Latvia

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PAGE LAST UPDATED ON NOVEMBER 15, 2011
Flag of Latvia
(CONTAINS DESCRIPTION)
Location of Latvia
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Map of Latvia
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Photos of Latvia
 
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OF LATVIA
 

Introduction

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The name "Latvia" originates from the ancient Latgalians, one of four eastern Baltic tribes that formed the ethnic core of the Latvian people (ca. 8th-12th centuries A.D.). The region subsequently came under the control of Germans, Poles, Swedes, and finally, Russians. A Latvian republic emerged following World War I, but it was annexed by the USSR in 1940 - an action never recognized by the US and many other countries. Latvia reestablished its independence in 1991 following the breakup of the Soviet Union. Although the last Russian troops left in 1994, the status of the Russian minority (some 30% of the population) remains of concern to Moscow. Latvia joined both NATO and the EU in the spring of 2004.
 
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Geography

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Eastern Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea, between Estonia and Lithuania
 
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57 00 N, 25 00 E
 
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total: 64,589 sq km
country comparison to the world: 124
land: 62,249 sq km
water: 2,340 sq km
 
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slightly larger than West Virginia
 
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total: 1,382 km
border countries: Belarus 171 km, Estonia 343 km, Lithuania 576 km, Russia 292 km
 
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498 km
 
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territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 m depth or to the depth of exploitation
 
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maritime; wet, moderate winters
 
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low plain
 
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lowest point: Baltic Sea 0 m
highest point: Gaizina Kalns 312 m
 
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peat, limestone, dolomite, amber, hydropower, timber, arable land
 
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arable land: 28.19%
permanent crops: 0.45%
other: 71.36% (2005)
 
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8 sq km
note: land in Latvia is often too wet and in need of drainage not irrigation; approximately 16,000 sq km or 85% of agricultural land has been improved by drainage (2008)
 
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49.9 cu km (2005)
 
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total: 0.25 cu km/yr (55%/33%/12%)
per capita: 108 cu m/yr (2003)
 
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NA
 
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Latvia's environment has benefited from a shift to service industries after the country regained independence; the main environmental priorities are improvement of drinking water quality and sewage system, household, and hazardous waste management, as well as reduction of air pollution; in 2001, Latvia closed the EU accession negotiation chapter on environment committing to full enforcement of EU environmental directives by 2010
 
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party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
 
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most of the country is composed of fertile low-lying plains with some hills in the east
 
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People and Society

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noun: Latvian(s)
adjective: Latvian
 
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Latvian 59.3%, Russian 27.8%, Belarusian 3.6%, Ukrainian 2.5%, Polish 2.4%, Lithuanian 1.3%, other 3.1% (2009)
 
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Latvian (official) 58.2%, Russian 37.5%, Lithuanian and other 4.3% (2000 census)
 
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Lutheran 19.6%, Orthodox 15.3%, other Christian 1%, other 0.4%, unspecified 63.7% (2006)
 
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2,204,708 (July 2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 142
 
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0-14 years: 13.5% (male 152,706/female 145,756)
15-64 years: 69.5% (male 747,044/female 785,521)
65 years and over: 16.9% (male 121,570/female 252,111) (2011 est.)
 
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total: 40.6 years
male: 37.6 years
female: 43.7 years (2011 est.)
 
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-0.597% (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 224
 
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9.96 births/1,000 population (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 194
 
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13.6 deaths/1,000 population (July 2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 18
 
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-2.33 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 171
 
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urban population: 68% of total population (2010)
rate of urbanization: -0.4% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)
 
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RIGA (capital) 711,000 (2009)
 
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at birth: 1.054 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.95 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.48 male(s)/female
total population: 0.86 male(s)/female (2011 est.)
 
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20 deaths/100,000 live births (2008)
country comparison to the world: 125
 
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total: 8.42 deaths/1,000 live births
country comparison to the world: 159
male: 10.2 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 6.53 deaths/1,000 live births (2011 est.)
 
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total population: 72.68 years
country comparison to the world: 123
male: 67.56 years
female: 78.07 years (2011 est.)
 
