Latvians tend to think of their country as an agricultural society, but Latvia has been industrialised for many years and is one of the main exporters of machinery and processed food.
Countries, like people, grow and change and evolve. If you’ve ever had the head-spinning experience of running into old school friends years or decades later and finding them very different from the people you remember, you’ll know what it must be like for someone to move out of a country as a young person and then return in their twilight years to find it has changed considerably. While some of these changes are huge and obvious, such as a change in government or the results of war, others are more subtle – like economic development. Latvia is a country that today is very different from what it was just a few years ago, despite being one of Europe’s first countries to industrialise.
The key element in play is the privatisation of industries that were once socialised. The Latvian government has pursued an aggressive policy of divesting itself of state-run monopolies in all quarters of Latvian industry, and this dynamism has had a great deal of impact on the Latvian economy and thus the culture as a whole. Ninety-eight percent of state-owned companies had been sold into private hands by 2002, in fact, and today only the most massive and most relief-upon industries, such as Lasco (shipping) and Latvanergo (utilities) remain in government hands.
Latvia was one of the earliest countries to industrialise, right alongside Germany, and as a result is today a very industrial country with a diversified economy. The main industries in Latvia include chemicals, metal working, and machine building, including big items like railway cars and buses, as well as smaller machine items like washing machines and radios. Latvia builds everything. Transport and storage makes up about 14.3% of the Latvian economy, in fact, and manufacturing of other items makes up an additional 13.4%.
Food processing is another important aspect of the Latvian economy, although it suffered a huge decline after the Russian economic crisis of 1998. What’s different about Latvian food processing is that it’s directly sourced from Latvia’s own land and ocean holdings, instead of imported. This means that while Latvia can reach some pretty high numbers in productivity and exported goods, it’s also limited by the amount of resources the country can marshal. As a result, most people expect future growth in this country to come from its chemical and petrochemical industries. Growth in this field will have to wait as well, however, as demand for detergents and fibers – historically the two biggest exports for Latvia in the chemical field – has also declined in recent years. All of these industries require high quality translation services if they’re to succeed on an international level.
Latvians, however, still often think of their country as an agricultural one - which is not to say that agriculture isn’t a big part of the Latvian economy – but at 4.2% of the economy, agriculture simply isn’t the power in Latvia that other industries are.
Image courtesy rixshipping.lv