The new Saulius Skvernelis government presented their official plan for the coming four years. The government programme is comprised of 132 pages which narrate the main Peasant and Greens – Social Democrat coalition tasks. News portal Alfa.lt reviews the main and most interesting aspects of the programme.
First – commitment to tax changed to declarations
During the electoral campaign, the Peasant and Greens leadership proposed various ideas on tax and pension system reform, but the new “Peasant”-SocDem programme is evasive regarding any change in these areas.
The cabinet document is rife with value indications that assure that the tax system should be simpler, more transparent, more rational, more effective or clearer, but no more specific plans for tax change are indicated. For example earlier the “Peasants” often presented the idea of merging employee and employer taxation, which is now only something that the government will analyse the validity of.
The programme also mentions the possibility of establishing progressive taxation, but at the same time it outlines that it will only be done when public opinion is favourable to it.
The cabinet appears to also not have a clear opinion on controversial VAT exemptions. The programme simply states that most of these exemptions “are socially unjust”, but no specific decisions are mentioned.
Having earlier spoken of intentions to set indexed untaxed income sizes, the “Peasant”-SocDem programme states it will just review the potential for it.
Second – more careful about raising pensions
The government programme continues to mention plans for pension reform, but these are not very detailed. For now stage one pensions would be comprised of the main pension from the state budget, the second – from the Sodra pension which depends on accumulated payments and the third is for now a non-detailed accumulated pension financed by voluntary payments, with the fourth being privately accumulated pension.
Nevertheless, the main bait for pensioners – the 40 euro rise in average retirement pensions – is discussed more carefully in the programme now. Apparently the financial capacities of the state will be reviewed. On the other hand there are pledges of completing pension compensation processes by July 1 next year.
Third – private capital disappoints in the heating infrastructure
The section on the energy sector pledges to provide attention to renewables and synchronising electricity infrastructure with Western Europe.
“One of the priority tasks is a total electricity infrastructure reclamation and connection with the electricity networks of continental Europe for synchronous work. In the short term Lithuania must implement another major energy infrastructure task – the withdrawal from the Russian electricity system and a connection with the networks of continental Europe,” proposes the government programme.
It also expresses concern about the Astravyets nuclear power plant being built in Belarus, close to the Lithuanian border. Furthermore there are mentions that failing to halt the construction works, there are plans to not accept electricity from the plant into the Lithuanian market.
The programme also expresses disappointment with the renting of heating infrastructure to the private sector. Supposedly “in most cases the private sector failed to reach expectations – did not reduce heating prices”. Finally it adds that new projects must be implemented only after performing cost and benefit analysis.
Fourth – forcing employers to rage wages?
The cabinet promises to create a national programme for raising citizens’ wages and thus resolving the problem of low wages. One of the proposed methods – a national agreement with political parties and business on raising wages. Supposedly businesses will be interested in raising wages if their competitors do the same. The programme points out that such a model is employed in Scandinavian countries.
At the same time there are pledges of not only accenting liberalisation in labour relations, but also collective negotiations. There are mentions of encouraging state companies to sign collective labour agreements with labour unions.
Fifth – no more student “basket”?
Despite earlier wavering, in the programme the “Peasants” have maintained their intent to reform the student “basket” approach. The document states that a new payment system and class composition model will be implemented, while teachers’ wages will depend on qualification, differing work conditions and number of students.
Regarding changes in higher education, the new government promises to create a model of financing which would cover the cost of studies for Lithuanians studying at the most prominent foreign universities in return for a pledge to return to Lithuania.
Sixth – state monopoly on alcohol only if need be
During the campaign period, the “Peasant” intentions to create a state monopoly on alcohol sales was met with controversy. The government programme concedes that Lithuania has an alcohol problem, but only firmly promises to make the regulation for issuing alcohol licences stricter and raising excises. Meanwhile the state alcohol sales monopoly is proposed only “in the need of further restriction”.
Furthermore the programme declares a goal of raising the age of purchase for strong alcohol up to 20 and “analysing possibilities” for setting a zero permille limit to blood alcohol content for all drivers.
The new government’s stance on gambling is somewhat more relaxed. The new programme no longer has any specific pledges to prohibit gambling adverts, instead there are ample general statements about intentions to make the protection of vulnerable social groups from the negative impacts of gambling more strict.
Seventh – dual citizenship is a go, but unclear how
The government programme has ample promises related to improvements in the judicial system. For example the document proposes to open the possibility for all citizens to appeal to the Constitutional Court, implement the position of associate judges and create the position of special public prosecutor. There are also aims to establish a Human Rights Defence Agency.
There are good news for emigrants in the programme – they are to be permitted to have dual citizenship, but it is unclear as to how this will be implemented.
Eight – ministries to go to Kaunas, Seimas to be elected in spring
The “Peasants” managed to transfer a number of the constitutional reforms they have planned into the government programme. The document pledges to bar members of Seimas from becoming ministers, while Seimas elections are to move to the start of the year, so that the new government would have better chances of forming a budget.
Analogously, the promises to move the ministries of environment and agriculture to Kaunas. There are also mentions of “merging certain ministries”.
Ninth – no more corruption in Seimas
Traditionally a part of the government programme is dedicated to combatting corruption. One of the means for this is to be a ban of at least ten years in taking elected office. This means that those who were recently convicted for corruption charges would be unable to take posts in Seimas or municipal councils, nor could they become presidents.
Tenth – a thirteenth of the programme is dedicated to foreign policy
The majority of the government programme is comprised of domestic policy questions, thus foreign and security policy comprise only the final nine pages. There is little new in them – pledges to support the Ukrainian, Georgian and Moldavian pursuits of Euro-Atlantic integration, strengthen relations with the USA, while also strengthening ties with Poland.
Regarding Russia, the new government will essentially pursue current Lithuanian foreign policy guidelines and states that Vilnius should encourage Moscow to “relinquish the use of force, military aggression and other illegal actions in international politics” and “repair the harm done to the international security architecture and neighbouring country sovereignty, as well as their territorial integrity”.
Finally the document also holds to the commitment to reach 2% GDP spending for national defence not by 2020, but by 2018.