Continuing the exclusive project Most Influential in Lithuania 2017, Delfi presents the list of the most influential businessmen, economists and business owners.
The journal Reitingai investigated who the most influential businessmen and economists are according to famous and highly ranked Lithuanians. The company Spinter Tyrimai held a public opinion surveys.
Unlike the previous year, the top three in both surveys matched completely.
According to them the most influential individual in the Lithuanian business sphere is the president of the Lithuanian Industrialists Confederation (LPK) Robertas Dargis. The country’s elite elected the founder of the company Eika as most influential last year as well, while he was seventh according to the public.
This year, just as last, second place goes to the SEB bank president’s advisor Gitanas Nausėda. In third place we find the chief stockholder and president of MG Baltic Darius Mockus.
The line-up of famous and influential public figures also included Bank of Lithuania deputy executive chairman, economist Raimondas Kuodis, Biotechpharma executive chairman Brumelis, Lithuanian Employers’ Confederation head Danas Arlauskas and GetJar founder Ilja Laursas.
The public survey list of most influential businessmen and economists also includes the executive chairwoman of Vikonda, Jolanta Blažytė, Lietuvos Geležinkeliai [Lithuanian Railways] head Mantas Bartuška, Achema Group chief stockholder Lyda Lubienė and West Lithuanian Industry and Finance Corporation head Antanas Bosas.
Participants in both surveys also included a number of businessmen not included in the original listings. Among them we could find the founder and mecenate of the company Fermentas, Viktoras Butkus, his wife Danguolė, lawyer Rolandas Valiūnas (he appears in a different list of the most influential) and others.
Attention to politicians’ evaluations
Commenting on the survey of the most influential businesspeople and economists, the chief editor of the journal Reitingai, Gintaras Sarafinas, noted that often this perception appears regarding those who, just like journalists or public figures, appear in the news media frequently.
“For example we find R. Dargis and G. Nausėda in first and second place. Nausėda speaks on radio or television almost every week. Some view their statements and forecasts with scepticism, but people listen to them. Perhaps with a pinch of salt, but their opinion is not insignificant,” the editor commented.
According to him, when surveyed, the respondents accented and distinguished between whose influence is positive and whose is negative. In comments they would request this to be noted.
“It would be worth for readers to take note which businessmen are influential according to politicians. This is important. If politicians say that these businessmen, lobbyists are influential, it is telling because they are specifically the ones to make decisions and form legislation.
If we do not look at the list of the most influential businessmen and economists as a whole, but in separation, which businessmen influence politicians, nuances may become visible, whose invisible hands are at work in Seimas, the cabinet and municipalities,” G. Sarafinas explained.
According to him, economists and business association leaders that appear in news media can have an impact on more than just state level decision making, “For example sometimes there is surprise at how much impact such speakers can have, but they can inspires certain matters. Not necessarily state level, but simply impact people’s moods over real estate, currency exchange and prices. They can cause something just by talking – the annoyance or actions of common people.”
The editor observes that compared to the previous year, according to this year’s survey, the influence of VP group stockholder N. Numavičius, who left to live in the UK, has declined.
“It would appear he withdrew and people made respective conclusions. From among the evaluators you could even distinguish a sort of scepticism. Well, he both pays his tax and lives in the UK, while the empire left in Lithuania is shattering. I am describing what people are talking. They simply say that such a disappointment is felt with the businessman and equally his influence is lower. Yes, the top ten has fractured,” G. Sarafinas summarised.
One surprising jump
Spinter Tyrimai director Ignas Zokas mused that such research does not necessarily reflect the actual influence of certain individuals, noting that, “It is most difficult to talk about the influence of major businessmen and the leaders of large companies because it is a group which not only does not seek publicity, but often even intentionally avoids it.
This is why in the list itself the public only outlined less than 15-20 more notable names. Analysts-economists speaking on various financial topics were somewhat more visible for the public.”
According to the director, the leading positions in the list of the most influential are unsurprising.
“What is more unexpected is the ascent of Lietuvos Geležinkeliai head Mantas Bartuška. However knowing the weight of this company and the unexpected transformation the company has experienced in the past year, I would not dare claim that he does not deserve the position,” he notes.
I. Zokas points out one has to admit that for most people in the country it is rather difficult to name the most influential business representatives in the country.
“This probably requires access to private information which reaches the news media only during various scandals. However I would like to see more representatives of technology business and contemporary management in at least the list of perceived influential figures, that the thoughts of businesspeople forming a modern Lithuania would reach not only the business community, but also the ears of citizens not creating businesses,” Zokas said.
