Here is a nice one. In his interview to (Ne)atkariga Rita Avize, Mr. Lembergs says that immediately after the election, Latvijas Valsts Meži, Latvenergo and Latvijas Dzelzceļš will be privatized to an "international oligarchy". According to Mr. Lembergs, there is a secret agreement between the Dombrovskis government and the IMF/EU, today's equivalent of "Molotoff-Ribbentrop pact".
My first reaction is – this is insane. My second thought is maybe this is all part of the election campaign. Then again, maybe Mr Lembergs himself genuinely believes that what he says is true. After all, most people interpret reality through the prism of their own experience. Mr. Lembergs’ view of the world might be a mere extrapolation from this own business methods. The evidence? Take these passages from the proceedings of a British court, which shed lots of light on the inner workings of Ventspils:
“…in 1991, the Ventspils port infrastructure was owned by state-controlled companies. Senior managers of these companies, led by Mr. Lembergs, the Mayor of Ventspils since 1988, gradually privatised these “strategic assets”, so forming the Ventspils Group.”
“Turning specifically to LSC [Latvian Shipping Company – VD], the announcement that it was to be privatised came in 2002. A confidential agreement was entered into between the Ventspils Group, then led by Mr. Lembergs and the so-called Riga Group, led by a Mr. Andris Skele … However, … the Ventspils Group and/or Mr. Lembergs reneged on this understanding.”
…all the relevant companies, including LSC, were controlled “not by the official institutions, such as their respective Management Boards or Supervisory Boards” but by “an informal gathering” of the individuals behind Ventbunkers and LNT called “the Table”. The informal group, or gathering, was comprised of about 12 individuals and included Mr. Lembergs… The formal governing bodies of the companies in question would then “merely implement the decisions taken during the Table meetings… Mr. Lembergs was a very powerful man, with effective control of the Table…”
Let me sum that up for you. According to this court document, Mr. Lembergs organized privatization (piratization?) of Ventspils assets to a small group of insiders, including himself. He conspired with Mr. Skele to ‘privatize’ Latvian Shipping Company in a similar way. He then double-crossed Mr. Skele, his co-conspirator in this piratization. Finally, for most of the last twenty years he has been in charge of a secret organization that has had effective control of Ventspils. Is it really that surprising Mr. Lembergs believes that the world is run by a similar secret conspiracy?
What about veracity of these claims? You wouldn’t find anything on this in the official memoranda of understanding between Latvian government and the European Commission. Nothing like this in the IMF documents. The position of the lenders is really quite simple: they extend the loan under the condition that, by 2014, the budget deficit is less than 3% of GDP. This can be done by reducing spending or increasing taxes, or both. Lenders can provide advice (i.e. technical assistance) but exactly how to achieve consolidation is up to the Latvian government.
Further, suppose this is all just a facade, as Mr. Lembergs thinks it is. Lets imagine I am one of the “international oligarchy”, a conspiracy of Jews/Soros/Masons/capitalists (pick one) against the free people in general and Latvia in particular. So I want to buy Latvenergo at a ridiculously low price. I call up my buddies at the IMF and tell them to arrange a secret deal with the Latvian government to they would sell this company to me at knock-away prices. But then I stop and think – wait a minute! Why am I even talking to the Dombrovskis government??! They can’t possibly arrange this in just three months, and who knows who will be there after the election! Why would I run the risk of being caught by vigilantes like Mr. Lembergs making shady deals with people who may not be in position to fulfill their promises after October? Maybe I would want to wait until after the election and then make a deal with whoever wins!
So, Mr. Lembergs not only thinks there is a secret oligarchy out there, but on a subconscious level, he must also think they are really stupid. Does he, on some subconscious level, feel upset the “international oligarchy” haven’t been duly impressed by his achievements at Ventspils, and have not offered him a rightful place at their ‘TABLE’?
And finally, suppose there really is a plan to privatize Latvenergo, or part of it, just like Lithuanians are planning to do about their own energy company. Is it a good idea to sell it to the foreigners? Depends on who you are, of course. If you’re a tax payer, you want to get the highest possible price for Latvenergo, so that maybe you could use the proceeds to reduce the amount of state public debt, and leave a smaller tax burden for your children. You can get a higher price if you auction it off to a maximum number of buyers. The more competition among the buyers, the better it is for the seller. Whether the highest bidder ir a foreigner, Mr. Soros, a Jew, or Mr. Lembergs is immaterial.
If you’re Mr. Lembergs, however, you want to reduce the number of potential buyers, because you’re a buyer yourself. Then you can buy it real cheap. This is how Ventspils was privatized, this is how Latvian Shipping Company was privatized, and this, apparently, is how Mr. Lembergs would like to privatize other companies, including Latvenergo. There is nothing new here, really. Come to think of it, raving about “international conspiracies” is a rather dull way to try to reduce the number of buyers. My favorite one is from Marshall Goldman’s (a historian at Harvard) “Piratization of Russia”, which describes how a certain Russian businessman eliminated competition from other buyers of a large state-owned company in Siberia by shutting down the airport on the day of the auction. That’s what I call a “creative approach”!
PS Did you know that, according to a recent survey, 35% of Latvians want to see Mr. Lembergs as a prime-minister?