Foreign investors see Latvia correction not crash
RIGA, June 6 (Reuters) – Latvia’s economic slowdown is a welcome correction rather than the prelude to a meltdown, top foreign investors said on Friday as one of the country’s leading bank cut its 2008 growth forecasts.
Gross domestic product (GDP) growth slowed to 3.6 percent year-on-year in the first quarter from 8 percent in the previous three months.
“The impact on Latvia (of global economies woes) will be felt, but it is regarded as a healthy correction,” said Guenther Dunkel, deputy head of Norwegian-German bank joint venture DNB Nord and chairman of Latvia’s foreign investors council.
“The last time I was here (in Riga) I said the party was over, and it was over and it is back to hard work.”
Latvian Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis said he agreed with the foreign investors’ view and noted that the government on Monday would look at various tax changes to boost the economy, such as removing tax on re-invested company profits.
He also said the slowdown would cause the government to take a look at the 2008 budget in September for amendments. He said the government could make up a shortfall in revenues by re-adjusting flows of EU aid or cutting state purchases.
The Latvian division of SEB (SEBa.ST: Quote, Profile, Research) Bank, one of the top banks, said it was cutting its forecasts for growth to a range of 1.5 to 4 percent from a range of 4.5 percent to 5.5 percent.
For the 2008 budget, it forecast a deficit of 0.3 percent of GDP to balance, down from a forecast from balance to a surplus of 0.4 percent.
(Reporting by Patrick Lannin)