On 7 September 2023, the Ministry of Finance hosted a conference “Public debt dynamics: the search for the optimal levels”, which brought together experts from the European Fiscal Council, the European Commission, the Bank of Latvia, the European Central Bank, a credit rating agency, and the Ministry of Welfare to discuss issues related to public debt.

The aim of the conference was to promote an open and interactive discussion on public debt issues and to exchange views and experiences. The main topics of the conference were related to the future design of EU fiscal rules and policies, the factors affecting public debt and the role of public debt in the economy, and the interaction between fiscal and monetary policy. Particular attention was paid to the optimal level of public debt for Latvia.

Conference moderator – Morten Hansen


9:00 – 9:30 Registration, welcome coffee

9:30 – 9:40 Welcome address, Arvils Ašeradens, Minister of Finance

9:40 – 11:40 Session 1

  • Mārtiņš Kazāks, Governor of Latvijas Banka – Monetary and fiscal policies: on a shared path or parting ways?
  • Niels Thygesen, Chairman of European Fiscal Board Economic Governance Review – the future of fiscal rules
  • Stephanie Pamies, Head of Sustainability of public finances and public expenditure trends unit, DG ECFIN, European Commission – Debt Sustainability Analysis and the EU fiscal framework
  • Lorenzo Codogno, visiting professor, London School of Economics – Debt sustainability analysis is back. Sudden shifts in underlying factors may push high-debt countries into a bad equilibrium
  • Panel discussion

11:40 – 12:20 Coffee break

12:20 – 14:20 Session 2

  • Cristina Checherita-Westphal, Senior Team-Lead Economist, Fiscal Policies Division, European Central Bank – Public debt level: why and how it matters
  • Oļegs Tkačevs, Principal Research Economist of the Research Division, Monetary Policy Department, Bank of Latvia – Fiscal sustainability: the role of inflation
  • Olivier Chemla, Vice President Moody’s Investors Service – The role of public finances in sovereign credit rating analysis
  • Ingus Alliks, State Secretary, Ministry of Welfare – The potential impact of pension system challenges on the budget
  • Panel discussion

14:20 – 14:30 Concluding Remarks


Conference speakers and presentations

Cristina Checherita-Westphal is Senior Team-Lead Economist in the European Central Bank’s Fiscal Policies Division within the Directorate General Economics. Her research interests are in the areas of debt sustainability, fiscal-monetary policy interactions, economic convergence and growth. She holds a master’s degree from Columbia University and a PhD from George Mason University.

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Mr Ingus Alliks was appointed State Secretary of the Ministry of Welfare and took office in September 2016.

In 2003 - 2016, he served as Deputy State Secretary of the Ministry of Welfare with responsibility for labour relations and occupational safety and health, social insurance, children and family policy, social inclusion and equal opportunities for persons with disabilities. Previously, in 1999 - 2003, he was Director of the Social Insurance Department of the Ministry of Welfare.

Since 2007, Mr Alliks has been a member of the European Committee for Social Cohesion. In 2000 - 2006, he also was a member of the Governmental Committee of the European Social Charter.

Mr Alliks was involved in the development of the social insurance system in Latvia and headed a sub-component on the social insurance policy of the Latvia’s Welfare Reform project financed by the World Bank in 1997 - 2003.

Mr Alliks holds a Master’s Degree in Law and a Master’s Degree in Political Science and is currently also a guest lecturer for social work students at Riga Stradin’s University on a social security system.

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Lorenzo Codogno is the founder and chief economist of his own consulting vehicle, LC Macro Advisors Ltd, Visiting Professor in Practice at the European Institute of the London School of Economics and Visiting Professor at the College of Europe, Bruges. Before launching his advisory service, he was chief economist and director general at the Treasury Department of the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance (May 2006-February 2015) in charge of the economic analysis and planning directorate, with responsibility for macroeconomic forecasts, analysis of the Italian/international economy and domestic/international monetary and financial issues. Throughout this period, he was also head of the Italian delegation at the Economic Policy Committee of the European Union, which he chaired from January 2010 to December 2011. At the OECD, he headed the Italian delegation at the Economic Policy Committee, the Economic and Development Review Committee and the Working Party 1, which he chaired from Jan 2013 to Feb 2015. He joined the Ministry from Bank of America, where he was managing director, senior economist, and co-head of European Economics based in London over the previous eleven years. Before that, he worked in the research department of Unicredit. He studied at the University of Padua in Italy and holds a Master’s Degree from Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, USA.

