Monday, 1 March 2010

Would you believe it!

Well here I am sitting in the shade of a palm tree by the side of a pool with the sun shining and listening to the birds tweeting, not like the half metre of snow we left in Latvia. They have had heavy rain here in Cyprus which is good for a drought stricken land but I am pleased that the forecast is pleasantly warm enough to sit outside in some sun for the next few days, something I wouldn't be able to do for at least another month in Latvia. In fact the day before we left we had to rescue a friend twice from the wet slushy snow (yes it had started to warm up), being from the South of England he was quite amazed at the techniques we used to get him out when we couldn't actually tow him, from sacks under the wheels, to bits of twigs and fir tree when they didn't work. Hope he got out from the camp where he was staying though as we weren't around to help him the next day as we were on the way to the airport.

Talking of snow in Latvia, Riga has seen the most snow in any winter for the last 100 years. What an awful time for that to happen though as it was also the time when they had the least money to clear the roads. Riga didn't come to a standstill though and the population muddled on through it all.

Latvia hasn't been in the main news because of the snow but because of a hacker who has hacked into the State Revenue service and stole quite a few details of people's tax returns. He or she has been dubbed the Robin Hood hacker because they have been revealing how some of the rich have been less than truthful with the Latvian public, from bankers and public servants who haven't taken the cuts that they said they would to those who have been given bonuses despite the fact they have turned to the Latvian Government for aid. Despite the illegality of what they have done they are being hailed as heroes for brining to the attention of the public the less than transparent dealings of the rich, who continue to benefit despite the terrible problems the public have been having. Does make you wonder who the real villains are? Still on the subject of Latvian state services I came across this one during my internet trawl - The Latvian State Agency of Intangible Cultural Heritage (Nemateriālā kultūras mantojuma valsts aģentura), what a fantastic name, not entirely sure what it means but I think it is something to do with things like language, ie the cultural identity of a nation that is not made of bricks and mortar but I could be wrong.

The World bank is in a spot of bother too. Apparently they have not been checking up on whether their policies actually do work, something they agreed to do a few years ago. Another interesting fact to come out of a recent report is that the World bank still relies heavily on consultants from the North to advise poorer countries which consumes an awful lot of dosh, rather than building up the poorer countries capacity to take action themselves. In other words the North are paying themselves a lot of money for bad advice and that is classed as "aid." Think there maybe a need to change there then.

Well I know this is short but I had better get back to lounging errr I mean studying in the sun, but just so you know what I have had to put up with here are some photos from last week in the snow.

Most of these photos you will have seen before but this will be probably as deep as it gets for this winter.
Photo 1: That door is actually way off the ground and is never used, and so it is not snow on the steps.
Photo 2: The seats finally disappeared again this year, like last year (The rural East of Latvia usually gets more snow than Riga but this year I don't think so. The bin ever so nearly disappeared too but not quite.
Photo 3: The ice roads we navigate for at least 3 months of the year and makes you realise why winter tyres are compulsory in Latvia from the beginning of November to the end of March.


Diane said...

Thanks that even though you are having a great rest you are still keeping us up with what is going on in Latvia.
I wonder what Jesus would do with those who have been revealed to not be doing what they say they have been and also with the World Bank.
I've heard/read lots of things I don't like about the World Bank.
Reading your blog really does help me to look outside of what is going on here.
Thanks and keep enjoying the sunshine

Joanna said...

I am amazed too at some of the duplicity, especially where strategies have to be put in place to prevent corruption and make dealings more transparent etc etc in poorer countries which is good and necessary and yet the World Bank is one of the most opaque institutions there are with an unhealthy adherence to an ideology that makes the poor suffer despite what their remit says.