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1.32 children born/woman (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 207
 
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8.1% of GDP (2009)
country comparison to the world: 56
 
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2.988 physicians/1,000 population (2009)
country comparison to the world: 40
 
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6.42 beds/1,000 population (2009)
country comparison to the world: 22
 
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improved:
urban: 100% of population
rural: 96% of population
total: 99% of population
unimproved:
urban: 0% of population
rural: 4% of population
total: 1% of population (2008)
 
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improved:
urban: 82% of population
rural: 71% of population
total: 78% of population
unimproved:
urban: 18% of population
rural: 29% of population
total: 22% of population (2008)
 
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0.7% (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 59
 
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8,600 (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 105
 
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fewer than 1,000 (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 77
 
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degree of risk: intermediate
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea
vectorborne diseases: tickborne encephalitis (2009)
 
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15.6% (2006)
country comparison to the world: 35
 
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5% of GDP (2007)
country comparison to the world: 57
 
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definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99.7%
male: 99.8%
female: 99.7% (2000 census)
 
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total: 15 years
male: 14 years
female: 17 years (2008)
 
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total: 33.8%
country comparison to the world: 12
male: 38.3%
female: 27.9% (2009)
 
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Government

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conventional long form: Republic of Latvia
conventional short form: Latvia
local long form: Latvijas Republika
local short form: Latvija
former: Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic
 
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parliamentary democracy
 
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name: Riga
geographic coordinates: 56 57 N, 24 06 E
time difference: UTC+2 (7 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October
 
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109 municipalities (novadi, singular-novads) and 9 cities
municipalities: Adazu Novads, Aglonas Novads, Aizkraukles Novads, Aizputes Novads, Aknistes Novads, Alojas Novads, Alsungas Novads, Aluksnes Novads, Amatas Novads, Apes Novads, Auces Novads, Babites Novads, Baldones Novads, Baltinavas Novads, Balvu Novads, Bauskas Novads, Beverinas Novads, Brocenu Novads, Burtnieku Novads, Carnikavas Novads, Cesu Novads, Cesvaines Novads, Ciblas Novads, Dagdas Novads, Daugavpils Novads, Dobeles Novads, Dundagas Novads, Durbes Novads, Engures Novads, Erglu Novads, Garkalnes Novads, Grobinas Novads, Gulbenes Novads, Iecavas Novads, Ikskiles Novads, Ilukstes Novads, Incukalna Novads, Jaunjelgavas Novads, Juanpiebalgas Novads, Jaunpils Novads, Jekabpils Novads, Jelgavas Novads, Kandavas Novads, Karsavas Novads, Keguma Novads, Kekavas Novads, Kocenu Novads, Kokneses Novads, Kraslavas Novads, Krimuldas Novads, Krustpils Novads, Kuldigas Novads, Lielvardes Novads, Ligatnes Novads, Limbazu Novads, Livanu Novads, Lubanas Novads, Ludzas Novads, Madonas Novads, Malpils Novads, Marupes Novads, Mazsalacas Novads, Nauksenu Novads, Neretas Novads, Nicas Novads, Ogres Novads, Olaines Novads, Ozolnieku Novads, Pargaujas Novads, Pavilostas Novads, Plavinu Novads, Preilu Novads, Priekules Novads, Priekulu Novads, Raunas Novads, Rezeknes Novads, Riebinu Novads, Rojas Novads, Ropazu Novads, Rucavas Novads, Rugaju Novads, Rujienas Novads, Rundales Novads, Salacgrivas Novads, Salas Novads, Salaspils Novads, Saldus Novads, Saulkrastu Novads, Sejas Novads, Siguldas Novads, Skriveru Novads, Skrundas Novads, Smiltenes Novads, Stopinu Novads, Strencu Novads, Talsu Novads, Tervetes Novads, Tukuma Novads, Vainodes Novads, Valkas Novads, Varaklanu Novads, Varkavas Novads, Vecpiebalgas Novads, Vecumnieku Novads, Ventspils Novads, Viesites Novads, Vilakas Novads, Vilanu Novads, Zilupes Novads
cities: Daugavpils, Jekabpils, Jelgava, Jurmala, Liepaja, Rezekne, Riga, Valmiera, Ventspils
 
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4 May 1990 (declared); 6 September 1991 (recognized by the Soviet Union)
 
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Independence Day, 18 November (1918); note - 18 November 1918 was the date Latvia declared independence from Soviet Russia and established its statehood; 4 May 1990 was the date it declared its independence from the Soviet Union
 
