On Friday, October 20, the first forum “The Internal Factors of Latvia’s Development” of the forum series “The Formula of Latvia 2050” took place at the University of Latvia (UL), with an objective to draw attention to the internal factors of the country’s development – formation of civil society and improvement of education, economy, and demography.

The UL Professor Mārcis Auziņš, one of the initiators and organizers of this forum, while addressing the future, compared the improvements of the political situation in Latvia to lighthouse and a ship: “It is important to see the lighthouses, which will lead us in the right direction. If this goal, this shared right direction is visible, the captain of the ship will lead it well in different situations. The objective of this event is to create ideas, which should be passed to society for shaping politics.”

The Head of the Luminor Bank in Latvia Kerli Gabriloviča conveys that the 100th anniversary of Latvia is the right moment to pause and assess the direction where we want to go. “The UL forum is an excellent platform to promote creative and practical discussions, and to visualize the preferable future of Latvia. New ways and radical ideas need to be found. It is important to work together, as it is the only way we can lead our country in the right direction.”

Concept of civil society is outdated

The contemporary concept of civil society was one of the discussed topics. The Former President of Latvia Valdis Zatlers explained that the overall foundation should be an awareness shared nationwide, and this will matter in 2050. “A strong collective awareness forms a strong country. In Latvia, the public’s attitude is formed by a fact and a feeling – both together create the collective awareness, which is strong only if the opinion regarding the interaction of country’s external and internal processes is defined,” emphasizes V. Zatlers.

During the discussion, the UL Professor Žaneta Ozoliņa indicated that, in her opinion, the concept of civil society is outdated: “Society is losing its purpose, people have various ways of expressing themselves. For example, in social media they can express themselves both positively and negatively.”

It was concluded that today people do not belong solely to their community, village, town, or country. People are vulnerable in light of the global events, and emotions play a big part in people’s lives.

Technologies to replace human work in the future

The Rector of the UL, who is among the initiators of the forum series, Professor Indriķis Muižnieks in his presentation emphasized that in the future approximately 40 % of today’s professions will be replaced by automatic machines and robots. Accordingly, the technical education should be considered. “Continuous improvements will be required, and the number of workplaces will decrease, because the technologies will be capable to replace human labour. Today we are in the midst of virtual reality. It will alter the development of our education,” says the Rector.

He characterised the education system in Latvia, which was based on the pre-school, primary school, high school, and higher education institutions. The system requires maintenance from its very foundations. He also asserted: “The municipal government supervision over the local schools currently prevents the development, and it should not necessarily be like that. First of all, to improve Latvia’s education system, a new higher education and science law should be introduced.”

Agrita Kiopa, the Deputy State Secretary at the Ministry of Education and Science of Latvia, listed three things to be upgraded to improve the education model in Latvia: “Firstly, financial support needs to be provided to science, where the best ideas, evaluated by the best team, win. Secondly, there should be zero tolerance to plagiarism at the higher education institutions in Latvia. If we are against a stolen work, it means we fairly appreciate our intellectual work and are able to live honestly in this competitive world. Thirdly, the teachers’ education should be revised, focusing on values like open minded and thoughtful attitude to others. Teachers need to be prepared, starting from their bachelor studies, and their education should concern one of the specialization’s areas of knowledge.”

Latvia must be ready for new businesses

“In order to improve the economic situation in Latvia, a strong timber industry must be created. We have fast and all-embracing internet, and it is important to use it. We have a rapidly growing ICT industry, which in the latest years have increased its export; we have a regionally strong airport and our own airline, which can be used to reach our great objectives; and we also have fantastic nature, which we only appreciate after returning to Latvia. These are the things we can capitalize in the future,” in his presentation about improving the economy in Latvia stated the President of the Latvian Mobile Telephone Ltd., Professor of the Vidzeme University of Applied Sciences Juris Binde.

Experts concluded that the business environment must be put in order, the legal environment made more reliable, and the judicial processes should be carried out faster. The tax policy should be made more predictable, which is also indicated in the National Development Plan. Latvia should be more open to new businesses and more flexible in its approach. We need to continuously invest both in government and private sectors, because only then sustainable development can be achieved.

Demography concerns not only the quantity of people, but also their characteristics

“Civil society, education, and economy without human resources will be impossible. The only way to increase the natural growth is through immigration; it needs to be concrete, with an intentional goal,” says Varis Putniņš, expert of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development. “Demography does not only concern the quantity of people, but also their characteristics. In the 3rd forum, where the synergy of internal and external factors will be presented, I suggest to define the Latvian resident of 2050 – where does he work, what are his opinions, what language does he speak. If the prototype of the future person is defined, the current politics can be shaped according to the specified goal.”

The objective of the forum series was define how to collectively develop Latvia as an open and dynamic system for the following 30 years or an even longer period. The 1st forum has concluded with many useful ideas for encouragement of Latvia’s development. The centres representing excellence are required for systematic growth of Latvia. It was concluded that along with digitalization, gerontology technologies could also be used as a trade mark to characterise Latvia for the following 30 years.

The discussion at the 2nd forum in February will be dedicated to external factors – the global political situation, development of the world’s economy, resource availability, ecology, and other factors, as well as their impact on development of Latvia in the upcoming decades.

The 3rd forum shall yield a synthesis of the conclusions and advices gathered from the experts during the first two forums, providing potential and preferable development scenarios of Latvia in the following decades.

Video recording of the forum can be found here.