bureau – when a political decision based on loud slogans turned out creating more problems than it solved,» port businessmen stress.
On 22 March port businessmen plan to hold a public discussion «What port management reform is needed for the development Latvian port development: for and against» so that it is possible for all interested sides to openly discuss possible problems and their solutions for the best interest of Latvia’s transit sector and the national economy. Mass media and public representatives are involved to participate.