Not dismissing political aspirations
57 year old R. Dargis, once more selected the most influential businessperson in the country, has been representing the country’s industrialists since 2012. The businessman has a degree in engineering and was the president’s public advisor in 2001-2003. He has also been the executive chairman of the real estate company Eika since 1993.
When asked what influenced his own life and business the most, R. Dargis answered Delfi that, “The first is no doubt my family. My grandfather, my father, who established all the values, duty, responsibility. These are the core which forms a person.
If we are to speak of my duties, responsibilities and work, no doubt all the family values are settled in the family in early childhood. Likely this follows throughout life. I am convinced these are the most important things.”
When asked how much attention is dedicated to the advice of the industrialists and their leader at the cabinet and other institutions, R. Dargis pointed out that the LPK has always been a fairly influential institution. While sometimes it is believed that its members only care about their business, this is not the case.
“When I entered the LPK, I changed that understanding and clearly demonstrated that the growth of the state is the common interest of all our public groups. When speaking of state welfare, matters needed for its growth, I did not only focus on business conditions, which no doubt are naturally one of the major expectations of our members.
But most importantly I accented that objectively speaking there are conditions for our state to reach welfare – through education, through state administrative quality, demographic matters. In other words I believe that industrialists have a sufficiently broad spectrum of influence to develop our country’s welfare.”
According to Dargis sometimes government representatives listen to the position presented by him and his organisation and sometimes they do not.
“Whatever it may be, we are only one public group speaking of what it needs, what should be changed. But there are various parties, coalitions which have their own visions, there is the academic community.
Various public groups do so, but it is gladdening that many of our proposals land in the government’s programmes. I believe that the voice of the industrialists is heard both among the government and the public,” R. Dargis mused.
Asked about potential political aspirations, he did not dismiss them.
“Currently I have not fully answered this question. Perhaps I am considering what direction to take in the future, I still have energy. Production matters, companies, I have passed on to my son, he is sufficiently successfully implementing our programmes, I only remain the executive chairman.
In other words there is yet strength to do something. What role? I do not know, time will tell, we’ll see.”
Government listens to fill a checkbox
53 year old advisor to the SEB bank president, G. Nausėda was once seen as a realistic candidate to the post of the country’s president. After completing economics studies he considered an academic career for a time, but after working in state institutions, he swapped the position of an executive at the Bank of Lithuania to working in Vilnius Bank, which later turned into SEB.
The passionate collector of antique books linked to Lithuania did not put much stock in being voted one of the most influential economists in the country, stating that, “It is a pleasant recognition, but I do not believe that economists are influential in Lithuania in that they can influence decisions in one way or another. On the other hand, famous economists can at least raise certain problems to the public and they can be discussed.
As for how decisions are made in Lithuania, it is a big mystery to me. I imagine that it is a sort of complex bureaucratic aggregate which is a mixture of all sorts of things, but finally an unexpected decision appears from the apparatus, some sort of product.
Truth be told it is often hard to tell who has what influence on this apparatus. Sometimes the impression arises that even highly ranked officials of the state have fairly limited influence. Our impact is perhaps that we sometimes say, like that mirror, that someone is not the prettiest in the world, that is to say in Lithuania. Perhaps this is why we are sometimes rather disliked.”
When asked how much influence his words have at work and in the public sphere, G. Nausėda admitted he understands that due to his office he may be accused of bias.
“Everything is great at work, while in the public sphere I try to avoid sitting on two chairs and actively push for solutions. I understand that sometimes my proposals may be viewed as those of the institution I work for.
Perhaps this is why in work those rating or trust metrics are justified because you try to work based on your conscience. If I think something, that is what I will say, regardless of what institution I represent,” the economist spoke.
He did not conceal that the government only takes formal note of some advice by economists:
“When you interact with government institutions, you cannot say that we are ignored, but the impression arises that we are only invited for the photo op and the appearance that there have been consultations, some sort of presentation, participation, that the checklist has been filled. But that some sort of decisions would be born in those meetings and forums, I wish I could, but I certainly can’t say.”
When asked of his own view of the most influential businessmen or economists over the past century, G. Nausėda pointed to inter-war figures.
“If we are to speak of inter-war Lithuania, I would say that one of the most influential during 1918-1940 was Vladas Jurgutis, particularly in the first decade of work. Also the brothers Vailokaitis – speaking of business they no doubt had great influence.
If we are to speak of the past 27 years, it could be difficult to single someone out. We know of businessmen who shone brightly over the past decades, but calling them influential… You see at the same time it is hard for me to say why economists and businessmen are in one group, the criteria are rather unclear,” mused G. Nausėda, adding that the history of independent Lithuania is still fresh and not all figures have been fully evaluated.