On May 13, the Latvian Association of Local and Regional Governments (LALRG) responding to a request from long-term development cooperation partners in Kyrgyz Republic: the Development policy institute and the Association of Local Authorities of the Kyrgyzstan, organized a video conference where Kyrgyz colleagues were introduced to the experience of LALRG and Latvian local governments in overcoming the crisis caused by the coronavirus Covid-19. For several years LALRG has had successful experience and cooperation with Kyrgyz partners both in the framework of development cooperation projects and in the implementation of other joint activities.
The heads of local governments of Kyrgyzstan, representatives of the Association of Local Authorities of the Kyrgyzstan and the Development Policy Institute were grateful for the participation in the videoconference and appreciated the cooperation so far and thanked for the opportunity to get acquainted with the Latvian experience and borrow the best solutions. In Kyrgyzstan, the Covid-19 crisis is exacerbated by incomplete legislation on the powers of levels of government and a lack of interaction between different governance structures.
Work of LALRG
Chairman of the LALRG Gints Kaminskis introduced the participants of the video conference to the work in the National Crisis Management Council, working groups of the Parliament and line ministries, as well as to LALRG communication with local governments. Since the declaration of the state of emergency in Latvia, LALRG has been actively participating in the work of the Crisis Management Council, ensuring coordinated action of central government and local government institutions and eliminating the consequences of the crisis. Every day LALRG collects information about the needs and problems of local governments and informs the public.
Videoconferences - Every week, the LALRG hosts informative video conferences for local governments, which until now were attended by several ministers, senior officials of responsible institutions, management and experts of ministries and responsible services, as well as the Prime Minister. Videoconferences is still being held every week.
Useful information and communication - Latvian local governments regularly receive informative materials prepared by LALRG and also prepared by ministries and State Chancellery. Up-to-date information is posted on our website www.lps.lv and on social networks, every Tuesday local governments receive the electronic newsletter “Infologs”, two special publications have been prepared, which summarize the experience of Latvian local governments during an emergency situation.
Survey of all local governments - LALRG has conducted a survey and summarized the experience and practice of all Latvian local governments during an emergency situation, implementing support measures for people and entrepreneurs and providing various cultural, educational, artistic, sports and entertainment opportunities at a distance, while respecting national restrictions. Since March 12, when the government declared a state of emergency in the country, local governments have worked very operatively, responsibly and purposefully to jointly ensure the spread of Covid-19.
Mr. Gints Kaminskis, Chairman of the LALRG, pointed out that: “Managing of Covid-19 crises is not possible without strong local governments, and local governments are significant partners for the central government which is coping with challenges caused by Covid-19 crises. This is the time when cooperation on different levels is very important, and local governments’ actions may be crucial.”
Good practice examples from local governments and LALRG’s advisers
Ilze Rudzīte, LALRG Adviser on Health and Social Issues, during the videoconference told about different support measures for local inhabitants during emergency, and LALRG’s cooperation with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Welfare. In local governments special allowances are allocated to solitary seniors, persons who are self-isolated, employees in idle time, and others who are not able to meet their basic needs due to emergency. In addition, local governments help to provide transport and premises for those who are obliged to be in self-isolation or quarantine; they also provide needy, poor and large families with food – either hot meals, food packages or funding for catering for children. Moreover, in many local governments free catering is provided for all children, regardless of their financial position.
LALRG Adviser on Entrepreneurship Dr. oec. Andra Feldmane informed our Kyrgyz colleagues about support for entrepreneurship and local initiatives, as well as public procurement remedies and economic development after crises. She mentioned, for example, postponed deadlines for real estate tax, exemptions or discounts for entrepreneurs which rent their business premises from local governments, identification and marketing of local producers, as well as other support instruments. She also characterize potential measures for boosting of economics in Latvia after crises.
Head of Vidzeme Planning Region and Chairman of Pārgauja municipality Hardijs Vents introduced cooperation of local governments in Latvia during emergency, and the role of planning region in Covid-19 crises management. He pointed out that local governments are the closest to local inhabitants, and local government is often the first contact point which inhabitants turn to during crises situation.
However, Deputy Chairman of Līvāni municipality Ginta Kraukle shared Līvāni municipality experience on activities during emergency and support measures for local inhabitants and entrepreneurs, taking into account the fact that local governments are better aware of situation in their territories and can operatively react to needs of local inhabitants. Our Kyrgyz colleagues highly appreciated her idea that crises is not only about solving severe problems but it is also time of new opportunities. This message is likely to become the underlying principle also for further actions performed in the Kyrgyz Republic.
It should be noted that everyday life in Latvia continues also during this emergency situation; it has just moved more into virtual environment and closer to nature. Since most of the people have to stay at home, local governments really try to provide various activities in order to contribute to their inhabitants’ emotional welfare. Local governments also provide psychological support and advice how to survive this special period of time in a more meaningful and better way. This is the reason why local governments organize different activities, exhibitions and competitions, provide online concerts, make suggestions for interesting and useful spending of time, as well as promote healthy lifestyle and physical welfare.