Country profile - Distinguishing factors (Latvia)
Latvia covers an area of 64 589 km2. Forest land accounts for 50 % of the national territory of Latvia. Latvia lies in a temperate climate zone where active cyclones determine rapid changes in weather conditions (190–200 days per year). Annual mean precipitation is 600–700 mm.
Latvia is an independent democratic parliamentary republic. The State President, elected by the Parliament (Saeima), nominates the Prime Minister who forms a Cabinet of Ministers that has to be approved by the Parliament. Fourteen ministries assist the Cabinet of Ministers to achieve its targets.
Since 1 July 2009, there have been 118 national level municipalities in Latvia, including 109 municipalities and nine major cities. Cities and municipalities have elected local governments.
At the beginning of 2008, the population of Latvia was 2 271 000 and 31.6 % of the population lived in the capital, Riga. The average population density was 35.2 persons/km². The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita, calculated in purchasing power parity units, in Latvia was 58 % of the average EU27 level in 2007. During the period 2001–07, Latvia had one of the highest growth rates in the average annual GDP in the EU and reached 10.6 % in 2007, but after the start of the world economic crisis in 2008, the GDP rate became one of the lowest in the EU and turned negative in 2009.
During the past six years, small changes in the sectoral structure of Latvia’s national economy have been observed. Three sectors — trade, manufacturing industry and construction — have had the most stable growth. Industry has the top position in the growth of the state economy. During the past seven years, the timber industry, the engineering industry and hardware production have made the greatest contributions to industrial growth. Gradual growth rates were apparent in all economic sectors until 2008, particularly in the transport and communications sector, due to the increase in freight traffic, passenger transport services and the development of the communications sector, as well as the construction sector.
Both local energy sources (wood, peat, hydro resources, wind) and imported energy resources (oil products, natural gas, coal, electricity) are used in the power supply sector of Latvia. In 2007, the share of renewable energy sources in Latvia’s primary energy balance was 28.8 %.
In Latvia, more than 70 % of the total generated thermal energy is used in residential and public buildings. In 2007, there were 347 900 residential buildings with 1 035 700 housing units in Latvia which comprised apartments, private houses, hotels, social care centres, and others.
A convenient geographical location on the Baltic Sea with ice-free seaports (Ventspils, Liepaja), railroad and road networks, gas and oil production pipelines, provide good opportunities for the development of a multimodal transport system in Latvia. Transit and international transport constitute the major part of cargo transport with road transport as the most significant mode of transport.