Problems in the coalition
This week, the ruling coalition of Social Liberals and Liberals looked more fragile than ever. First, in an interview, President Valdas Adamkus pondered the possibility of forming a broad government with the possible participation of the now oppositional Social Democrats. Then the Seimas managed to ward off an immediate crisis by postponing the evaluation of government activities until 14 June.
Lately, the Cabinet, especially Prime Minister and Liberal Rolandas Paksas, has been under increasing fire from its coalition partner, the Social Liberals, for its poor performance. Rumour has it the main reasons for such attacks are the fight over the impeding privatisation of Lietuvos Dujos (Lithuanian Gas) and the coming presidential elections. The final decision about the Lietuvos Dujos privatision will be made next week.
While Liberals maintain they will not enter any alliance with the leftist Social Democrats, Paksas retreated for a short holiday to Nida to celebrate his 45th birthday.
Seimas wins freedom from government
The Seimas passed amendments to budget finance and Parliament statute law that willforce the Cabinet to allocate the sums demanded by the Seimas itself in future budgets. The government opposed such amendments, saying the measure will cause problems in the overall budget, since if the Parliament decides to increase its financing, the money would have to come from other areas, such as health or education.
The oppositional Conservatives voted against the proposals, stating that such steps demonstrate a mistrust of government. However, advocates of the changes say the new laws will keep the cabinet from financially blackmailing the Seimas.
World Bank loan may be postponed
World Bank representatives in the Baltic states proposed to extend for a year the deadline for granting the second half of a structural reform loan to Lithuania. In total, the bank should offer 108 million euros, half of which has already reached the country.
According to the bilateral agreement, the second half would come if the government successfully continues with structural reforms. The Bank says it wants to hold the loan because of serious problems with the privatisation of the energy and agriculture sectors.
Exibition in Kaunas
Last weekend, a huge business exibition in Kaunas placed emphasis on establishing contacts and furthering investment in Lithuania's second largest city. President Valdas Adamkus attended with about 6000 other visitors.
Approximately 200 enterprises, selected for their contribution to the innovative promotion of Kaunas, took part in the exhibition.
Savings bank sold
Estonian Hansabank bought Lithuanian Savings Bank for LTL (Lithuanian litas) 150 million (USD 37.5 million), and on 8 June, after Hansabank transferred the money to the State Property Fund, it became the official owner. Hansabank pledged to invest LTL 200 million (USD 50 million) in the coming two years. As a result of immediate replacements, all board member are now Estonian.
Arūnas Šikšta, chairman of the new board, suffered an immediate setback. A court in Vilnius ruled that in his previous job in Hansabankas, he systematically violated the law on the prevention of money laundering. Šiukšta was in charge of the bank when it failed to inform the tax office about two suspicious transactions in which Russian citizens withdrew about USD 6 million (LTL 24 million) from accounts.
Exam results dissapoint some
The first high school exam results started rolling in this week with some unexpected shocks and disappointments for schoolchildren.
For the first time, the Lithuanian language and literature exam was made into a state exam, meaning that higher education institutions use the scores for enrollment without any further testing. Many youngsters, therefore, went for this option. However, around 16 per cent of 15,000 pupils failed to pass. In schools where the language of instruction is one other than Lithuanian, the failure rate was 6.4 per cent.
Lithuanian literature hits shelfs
Last week, the Writers Club presented an anthology of Lithuanian literature published in Poland by publisher Ksiazka I Wiedza. The volume covers the literature, both poetry and prose, of the 1990s and is called Mindaugas' Dream. It encompasses around 30 works by contemporary Lithuanian authors.
Bikes in Vilnius
The municipality of Vilnius started the action "Go with the orange bike" to encourage the use of environmentally friendly means of transportation in the overcrowded capital. Mayor Artūras Zuokas himself went to work on a bike. Around 1000 bikes will be placed in Vilnius' central streets for public use. Painted in an unusual orange colour, the bicycles have special marks legible to police and will be locked up at ten pm.
And in other news...
- A European congress of local and regional governments recommended that municipalities be allowed to collect local taxes and allocate sufficient financing for increased services.
- Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen offered help from Finnish nuclear energy specialists to improve security and the proper disposal of nuclear waste at the Ignalina nuclear power plant.
- Agriculture Minister Kęstutis Krištinatis announced the end of price controls on milk bought from farmers. Instead, aid will come via an investment programme.
- The unemployment level is falling for a second month and now stands at 12.3 per cent.
- The state security department announced that about 200 cases have disappeared from police archives in Klaipėda.
- For three days and nights, the Klaipėd a jazz festival pulled in crowds, and more than 120 artists, from the world over.
Inga Pavlovaitė, 8 June 2001
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