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15 February 1922; restored to force by the Constitutional Law of the Republic of Latvia adopted by the Supreme Council 21 August 1991; multiple amendments since
 
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civil law system with traces of socialist legal traditions and practices
 
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has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; accepts ICCt jurisdiction
 
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18 years of age; universal for Latvian citizens
 
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chief of state: President Andris BERZINS (since 8 July 2011)
head of government: Prime Minister Valdis DOMBROVSKIS (since 12 March 2009)
cabinet: Cabinet of Ministers nominated by the prime minister and appointed by Parliament
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elections: president elected by Parliament for a four-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held on 2 June 2011 (next to be held in 2015); prime minister appointed by the president, confirmed by Parliament
election results: Andris BERZINS elected president; parliamentary vote - Andris BERZINS 53, Valdis ZATLERS 41
 
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unicameral Parliament or Saeima (100 seats; members elected by proportional representation from party lists by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held on 17 September 2011 (next to be held in September 2015)
election results: percent of vote by party - SC 28.4%, Zatlers 20.8%, Unity 18.8%, National Alliance 13.9%, ZZS 12.2%; seats by party - SC 31, Zatlers 22, Unity 20, National Alliance 14, ZZS 13
 
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Supreme Court (judges' appointments are confirmed by parliament); Constitutional Court (judges' appointments are confirmed by parliament)
 
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All For Latvia! [Irnants PARADNIEKS, Raivis DZINTARS]; Civic Union [Sandra KALNIETE, Girts Valdis KRISTOVSKIS]; First Party of Latvia/Latvia's Way or LPP/LC [Ainars SLESERS]; For Human Rights in a United Latvia or PCTVL [Jakovs PLINERS, Tatjana ZDANOKA]; For the Fatherland and Freedom/Latvian National Independence Movement or TB/LNNK [Roberts ZILE, Maris GRINBLATS]; Harmony Center or SC [Nils USAKOVS, Janis URBANOVICS]; National Alliance (alliance of TB/LNNK, All For Latvia!) [Gaidis BERZINS, Raivis DZINTARS]; New Era Party or JL [Solvita ABOLTINA, Dzintars ZAKIS]; Society for Different Politics or SCP [Aigars STOKENBERGS; Artis PABRIKS]; The Union of Latvian Greens and Farmers Party or ZZS [Augusts BRIGMANIS]; Unity [Solvita ABOLTINA]; Zatlers' Reform Party [Valdis ZATLERS]
 
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Free Trade Union Confederation of Latvia [Peteris KRIGERS], Employers' Confederation of Latvia [Elina EGLE], Farmers' Parliament [Juris LAZDINS]
 
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Australia Group, BA, BIS, CBSS, CE, EAPC, EBRD, EIB, EU, FAO, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO (correspondent), ITU, ITUC, MIGA, NATO, NIB, NSG, OAS (observer), OIF (observer), OPCW, OSCE, PCA, Schengen Convention, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
 
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chief of mission: Ambassador Andrejs PILDEGOVICS
chancery: 2306 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 328-2840
FAX: [1] (202) 328-2860
 
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chief of mission: Ambassador Judith G. GARBER
embassy: 7 Raina Boulevard, Riga LV-1510
mailing address: American Embassy Riga, US Department of State, 4520 Riga Place, Washington, DC 20520-4520
telephone: [371] 670-36200
FAX: [371] 678-20047
 
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three horizontal bands of maroon (top), white (half-width), and maroon; the flag is one of the older banners in the world; a medieval chronicle mentions a red standard with a white stripe being used by Latvian tribes in about 1280
 
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white wagtail (bird)
 
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name: "Dievs, sveti Latviju!" (God Bless Latvia)
lyrics/music: Karlis BAUMANIS
note: adopted 1920, restored 1990; the song was first performed in 1873 while Latvia was a part of Russia; the anthem was banned during the Soviet occupation from 1940 to 1990
 
