Saeima deputies returned to the question of the government’s proposed regional administrative reforms March 10 with a third day of debate as they work through more than 300 proposed amendments to the controversial legislation.
Technically, the Saeima session is the continuation of debates which started on March 5, and the slow pace of progress, even with restrictions placed on the length deputies can speak at the tribune, suggests there is still a considerable way to go with opposition members taking frequent opportunities to speak and accuse the government of forcing legislation through without proper debate, or of not thinking through the legislation sufficiently.
Former Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola (Greens and Farmers Alliance) was among the most frequent critics of the government, even citing the Spanish concept of “Mañana” in her criticism, suggesting the government’s attitude was one that better laws could always be passed in the future. She also accused the government of not including concrete support measures for the regions in the legislation and suggested basing a regional development agency outside the capital city.
In response Minister of Environmental Protection and Regional Development, Juris Pūce, defended his plans saying they would help stimulate investment and ensure resources were spent more efficiently.
Another frequent speaker, independent deputy Aldis Gobzems accused the government of reducing the Saeima to the status of a “voting machine” where no real debate could take place.
The bill provides for the creation of 40 municipalities in time for the 2021 local elections instead of the current 119 local government districts. The government argues this will make for a more efficient and rational system of local government. Critics argue that rural districts will lose their voices and autonomy, with power concentrated in urban centers.