Action in Parliament
It has been another eventful week in the new Lithuanian Parliament. One of the first moves of newly elected speaker Artūras Paulauskas was to renounce a privileged car number, LRS 001, which was largely seen as a populist move. More seriously, the Seimas elected all four deputy speakers, namely, Gintaras Steponavičius (Liberal Union), Ramūnas Karbauskis (Peasants Party), Artūras Skardžius (New Alliance) and Česlovas Juršėnas (Social Democratic coalition).
Parties in the Seimas also divided and officially established six factions, with the largest opposition from the Social Democratic coalition composed of 48 members. The week was also marked by the setting up of the various parliamentary committees.
The coalition has managed to install their man, Rolandas Paksas, as the new prime minister. He was voted in with 79 votes for and 51 against; the latter came mainly from the Social Democratic coalition in opposition. Paksas held the post as a Conservative in 1999, but he resigned due to the contract with Williams International over the Mažeikių Nafta oil complex.
In his inaugural speech, Paksas expressed his preferences for compromise and negotiations as a policy style, but he also supports necessary reforms, especially in the social sphere. Paksas plans to scrap pensions for working pensioners and to reduce taxes, especially for the building industry. He also declared his wish for a currency board solution to the LTL (Lithuanian litas) and an upholding of 1.95 per cent of the budget for defence and 1.5 per cent for education.
As for the first steps of the new Seimas, two deserve particular attention. On 26 October, the Seimas adopted a resolution for continuity in foreign policy and, with 106 votes, changed the appointment procedure of the prosecutor-general. From now on, the President, with the consent of the Seimas, will appoint the prosecutor-general.
Lithuanian high tech
This week, Infobalt, the largest annual Information Technologies (IT) exhibition in Lithuania, opened at the Litexpo convention centre in Vilnius. Mobile phone companies Bitė GSM and Omnitel emphasised the need to increase data transmission quality with the newest technologies and to boost wireless Internet access in Lithuania.
One of the most popular attractions at the exhibition so far has been the Lithuanian company Sintagma's booth, where visitors can explore in 3D Lithuania's contribution to Expo2000.
President Valdas Adamkus, Seimas Chairman Artūras Paulauskas and Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius attended Infobalt and unanimously expressed their support and noted the importance of creating an information society in Lithuania. The first day of Infobalt drew 13,400 visitors.
Lithuanian pilot Jurgis Kairys won the World Cup in acrobatic flying in Motegi, Japan. He won the first place in two of the three stages of the competition and took second in the third stage; but that was enough to propel him into the top spot. 40,000 people were in attendence to see Jurgis Kairys win, and he said he was proud and happy to win.
Kairys recently made headlines after being fined LTL 5000 (USD 1250) for advertising tobacco products on his plane, which is prohibited under Lithuanian law. However, at the end of the day, former Seimas Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis offered to pay Kairys's fine, and the law is being reconsidered.
Opening Lithuanian society
The Open Society Fund in Lithuania was established in 1990 to foster the creation of a more democratic society. Since its inception, it has spent USD 42 million on various projects, including 800 publications and numerous events. This week it celebrated its tenth anniversary. The highlight of the event was a visit by Hungarian-born George Soros, whose money backs the project.
George Soros met with President Valdas Adamkus and Seimas Chairman Artūras Paulauskas to discuss the role of the Fund and Lithuanian affairs in general. He expressed his satisfaction with Lithuania's progress on the way to an open society and announced that he will transfer money to other parts of the world that are in need of it. In consequence, financing for the Open Society Fund in Lithuania will be cut in a half.
The lita's debut
The introduction of the LTL to foreign capital markets met with some success. For the first time, government securities, nominated in LTL, were distributed abroad. Also for the first time, they were traded through the world's largest securities clearing and settlement system, Euroclear.
And in other news...
- After their dismal showing in the elections, the Centre Union's leadership, Romualdas Ozolas and Egidijus Bičkauskas, have resigned.
- Swedish King Carl XVI Gustav was reported to have secretly visited Lithuania for a hunting holiday.
- According to the first large-scale survey made by Baltijos tyrimai, eight percent of Lithuanians use the Internet once a week. 31 percent gain access at work and 5.8 percent at home.
- The general executive of Baltijos Televizija (Baltic Television, BTV), one of the main private channels in Lithuania, Gintaras Songaila, resigned this week amidst reports of financial difficulties that the TV station is dealing with. He has been in charge ever since the station went on the air in 1993.
- Vilnius-based pharmaceuticals company Biotechna started to produce human growth hormones and medicine that fights cancer. It is the first time that medicine has been made using genetic engineering in Central Europe.
- Swedish-owned Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken (SEB) made an unexpected offer to increase the price of the largest Lithuanian bank, Vilniaus Bankas (Vilnius Bank), to LTL 50 (USD 12.50) per share. The surprise offer is even more mysterious, as SEB previously stated that LTL 40 per share would be the final price. As a result, the trade of Vilnius bank shares went up again on the stock exchange.
As of 27 October 2000
|Currency||Lithuanian litas (LTL)
|1 US dollar||4.00|
|1 British pound||5.76|
|1 German mark||1.71|
Inga Pavlovaitė, 27 October 2000
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