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Sunday 23.10.2016 | Name days: Daina, Dainida, Dainis

Week in Lithuania. Alcohol sale ban in Lithuanian petrol stations

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU

Seimas, Lithuania‘s parliament has rejected a proposal to extend the permit to sell alcoholic beverages in petrol stations until 2019. As of 1 January 2016, a provision of the Law on Alcohol Control will come into force, banning alcohol sale in the country‘s petrol stations.

The proposal to reject extension was supported by 50 MPs, with 9 votes against and 16 abstentions. Social Democrat MP Bronius Bradauskas said that the ban would result in a loss of several hundred jobs. In the opinion of the politician, illegal sale of alcohol surrogates such, as the local «pilstukas», will flourish in small towns and villages as a result and the black market will get a boost. MP Kęstutis Daukšys from the Labour Party also believes that the ban will not help to achieve the desired results – reduced access to alcohol.

Seimas: shopping centres should be closed on bank holidays

The Lithuanian parliament seeks to prohibit shopping centres to work on Easter, Christmas, January 1 and other bank holidays, in all 15 days a year. Laurynas Vilimas, the executive director of the Association of Lithuanian Trade Enterprises, said that the initiative would be very costly and hoped the parliament would change its mind. Vilimas said to the Žinių Radijas radio that «such prohibition is harmful to everyone and, first of all, to the consumer. Consumers have expressed their opinion many times that shopping centres should work on bank holidays. It is unthinkable to businesses that such a proposal could be discussed, let alone adopted. Businesses are hoping that the government will calculate how many millions of euro it will require from the state budget.»

LOT launches route with Palanga, Baltic resort

As of 28 March, LOT Polish Airlines will be offering air service between Palanga in western Lithuania and Warsaw in Poland, Palanga Airport reports. «LOT responds to the passengers’ needs, and understands that they deserve to have a wide choice of destinations, which they can reach within nearly one hour flight to Warsaw and 30 minutes transfer in Warsaw. Only LOT can offer 30 minutes connecting time for passengers travelling from Palanga to Prague and 35 minutes connecting time for passengers travelling to Vienna,» according to Marcin Celejewski, LOT‘s CEO.

Belarus to discuss Astravyets NPP with Lithuania

Belarus has said the country‘s experts will respond to all questions that Lithuania has raised about safety issues of its planned Astravyets Nuclear Power Plant in December. International experts have said that the Astravyets NPP project does not meet the environmental impact requirements. Lithuania has criticised Belarus for failing to ensure safety of the nucelar power plant which is being built 50 kilometers from the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius has travelled to Minsk after the EU and the UN renounced sanctions to Belarus. Lithuanian minister says that it is a chance for Minsk to show that the country is ready for reforms.

Meanwhile, Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius has denied reports published by the Russian media, claiming that Lithuania and Belarus had agreed on the construction of Astravets Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) as required by the Espoo convention regarding environmental impact assessment.

According to Butkevičius, Lithuania‘s questions concerning Astravets NPP construction have not been answered. This was emphasised at the sitting of the Lithuania-Belarus Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation during November 9-10. In June 2014, a meeting of the Espoo Convention parties recognised that Belarus was continuing the construction of the nuclear power plant in Astravets without complying with the convention‘s provisions – the construction had not been coordinated with neighbouring countries. Lithuania believes that construction cannot continue before an environmental impact assessment, based on Espo standards, is completed.

Lithuanian MP suggest more taxes on below-minimum wage

The Lithuanian parliament will discuss a proposal of Deputy Parliament Speaker Algirdas Sysas, a social democrat, that employers who pay their employees below minimum wage be made to pay higher contributions to the Sodra, the social insurance system. Under to the proposal, if an employee works part-time and is therefore paid less than minimum monthly wage, his or her employer would still have to pay social insurance instalments calculated for full-time salary. Sysas says that «if someone can bypass the law and claims that one can live on a 100-euro wage, I cannot believe that.»

Eligijus Masiulis, the leader of the Liberal Movement, says that «an employer will have to pay social insurance and health insurance taxes for a person who works two or three hours a day. That means it will be harder for small businesses to survive in the regions, because if they could hire people full time, they would. In other words, Sysas wants to tax income that Lithuanian citizens do not receive.»

Economic growth widens income gap in Lithuania

While average pay in Lithuania has been growing uninterruptedly for some years now, part of the population still have not felt much improvement in their financial lot. According to Statistics Lithuania, average gross monthly salary in the country was 700.9 euro in the second quarter of 2015, more than 5 percent above what it was a year before.

