Business environment in Latvia
According to the World Bank Group, Latvia ranks 22nd out of 189 countries in terms of the ease of doing business. The country ranks in top 20 for acquiring credit for companies; in top 30 starting a business, constructing and registering real estate, ease and efficiency of paying taxes, international trading, and enforcing contracts; and in top 50 for resolving insolvency and protecting minority investors. The weakest point of Latvian business environment is by far the ease of getting electricity for newly-built real property, for which the country ranks 65th.
Overall, it could be said that Latvia is most favourable for businesses that are not planning to engage in building new infrastructure. The ease of company formation, paying taxes and getting credits make a good combination with cheap but skilled and educated workforce and low infrastructure and facilities cost. Thanks to this, Latvia is a very popular country to start a business at, especially for entrepreneurs outside of the EU, because in total, it takes a lot less investments to open a company in Latvia than in most of the other EU-member states, while the end-result (in terms of quality) is the same. The business risks for such entrepreneurs are comparatively low, provided they take note of the possible competition on the local market.
Since Latvia joined the European Union in 2004, it adopted the majority of the Union's laws and policies. One of the examples is the Schengen area agreement, which allows an unhindered international trade with other EU member-states (more about Latvian market access from EU here).
Latvian policies favour free-market and accordance with EU policies. Some analytics classify Latvian legislation as conservative, meaning that new policies take a long time to be accepted by the government, and they are generally treated with caution. The exception in this case are legislative initiatives proposed by the EU. Latvia strives to be an active member of the European economic area, trying to adapt its policies to European standards.
Most of the businesses are concentrated in the capital of Latvia, Riga, and the cities surrounding it. Other major cities are often devoted to a particular market sectors, e.g. the port cities of Ventspils and Liepāja provide ice-free ports (read more about the logistics in Latvia), while Daugavpils is an important railroad hub.
Cities of regional importance also play their part in the economic environment of Latvia. The city of Rezekne, for example, is where the Rezekne Free Economic Zone is located. The FEZ contributes to the development of the region, attracting companies with up to 100% real estate tax relief, corporate tax relief of 80% and the return of investment cost by tax incentives of up to 55%. Rezekne is also an important railroad hub.
The most urbanized regions of Latvia are the central, Eastern and Westerns regions. It must be noted, though, that if the central region is thoroughly urban, the East and the West are urban in the sense that the majority of population lives near major cities, with pockets of rural areas in-between. The Southern and the North-Eastern regions are mostly rural.
Latvia is a free market economy, meaning that economic policies are aimed to lessen government intervention and prevent the creation of monopolies. According to the Wall Street Journal and the Heritage Foundation, Latvia is world's 37th most free economy. Latvia's score in this case is upheld by the high levels of fiscal, trade, investment and business freedoms, but is somewhat dragged down by corruption and government spending.
In Europe, Latvia takes up the 17th place in the rank of market freedom. This position becomes stronger and stronger each year, as Latvia takes steps to integrate into the European economic zone and be on par with major member-states.