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Economy

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Latvia is a small, open economy with exports contributing significantly to its GDP. Due to its geographical location, transit services are highly-developed, along with timber and wood-processing, agriculture and food products, and manufacturing of machinery and electronic devices. The bulk of the country's economic activity, however, is in the services sector. Corruption continues to be an impediment to attracting FDI flows and Latvia's low birth rate and decreasing population are major challenges to its long-term economic vitality. Latvia's economy experienced GDP growth of more than 10% per year during 2006-07, but entered a severe recession in 2008 as a result of an unsustainable current account deficit and large debt exposure amid the softening world economy. GDP plunged 18% in 2009 - the three Baltic states had the world's worst declines that year. Thanks to strong export growth in 2009 and 2010, the economy experienced its first real quarterly GDP growth in over two years (2.9%) in the third quarter of 2010. The IMF, EU, and other international donors provided substantial financial assistance to Latvia as part of an agreement to defend the currency's peg to the euro. This agreement calls for reduction of Latvia's fiscal deficit to below 3% of GDP by 2012, in order to meet the Maastricht Treaty criteria for euro adoption. DOMBROVSKIS' government enacted major spending cuts to reduce the fiscal deficit to a maximum of 8.5% of GDP in 2010, and Latvia has approved a 2011 budget with a projected deficit of 5.4% of GDP. The majority of companies, banks, and real estate have been privatized, although the state still holds sizable stakes in a few large enterprises. Latvia officially joined the World Trade Organization in February, 1999. EU membership, a top foreign policy goal, came in May 2004. Latvia's current major financial policy goal, entrance into the euro zone, is targeted for 2014.
 
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$32.51 billion (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 106
$32.62 billion (2009 est.)
$39.76 billion (2008 est.)
note: data are in 2010 US dollars
 
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$24.05 billion (2010 est.)
 
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-0.3% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 191
-18% (2009 est.)
-4.2% (2008 est.)
 
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$14,700 (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 77
$14,600 (2009 est.)
$17,700 (2008 est.)
note: data are in 2010 US dollars
 
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agriculture: 4%
industry: 21.7%
services: 74.4% (2010 est.)
 
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1.178 million (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 139
 
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agriculture: 12.1%
industry: 25.8%
services: 61.8% (2005 est.)
 
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18.4% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 162
17.1% (2009 est.)
 
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NA%
 
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lowest 10%: 2.7%
highest 10%: 27.6% (2008)
 
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35.7 (2008)
country comparison to the world: 89
32 (1999)
 
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18% of GDP (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 145
 
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revenues: $8.471 billion
expenditures: $10.31 billion (2010 est.)
 
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35.2% of GDP (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 67
 
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-7.7% of GDP (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 184
 
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44.7% of GDP (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 61
36.7% of GDP (2009 est.)
 
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-1.1% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 5
3.5% (2009 est.)
 
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4% (31 December 2009)
country comparison to the world: 65
6% (31 December 2008)
 
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9.56% (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 38
16.23% (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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$7.186 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 78
$6.092 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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$12.28 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 96
$11.85 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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$26.03 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 72
$28.7 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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$1.252 billion (31 December 2010)
country comparison to the world: 97
$1.824 billion (31 December 2009)
$1.609 billion (31 December 2008)
 
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grain, rapeseed, potatoes, vegetables; pork, poultry, milk, eggs; fish
 
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processed foods, processed wood products, textiles, processed metals, pharmaceuticals, railroad cars, synthetic fibers, electronics
 
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14.3% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 11
 
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5.114 billion kWh (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 114
 
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6.836 billion kWh (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 101
 
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2.605 billion kWh (2009 est.)
 
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1.654 billion kWh (2009 est.)
 
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0 bbl/day (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 168
 
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41,000 bbl/day (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 104
 
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3,457 bbl/day (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 109
 
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37,520 bbl/day (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 97
 
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0 bbl (1 January 2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 154
 
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0 cu m (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 152
 
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1.56 billion cu m (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 84
 
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0 cu m (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 131
 
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1.56 billion cu m (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 51
 
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$871 million (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 49
$2.283 billion (2009 est.)
 
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$8.989 billion (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 92
$7.387 billion (2009 est.)
 
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food products, wood and wood products, metals, machinery and equipment, textiles
 
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Russia 15.2%, Lithuania 15.2%, Estonia 12.6%, Germany 8.2%, Sweden 5.9%, Poland 4.7% (2010)
 
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$10.54 billion (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 89
$9.209 billion (2009 est.)
 
