Dombrovskis, Valdis (Latvia)
Valdis Dombrovskis became prime minister in March 2009 following the resignation of Ivars Godmanis. Before stepping down in Jan. 2014, the former finance minister’s tenure was mainly focused on reversing the country’s economic crisis. He became a European Commissioner in Nov. 2014.
Dombrovskis was born on 5 Aug. 1971 in Riga, while Latvia was part of the USSR. He studied physics and economics at the University of Latvia in Riga and the Riga Technological University. He was employed at Germany’s University of Mainz and at the University of Latvia’s Institute of Solid-State Physics, and in 1998 became a research assistant at Maryland University in the USA.
Later that year he began working for the Bank of Latvia, leaving in 2002 after a year as chief economist. A member of the centre-right New Era party, he joined its governing board in 2002 and was also elected to parliament, serving until 2004 as finance minister in Einars Repše’s government. From 2003–04 he was Latvia’s observer at the Council of the European Union and became a member of the European Parliament (MEP) in 2004.
Against the backdrop of global economic turmoil, Latvia’s economy crashed in 2008. The economy shrank by over 4%. Worse was to follow, with a contraction of 18% in 2009. In Dec. 2008, having nationalized the country’s second biggest bank, Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis turned to the IMF, World Bank and European Union for a US$9.5bn. bail-out package. In return he was forced to accept public spending cuts and tax increases. After an anti-government riot in Riga in Jan. 2009, his coalition fell the following month. President Valdis Zatlers nominated Dombrovskis to form a new administration.
Having resigned as an MEP, Dombrovskis formed a six-party coalition and won parliamentary approval on 12 March 2009. In Aug. 2009 his government reached agreement with unions and employers on deep spending cuts and tax rises aimed at staving off bankruptcy and persuading the IMF and EU to release further tranches of loans. Subsequently, as a condition for these disbursements, the government committed to further cuts in fiscal expenditures to contain the budget deficit. Having lost his parliamentary majority in March 2010, Dombrovskis called an election in Oct. at which he was returned to power heading a Unity and Union of Greens and Farmers coalition. In further legislative elections in Sept. 2011, following a controversial dissolution of the Saeima, the pro-Russian Harmony Centre emerged as the largest party, but Dombrovskis retained the premiership at the head of a new coalition comprising Unity, Zatlers’ Reform Party and the National Alliance, which together controlled 56 of the 100 parliamentary seats. In Feb. 2012 voters in a referendum rejected a proposal to make Russian an official language of Latvia.
He resigned as prime minister in Nov. 2013 after taking political responsibility for the collapse of a supermarket in the capital, Riga, that killed 54 people. His tenure was defined by Latvia’s economic metamorphosis, with the country posting Europe’s fastest GDP growth rates for two consecutive years (2011 and 2012). Dombrovskis also presided over Latvia’s entry into the eurozone, which was completed in Jan. 2014.
Dombrovskis became the European Commission’s vice-president for the euro and social dialogue on 1 Nov. 2014. He joined three former prime ministers in the new Commission led by one of these, Jean-Claude Juncker.