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Euro support waning in Latvia ahead of currency switch: poll

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(RIGA) - With just over a month left until Latvia becomes the 18th eurozone member, support for adopting Europe's single currency is waning in the Baltic state, according to a survey released Wednesday.

Latvia has launched a massive public information campaign and introduced dual pricing in shops in the run-up to the switchover on January 1, but familiarity with the euro appears to be having the opposite of its intended effect.

Support for swapping the lats for the euro currency fell to 20 percent, according to the survey of 1,000 Latvians conducted by pollster SKDS last month. Support was 24 percent according to an equivalent survey carried out in September.

At the same time opposition to the switch grew to 58 percent in October from 52 percent in September.

The share of the population of two million people declaring itself neutral or undecided meanwhile shrank to 22 percent from 24.

SKDS head Arnis Kaktins said the results came as a surprise.

"I expected support to grow slowly as people started to accept that this inevitable thing will happen, but our poll shows this is not happening," he told AFP.

The figures may reflect a pessimism due to the approach of winter, Nordea bank economist Andris Strazds told AFP.

Heating costs hit household budgets hard in the winter months.

"If my hypothesis is correct, support for the euro might deteriorate even further by the end of this year before it recovers in the spring and summer of 2014," he said.

Latvia received final backing in July to become the second Baltic state, after Estonia, to join the eurozone.

Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis insists euro adoption will further boost the economy, which expanded by five percent in 2011 and 2012 -- the European Union's top growth figures.

The finance ministry expects the economy to grow around 4.2 percent for this year and next.

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