September 14, Electoral debates on economics – key points

Electoral debates on economics in LRT, September 14
LRT stopkadras

– Clash between the Chairman of the Social Democrats Algirdas Butkevičius and Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD) Chairman Gabrielius Landsbergis on the topic of poverty.

o Landsbergis pointed out a 4% increase from 18% to 22% in poverty over Butkevičius’ tenure as PM. He also noted increasing emigration rates, stating that “An entire airplane of people emigrates from Lithuania every day.”

o Butkevičius counters that poverty was caused by pension withholding done by the previous Conservative government, citing current difficulties of repaying owed pensions. Cites another €90 million needed to conclude repayment and €220 million repaid so far.

o Landsbergis notes that repayment could have been done earlier by taking a loan, given the currently favourable interest rates. Accuses coalition government of using the matter as a populist tool.

o Butkevičius responds that populism would have precisely been that sort of borrowing.

– Butkevičius cites poverty, uneven development of regions and the scale of the black market as key concerns.

– Social Democrats are intent on continuing raising the tax-free income level, primarily for those who earn under €1000. Also considering raising tax-free income levels for each child, regardless of family income. Also speak for a smart tax administration system.

– PM Butkevičius hints at potential new taxes in 2018, mentions discussions on taxing luxury property.

Kęstutis Daukšys, speaking for the Labour Party, cites the education system, attracting investment and “assuring that people are paid wages that permit a respectable life” as key foci. Expressed support for working toward average wages of at least €1100 and minimum wages of no less than €650.

o Criticised by Saulius Skvernelis, speaking for the Lithuanian Peasant and Greens Union (LVŽS), who expresses discontent with perceived populism. Urges building such discussions on clear criteria instead of offering promisses.

– Daukšys speaks for not taxing the minimal monthly wage.

– Skvernelis critical of decision to overrule President‘s veto, but in support of a renewed labour code, albeit with the ammendments the President recommended. Mentions black market as a key economic concern.

– Skvernelis states VAT exemptions are simply populism.

– Landsbergis speaks of need to use EU funding to attract further investment, improve professional education and increase individual mobility within Lithuania. Expresses scepticism over reducing VAT.

– TS-LKD and LVŽS in agreement over matters of taxation and labour force payment system reform.

o Such reform is backed by expert recommendations according to Ingrida Šimonytė, former Finance Minister and current candidate for TS-LKD.

o Skvernelis suggests unifying the income tax, mandatory health insurance and Sodra tax into one tax at a 29% tariff, leaving only the 9% pension tariff separate. This would benefit citizens regardless of income because currently taxation ranges from 35% to 45% depending on income bracket.

Eugenijus Gentvilas, speaking for the Liberal Movement, cites excessive taxation as the biggest obstruction for the economy. He also criticises the state monopoly in the economic sector.

– Liberal Movement speaks for equalising minimal monthly wage and tax-free income level. Also suggest to decrease Sodra tax by 1% every year, introduce a 0% income tax for businesses investing in the creation of new jobs and business expansion.

– Gentvilas also speaks for privatization of state-owned companies.

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