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Mārtiņš Kazāks holds a BSc in Economics from the University of Latvia (1995), a Diploma in Economics from the University of Cambridge (1996), an MSc in Economics(with Distinction; 1997) and a PhD in Economics (2005) from the University of London.

In 1994–1995, he was Leading Economist in the Department of Macrofiscal Analysis and Forecast of the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Latvia and Research Assistant at the Riga Office of the International Research and Exchanges Board. 

Between September 2000 and June 2001 and from September 2001 to June 2002, he served as Honorary Research Assistant at the Social Sciences Department, School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London.

Between November 2005 and December 2009, he worked as Chief Economist at AS "HANSABANKA" (subsequently renamed "Swedbank" AS) and Baltic Banking Chief Macro Analyst at the Hansabank Group. From January 2010 to August 2018, he was Deputy Chief Economist of the Swedbank Group, Chief Economist of Swedbank Latvia and Head of Macro Research Baltics of the Swedbank Group.

On 21 June 2018, the Saeima of the Republic of Latvia appointed Mārtiņš Kazāks Member of the Council of Latvijas Banka as of 1 August 2018.

Mārtiņš Kazāks has lectured at the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga (1996–2008), the University of London, Riga Stradiņš University and Riga Business School.

He has been a member of the following bodies: the Strategic Analysis Committee of the President of Latvia (2006–2011), Counselor Convention of BA School of Business and Finance, Counselor Convention of Liepāja University and Fiscal Discipline Council of the Republic of Latvia (2014–2018). He is a member of the Economists Association 2010 and National Association for Business Economics (USA).

Mārtiņš Kazāks has authored and co-authored numerous publications in the fields of financial markets and their integration, the economic development cycle and financial crises, fiscal policy and competitiveness of the economy.

In his capacity as Governor of Latvijas Banka, Mārtiņš Kazāks is a Member of the Governing Council of the European Central Bank and the General Council of the European Central Bank. Mārtiņš Kazāks is the Governor of the International Monetary Fund for the Republic of Latvia.

Conference presentation:

Morten Hansen is Head of Economics Department at Stockholm School of Economics in Riga, columnist at ir.lv, a contributor to the Economist Intelligence Unit and former Vice-Chairman of the Fiscal Discipline Council of Latvia where, following the end of his second term, he is a member of the Council's expert panel.

Morten Hansen is Danish but has resided in Latvia since 1993 and formerly worked at EuroFaculty, University of Latvia.

Niels THYGESEN is Professor emeritus of International Economics at the University of Copenhagen and since 2016 Chair of the European Fiscal Board, advising the European Commission. He has served as Chair of the Economic Council of Denmark and Adviser to the Governor of Danmarks Nationalbank, but most of his activities have been in international institutions (Commission, IMF, OECD).  He was an independent member of the Delors Committee, nominated by the European Council to prepare Economic and Monetary Union 1988-89.

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Olivier Chemla is a Vice President – Senior Analyst in Moody’s Sovereign Risk Group. Based in Frankfurt, he is the lead analyst for a portfolio of European sovereigns and multilateral institutions. Prior to joining Moody’s in 2018, Olivier served as Chief economist in the French business association for large companies (Afep) for six years. Olivier started his career in the French public administration, holding various positions in the French department for Labour, Health and Economics. He was appointed Special Adviser to the Minister for the Budget, Public accounts and the State reform in the summer of 2011.

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Oļegs Tkačevs is a principal economist at the Bank of Latvia. His main research activities include fiscal and structural policies, competitiveness and trade. In the past he represented the Bank of Latvia in the ESCB Working Group of Public Finance. During the great recession period he closely cooperated with counterparts from the IMF and EC on fiscal consolidation strategy and recommendations for structural reforms. In 2012 and 2013, he was an NCB expert at the Directorate General Economics of the European Central Bank. He holds a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Latvia.

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Stéphanie Pamies is Head of Unit in charge of the analysis of the sustainability of public finances and public expenditure trends at the Directorate General (DG) of Economic and Financial Affairs at the European Commission. Prior to joining the European Commission, she has held various economist positions, at the DG Treasury of the Ministry of Economy and Finance in France, and at the Research Directorate of the French Development Agency. She has published and coordinated many articles and reports in the areas of public finances, macroeconomic analysis and international development. She holds a PhD in economics from the University of Birmingham (United Kingdom) and the University of Bordeaux (France).

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