Dr. Guntis Pukitis,
State Secretary,
The Ministry of the Environmental Protection and Regional
of the Republic of Latvia

The Special Session of the General Assembly
For an Overall Review and Appraisal of the Implementation
of the Habitat Agenda
Istanbul +5

New York
June 7, 2001

Mr. President,
Distinguished delegates!

First of all I would like to express my country's gratitude to the United Nations Centre of Human Settlements, the Government of United States of America and everybody in this hall who make this Session possible.

In introduction I would like to stress that Latvia truly appreciates the extensive efforts and contribution of all the counterparts in the implementation of the Habitat Agenda.

Latvia has made a remarkable progress in transition to market economy and democracy. Since 1996 stable growth of economy has been achieved. For instance, last year's GDP growth was 6.6%. Improvements in the legal framework, central and local management and economics has been a consistent priority of the Latvian Government. Alongside, NGO's have become stronger. These organisations have ever increasing influence on processes of social importance.

Priorities set by Latvian Plan of Action for Habitat Two are implemented gradually: development of network of inhabited localities, provision of possibilities for inhabitants to get suitable settlement and activation of new construction.

Mr. President,

Reforms of the housing sector in Latvia have been commenced in the 1990s and are carried out at present in the areas of privatisation process, restitution of property and housing market.

The key items of the governmental policy in housing area are as follows:

Ownership structure of the housing fund has changed significantly. In 1993 54% of housing was owned by state and municipalities, but 46% was private property. In 1999 private property was already 70% but public property - just 30%. At the end of privatisation process approximately 80% of Latvia housing will be private property and municipalities will maintain only 20% of the housing as rental or social houses.

Municipalities are providing assistance to poor people or people with low income through rent of social apartments and subsidies for services and rent.

In 1999 only 4% of all construction works constituted construction of housing and the greatest bulk of them were covered by inhabitants themselves. There is still space for improvement in the fields of tax advantages and allowances related to housing investment.

The Housing Crediting Program adopted in June 2000 by Cabinet of Ministers is an important milestone in promotion of mortgage system. The main goals of the Program are as follows:

Mr. President,

Relevant improvements in different fields of environment protection in Latvia have been achieved in recent years.

In 1995 the entire water supply system was inspected and the state Programme "Water Supply and Sewage in Latvia Small and Medium Sized Towns 800 + " was developed. More than 55 water supply system improvement projects within this programme have been launched since 1996. Latvian legislation on air pollution has been synchronized with the relevant European Union requirements.

The waste management is one of the priorities both in the municipal and state level. In 1998 Latvia accepted long-term Strategy on Waste Management up to year 2010.

Mr. President,

Since June 1996 Latvia has signed a large number of international agreements on housing, social development, decrease of poverty and environmental management.

Multilateral programmes, initiated by the United Nations, the European Union and Nordic Council are carried out at present.

The World Bank, the European Investment Bank and other international financial institutions are providing assistance for my country in related matters.

Mr. President,

In conclusion, let me express a sincere belief that only by integrated approach to our human settlement issues on international, national and local level, we will be able to resolve them and reach our goals!

Thank you for your attention.