- Title: LATVIA: Pensioners protest at Latvian budget cuts
- Date: 19th June 2009
- Summary: RIGA, LATVIA (JUNE 18, 2009) (REUTERS) CROWD OF PROTESTERS PEOPLE SHOUTING "HAND OFF THE PENSIONS" PLACARD IN HANDS READING "DON'T DESTROY NATION - IT'S A SHAME!" WOMAN SHOUTING "WE DON'T AGREE!" PLACARDS ILLUSTRATING IN GRAPHICS THAT CUTTING PENSIONS FOR 20% EQUALS GALLOWS LOOP PLACARD "GOVERNMENT'S GENOCIDE AGAINST NATION" (SOUNDBITE) (Latvian) PENSIONER, VALENTINA BORSKA SAYING: "I have to choose - either to eat or to pay for rent. And still it won't be enough, because I need to buy medication. We, pensioners, are not so healthy, and medication is expensive, to see a doctor is also costly. So, what shall we do? Only one thing - put our necks into the noose!" CROWD OF PROTESTERS PLACARD ABOVE HEADS READING "EDUCATION IN LATVIA - NOTHING SPECIAL?" TEACHERS HOLDING PLACARDS IN HANDS PLACARD "LIFE IS CHEERLESS, BUT SALARY - RIDICULOUS" TEACHERS HOLDING PLACARDS / PLACARDS IN FRONT "THE MISSION OF A TEACHERS- TO STARVE" (SOUNDBITE) (Latvian) TEACHER, ARTURS KLAVINS SAYING: "Unfortunately, I cannot afford to work for 200 Lats a month (230 euro). Bills need to be paid and family wants to eat something. I am afraid, I'll have to leave the country." MINISTER OF FINANCE EINARS REPSE WALKING INTO CROWD OF PROTESTERS / CROWD SHOUTING CROWD SHOUTING / REPSE STANDING PROTESTERS SHOUTING "THIEF!" WOMAN GRABBING REPSE AT HIS TIE AND LAPEL AND SHAKING HIM / GUARD INTERVENING AND TAKING REPSE AWAY REPSE DEPARTING / JOURNALISTS RUNNING AFTER CROWD SHOUTING "DISMISS THE PARLIAMENT!" RIGA, LATVIA (JUNE 16, 2009) (REUTERS) PARLIAMENT SESSION MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT DURING THE SESSION GOVERNMENT MEMBERS DURING PARLIAMENT SESSION PRIME MINISTER VALDIS DOMBROVSKIS AND FINANCE MINISTER EINARS REPSE DURING PARLIAMENT SESSION MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT READING DOCUMENT MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT SHARING DOCUMENTS PARTY LEADER SHOWING GREEN CARD AS A SIGN TO VOTE YES MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT SURFING INTERNET DURING PARLIAMENT SESSION MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT PARTY LEADER SHOWING GESTURE AS A SIGN TO VOTE NO CAMERAMAN SHOOTING PARLIAMENT SESSION
- Embargoed: 4th July 2009 13:00
- Location: Latvia
- Country: Latvia
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA8EN0R3J03C6KJX0C86974WZYV
- Story Text: Several thousand people, many of them pensioners, demonstrated on Thursday (June 18) in the Latvian capital Riga against government budget cuts.
Similar protests took place across the country.
The cutbacks - 500 million lats (999.6 million U.S. dollars) - include reducations in state salaries of 20 percent and in pensions of ten percent.
The government says it needs to take such measures in order to secure more international loans and save Latvia from bankruptcy.
The demonstration was peaceful and attended by mostly middle-aged and elderly people, reflecting the fact teachers and pensioners have been hardest hit by the cuts.
Some carried placards reading "Do not steal from poor pensioners" and "Happy teachers equals a good education".
One pensioner, Valentina Borska, said she needed to choose between eating or paying rent, and that still wasn't enough, because she also needed medication.
"So what shall we do? Only one thing - put our necks into the noose," she said.
Teacher Arturs Klavins says he can't afford to work for 200 lats a month (230 euro) and provide enough food for his family, so he may be forced to leave the country.
Finance Minister Einars Repse was greeted by a mixture of cheers and boos when he turned up. He was jostled by one woman and ushered away by security guards.
All of Latvia's efforts at triming spending are aimed at unlocking further loans from a 7.5 billion euro rescue agreed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and European Union (EU) last year.
But the government has been criticised for taking too long in finding the cuts and for suddenly announcing the 500 million lat reduction figure on the Monday after local elections.
President Valdis Zatlers, who has been in office for two years, apologised for the pain caused and admitted mistakes had been made.
But Latvia's very existence was at stake, he said, urging parliament to start work immediately on next year's budget.
On Wednesday, the health minister quit as he refused to carry out health sector cuts.
European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia told Latvian radio that the Baltic state can soon expect a decision from the EU on releasing a further 1.2 billion euros.
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