November 26, 2019
PRESS RELEASE: Foreign Investors Fail to Get Replies from the Mayor of Riga
Engaging in a constructive dialogue with the foreign investors is low on Riga City Council’s agenda and needs to be improved, is one of the key takeaways from a joint chamber meeting with the leadership of the Riga City Council that took place on November 26, where the Mayor of Riga Oļegs Burovs (“Gods kalpot Rīgai”) cancelled his attendance last minute.
The last minute cancellation is the third such cancellation that has frustrated the efforts of foreign chambers of commerce to hear from the head of the City Council about the vision for city’s development in the future. The first two last-minute cancellations were by Mayor Nils Ušakovs (“Saskaņa”), the former Mayor of Riga.
The joint chamber meeting with the Mayor of Riga was organized by the British, Irish, Norwegian, Swedish and Swiss Chambers of Commerce in Latvia and supported by BOLT and RISEBA. The meeting was attended by more than fifty representatives of Foreign Embassies and Chambers of Commerce.
„The last minute cancellation by the Mayor of Riga sends an unfortunate message to the foreign investor community in Latvia. We understand that it is a turbulent time at the City Council, nevertheless it seems that speaking to investors and attracting new investments to the city is low on Council’s agenda,“ says Alf Erik Lundgrenn, Chairman of the Norwegian Chamber of Commerce in Latvia. „We appreciate that a representative of the City Council’s Investment division was willing to step in and answer our questions,“ added Lundgrenn, expressing hope for an improved dialogue in the future. In addressing the foreign investors’ community, Burov’s place was taken by Rolands Bogdanovs, Head of Investment Division at the Riga City Council, and Viesturs Zeps, elected member of Riga City Council ("Latvijas attīstībai") and Board member of Riga Freeport Authority.
In the conversation with the Riga Council representatives, several important questions were raised, such as the city’s accumulating debt (more than 900 million euros in 2019), city development plans, construction regulation, public procurement procedures, transparency and mobility. “Of course with the Mayor not being in attendance, we could not get an answer to the question of transparency, ease of access to this information and why the Council‘s debt had increased by about 80% in the past ten years, thus increasing the burden of tax on residents of Riga,” says Hamid Ladjevardi, Chairman of the Baltic American Investments.
In side conversations, representatives from companies operating in all three Baltic countries expressed opinion that contrary to Tallinn and Vilnius, which appears to have a clear development vision and plan, Riga’s development has been going in the wrong direction, evidenced by the city’s depopulation. In the comments, foreign chambers expressed hope that the capital of Latvia will not only be beautiful, but also smart. The chambers invite the city leadership to engage in a constructive dialogue both with the residents of Riga and also foreign investors, who help create jobs and contribute to the city’s development.
*Joint Chamber Luncheon with the Mayor of Riga, Mr. O.Burovs held on 26 November 2019