Why are the Social Democrats fighting forestry reform?

Lithuanian forest in the winter
DELFI / Karolina Pansevič

The forestry reform prepared by the “Farmers” will become the first real test of the coalition government. The Social Democrats have already declared that they will not support the reform which will merge the 42 current forestries into one. Furthermore they complain that the “Farmers” are not even informing their partners what reforms they are planning and are dictating conditions without asking their opinion. Is the forestry reform possible to implement and why are the Social Democrats struggling against it, Alfa.lt asked?

During a visit to the Info TV studio Social Democrat Juozas Olekas said that the party has sufficient experience in this case to state its opinion how this area should be managed. That said the politician admits that there were numerous disputes during the previous term as well and dissent in the party.

“Having listened to the opinions of foresters and specialists we have currently presented our amendments, they are registered, as to how reform this sphere so that it would be both economically effective and socially adaptable, adhering to ecological considerations,” J. Olekas said during the show.

The Social Democrat agrees that his party’s vision differs from the reform proposed by the Minister of the Environment, however he pours on criticism toward the minister, that the transfer of forestries into one company would not fulfil goals set or the future.

“I had the opportunity to get acquainted with the presented version. I believe that those mergers would not accomplish goals, of ensuring stable economic performance and strengthening the regions,” the politician said.

That said during the show J. Olekas dismissed talks of the SocDems opposing the reform in order to “prevent the destruction of their party circle”.

Journalist from DELFI Birutė Davidonytė also attending the show noted that the Social Democrats have the most forestry heads, a total of seven.

“There is no surprise in the Social Democrats opposing this. They have long opposed this reform, during the last term as well. My version is such that it is just that numerous heads of forestries belong to this political organisation. Why would a party member in Seimas harm party members in the forest,” the journalist quipped.

J. Olekas claimed that he presented his own proposal how to best reform the forestries and that discussion to reach the optimum variant can be done.

Meanwhile the journalist presented a number of questions during the Infot TV show, all of which raise numerous questions. One of them is regarding forestries that have been led by the same person for decades.

“The oldest forestry head was appointed in 1985. He has worked in that cosy spot for 30 years. There are ten of them who entered their position prior to 1995. Eight are of retirement age, but cannot be fired because they are protected by law,” B. Davidonytė presented specific numbers.
She noted that heads of Lithuanian forestries are some of the most influential figures at the region level, often also having political backing, thus firmly remaining in their posts for many years.

“Heads of forestries are always very influential in the regions. First of all they oversee funding because the forestries organise public procurements themselves, something I find incomprehensible. If we move it all from the regions to the centre, it is already a preventative measure against corruption because when local officials and local companies work, it is not difficult to come to terms,” the journalist said.

B. Davidonytė also added that the sums that “walk around” in the forestries’ public procurements are impressive, reaching millions of euro.

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