Page last updated at 12:14 GMT, Monday, 11 May 2009 13:14 UK

Latvian economy in rapid decline

Vansu bridge, Riga
Latvia is in recession after several years of boom

Latvia's economy contracted 18% in the first three months of the year, compared with a year earlier, as the country's recession accelerated.

The slide in the manufacturing and services sectors continued in the first quarter, the statistics office said.

The Latvian economy, driven by consumer demand, was hit hard last year amid the global economic downturn.

In December the International Monetary Fund approved a 7.5bn-euro (£6.7bn) rescue package for Latvia.

Output fell across all sectors of the Latvia economy during the first quarter of the year.

The biggest drop was seen in hotels and restaurants, with activity down 34% on the same quarter in 2008.

"[The decline in GDP] was a bit worse in the early 90s, but we saw during the last few days that it was going to be a deep fall and it was deeper than expected," said Andris Vilks, chief economist for SEB Latvia.

End of growth

Latvia continues to have one of the most troubled economies in the European Union (EU).

Its Finance Ministry has said it expects GDP to fall 13% this year.

Latvia joined the EU in 2004 and its economy grew at an average of 10% per year, for four consecutive years.

However, most economists believe the speed of that growth is the reason why it is contracting so sharply now.

Separately on Monday, Latvia gained EU approval to shore up the country's second-largest bank JSC Parex with another state capital injection.

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