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machinery and equipment, consumer goods, chemicals, fuels, vehicles
 
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Lithuania 16.3%, Germany 11.4%, Russia 10%, Poland 7.5%, Estonia 7%, Finland 4.8% (2010)
 
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$7.17 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 78
$6.907 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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$42.07 billion (30 June 2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 62
$39.55 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
 
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$11.97 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 80
$11.63 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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$1.011 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 74
$996.8 million (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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lati (LVL) per US dollar -
0.5422 (2010)
0.5056 (2009)
0.4701 (2008)
0.5162 (2007)
0.5597 (2006)
 
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Communications

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532,100 (2010)
country comparison to the world: 95
 
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2.306 million (2010)
country comparison to the world: 134
 
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general assessment: recent efforts focused on bringing competition to the telecommunications sector; the number of fixed lines is decreasing as mobile-cellular telephone service expands
domestic: number of telecommunications operators has grown rapidly since the fixed-line market opened to competition in 2003; combined fixed-line and mobile-cellular subscribership exceeds 125 per 100 persons
international: country code - 371; the Latvian network is now connected via fiber optic cable to Estonia, Finland, and Sweden (2008)
 
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several national and regional commercial TV stations are foreign-owned, 2 national TV stations are publicly-owned; system supplemented by privately-owned regional and local TV stations; cable and satellite multi-channel TV services with domestic and foreign broadcasts are available; publicly-owned broadcaster operates 4 radio networks with dozens of stations throughout the country; dozens of private broadcasters also operate radio stations (2007)
 
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.lv
 
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289,478 (2010)
country comparison to the world: 59
 
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1.504 million (2009)
country comparison to the world: 81
 
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Transportation

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42 (2010)
country comparison to the world: 101
 
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total: 19
over 3,047 m: 1
2,438 to 3,047 m: 3
1,524 to 2,437 m: 5
914 to 1,523 m: 3
under 914 m: 7 (2010)
 
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total: 23
under 914 m: 23 (2010)
 
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gas 948 km; refined products 415 km (2010)
 
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total: 2,239 km
country comparison to the world: 67
broad gauge: 2,206 km 1.520-m gauge
narrow gauge: 33 km 0.750-m gauge (2010)
 
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total: 73,074 km
country comparison to the world: 64
paved: 14,459 km
unpaved: 58,615 km (2010)
 
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300 km (navigable year round) (2010)
country comparison to the world: 93
 
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total: 13
country comparison to the world: 108
by type: cargo 3, chemical tanker 1, passenger/cargo 5, petroleum tanker 3, roll on/roll off 1
foreign-owned: 4 (Estonia 4)
registered in other countries: 90 (Antigua and Barbuda 16, Belize 10, Cambodia 1, Comoros 1, Cook Islands 1, Dominica 1, Georgia 1, Liberia 9, Malta 11, Marshall Islands 18, Panama 4, Saint Kitts and Nevis 2, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 15) (2010)
 
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Riga, Ventspils
 
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Military

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National Armed Forces (Nacionalo Brunoto Speku): Land Forces, Navy (Latvijas Juras Speki; includes Coast Guard (Latvijas Kara Flotes)), Latvian Air Force (Latvijas Gaisa Speki), Latvian Home Guard (Latvijas Zemessardze) (2011)
 
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18 years of age for voluntary male and female military service; conscription abolished January 2007; under current law, every citizen is entitled to serve in the armed forces for life (2009)
 
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males age 16-49: 546,090
females age 16-49: 540,810 (2010 est.)
 
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males age 16-49: 401,691
females age 16-49: 447,638 (2010 est.)
 
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male: 10,482
female: 9,858 (2010 est.)
 
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1.2% of GDP (2005 est.)
country comparison to the world: 123
 
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Transnational Issues

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Russia demands better Latvian treatment of ethnic Russians in Latvia; boundary demarcated with Latvia and Lithuania; the Latvian parliament has not ratified its 1998 maritime boundary treaty with Lithuania, primarily due to concerns over oil exploration rights; as a member state that forms part of the EU's external border, Latvia has implemented the strict Schengen border rules with Russia
 
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transshipment and destination point for cocaine, synthetic drugs, opiates, and cannabis from Southwest Asia, Western Europe, Latin America, and neighboring Balkan countries; despite improved legislation, vulnerable to money laundering due to nascent enforcement capabilities and comparatively weak regulation of offshore companies and the gaming industry; CIS organized crime (including counterfeiting, corruption, extortion, stolen cars, and prostitution) accounts for most laundered proceeds
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