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Lithuanian report Lithuanian report
by Euro Reporter
2011-12-05 07:12:04
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Lithuania needs additional budget measures in 2012, Premier says

Lithuania needs additional budget measures of 800 million litai ($312 million) in 2012 to keep the deficit within the government’s target of 2.8 percent of gross domestic product, Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius said.

International markets may “punish” Lithuania if the government fails to agree on additional budget measures, the prime minister said in a radio interview with Ziniu Radijas today.

The Finance Ministry yesterday cut its 2012 economic growth forecast to 2.5 percent from a previous estimate of 4.7 percent, which will force the government to look for additional austerity measures such as tax increases or spending cuts next year. Finance Minister Ingrida Simonyte said yesterday she saw no other “realistic alternatives” to an increase of the valued- added tax by 2 percentage points to 23 percent to plug the gap.


Lithuania woos foreign filmmakers

Aiming to put itself back on the international moviemaking map, Lithuania plans to introduce a tax incentive within a year to attract productions to the tiny Baltic state. Four years of intensive lobbying by the Independent Producers Assn., the NPA, has won the backing of Vilnius' mayor, Arturas Zuokas, for the launch of a Vilnius Film Commission in the capital early next year. A city council vote is due in February on setting up a Vilnius film fund. Hopes are now high that parliament will follow suit and back NPA's plea for a 20% tax rebate program modelled on the successful Hungarian system as early as 2013.

NPA co-founder Lineta Miseikyte said the country's competitive advantages had slipped in recent years as costs rose after it joined the EU, even though it did not adopt the Euro and has retained its local currency, the Litas. Miseikyte, head of Baltic Film Services, who cut her teeth in the 1990s working on international productions that took advantage of low costs and great locations to shoot in Lithuania, said competitive pressures in Europe mean that countries have to offer incentives to stay in the game. "The Vilnius film commission is a breakthrough for us. In the past producers and directors advanced their own interests and criticized politicians. It was every man for himself. By speaking with one voice we have achieved what had seemed impossible," Miseikyte said.

The planned Vilnius agency, unveiled to industries in Tallinn, Estonia, on Wednesday, the last day of the 15th Black Nights Festival, is not the only new municipal film commission. Last year Latvia's capital, Riga, established a film fund with a cash rebate program worth 15% for projects that shoot in Riga and 10% for those shooting outside the city that use Riga businesses and services. Riga Film Fund project manager Dace Lesinksa said 486,000 Lats ($908,000) had been approved for projects this year, including an episode of the BBC's Swedish crime investigator series "Wallander" set amid the city's docks. Berlin-based Russian film director Sergei Loznitsa has also accessed the fund for his wartime drama "In the Fog," currently filming in Latvia. "We are looking at streamlining the tender system as currently only projects that are actually shooting or planning to shoot when we issue a tender for submissions can apply," Lesinksa said.


Lithuanian MPs cling to lavish parliamentary perks

Lithuanian parliamentarians’ 2,000 euro salary per month is at the bottom of the list of European legislator pay, but with all parliamentary allowances, benefits and salaries summed up, the entitlements skyrocket, catapulting Lithuanian legislators to a level with an average salary, on par with the very top of the best paid elected officials in the entire European Union. “The national census has revealed that the Lithuanian population decreased significantly, numbering less than 3 million people. Logically, it means that single-mandate electoral districts should be reshaped, to be exact expanded and taking up the Constitution-set number of electorates in each. If that happened, the existing electoral districts would shrink, as well as the current 141 MP Lithuanian Parliament: Seimas. This step would allow cutbacks in the hefty parliamentary budget and, undoubtedly, would hike Lithuanians’ trust in their legislative body. However, with the unwillingness of the parliamentarians to do anything that would impair their status quo, the constitutional amendments leading to a fewer-seat parliament is highly improbable,” Mantas Stalnionis, a commentator, says.

Many observers of Lithuanian politics are convinced that the issue of the lavish Lithuanian parliamentary incentives that Seimas members cling to, despite public disapproval, will be another horse that many to-be populist parties and social movements will ride on successfully in the 2012 Seimas election campaign.
What do most Lithuanians fume about in regards to these perks? First comes the salary, 7,000 litas (2,029 Euros), plus nearly half of that, the so-called parliamentary activity allowances. Sure, the MPs’ working hours are another red flag that drives most Lithuanians crazy. For the regular 8-hour work shift population, it is incomprehensible how it is possible for anyone in the public sector of the crisis-stricken country to be paid nearly ten times than the average salary, skip mandatory sittings and enjoy a four-and-half month vacation.

When the costly heating season strains most Vilnius dwellers, who often have to give up half of their family budget just to cover the heating and communal service costs, non-Vilnius born parliamentarians and their family members are entitled to the refurbished Seimas dormitory and full coverage of communal service costs in it. Not bad, right? Next, but not least, is the size of severance allowances, which make up over 10,000 Euros if an MP works a full parliamentary tenure and then is not re-elected, or does not seek re-election. “To be honest, I have never been aware of such benefits, even when I stayed at the wheel of the parliament. The Labour Party, whose deputy chairman I am now, stands for cutting down the excessive parliamentary benefits. However, I do not think this Seimas will have the guts to cut the fruitful branches it sits on,” Arturas Paulauskas, the former chairman of Naujoji Sajunga (New Union) and deputy chairman of the Labour Party presently, said. The mid-November parliamentary deliberations over the draft on Parliamentarians’ Activity Guarantees have shown that Lithuanian legislators are far from considering any constraints on their lavish parliamentary incentives – the draft has been rejected and sent for improvements.

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