However, Jekaterina Rojaka, chief economist at the Lithuanian branch of DNB Bank, says only part of the population have actually benefitted from the growth. She quotes a growing market for second-hand goods as proof that social exclusion is intensifying in the country. At the moment, she says, the gap between high and low earners is at its widest since 2006. Žygimantas Mauricas, economist with Nordea bank, agrees that not everyone has benefited from economic growth, but adds that they will soon enough.

Lithuanians more satisfied with their pay

Lithuanians are increasingly satisfied with their wages, although over the past several years average pay only rose by a little more than 50 euro is now about 550 euros. Still, levels of satisfaction with wages in Lithuania are almost the same as in Estonia with the average monthly salary of 900 euro. A few years ago, many Lithuanians said they needed at least twice bigger pay to be satisfied with it, while now there are more who would be happy with a 20-percent increase. Only four percent of Lithuanians are completely satisfied with their wages, while there are 8 percent of Estonians satisfied with their wages.

Parliament session might be extended to adopt Labour Code reform

After a meeting with Parliament Speaker Loreta Graužinienė, Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius has said that the Lithuanian parliament’s autumn session could be extended to adopt the new social model. Butkevičius said that«parliament members are registering quite a lot of amendments and it could take a considerable amount of time to discuss them in parliament. Therefore, the parliament speaker and I have decided to extend the parliamentary session until January 13, unless the entire social model package is adopted by Christmas.»

Graužinienė says that because of the upcoming general elections next year, it will be impossible to adopt the new social model in the spring session. Parliament started discussing the new social model, a package of laws meant to liberalize Lithuania‘s Labour Code, in the middle of October. The new social model includes new regulation of labour relations and reform guidelines of the social insurance system.

Loan insurance company to look for Lithuanian debtors in UK

The government-run company Būsto Paskolų Draudimas, or Housing Loan Insurance, will search for people who have defaulted on their loans and emigrated to the United Kingdom. Būsto Paskolų Draudimas is a company established by the Lithuanian government 15 years ago to facilitate home ownership.

The company mostly insures housing loans taken out by young families, the banks would lower the interest rates and the amount of initial contribution. The insurance cover about 50,000 of such loans, or about a quarter of the market. However, the company found that it has around ten thousand debtors. The financial crisis of 2008 cut incomes of many households and their ability to pay back their loans. Furthermore, the value of the bought properties has diminished by half. In total, there are 200,000 Lithuanian citizens and 30,000 corporate entities in the debtor list. These two groups owe more than a billion euro each.

MP: Military conscription pushed up emigration from Lithuania

Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius says that youth emigration from the country could have been pushed up by the reinstalled compulsory military service. «If we look at the number of call-up papers that were sent out to young men to check their health before service, then we will see that many of them are abroad and the time they emigrated coincided with drafting,» said PM Bukevičius on the radio Žinių Radijas on Thursday.

The State Defence Council decided to reintroduce compulsory conscription in late February this year and parliament approved the move in March. Statistics Lithuania reports that, over the first five months of 2015, 19,000 people officially left the country, or 5,000 more than during the same time a year ago. Currently, 1,600 troops are performing their mandatory military service in the Armed Forces of Lithuania. Nearly all of them are volunteers.

Seimas refuses to vote on controversial bill

The Lithuanian parliament voted to remove the controversial bill on «denigration» of family values from its agenda. The law, which rights groups say would restrict freedom of expression, such as LGBT pride marches, was to be put for the final vote on Thursday. The bill, drafted last year by the notoriously anti-LGBT MP Petras Gražulis, proposed introducing fines for «public denigration of family», a constitutionally enshrined value, by way of statements, displays of things, posters, slogans, audiovisuals and other actions».

According to critics, the piece of legislation is a thinly-veiled attempt to ban LGBT pride marches. After the liberal MP Eligijus Masiulis proposed on Thursday, November 12, to remove the bill from the parliament‘s agenda, saying it was an affront to democracy and Lithuania‘s international reputation, 64 members voted in favour of the motion, ten opposed and 25 abstained.

Lithuanian PM supports forced alcoholism treatment

Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius says that he supports the proposal of introducing mandatory treatment of alcoholism in the country and believes that preparations for the programme could take around a year. «I am definitely in favour of such a decision.

Although some criticise such proposals, families with an alcohol-addicted member that suffer the most and where children see the bad example. It would suggest introducing this new order but, of course, it should be clearly defined by laws,» the head of the Government said on the radio Žinių Radijas on Thursday, November 12. According to him, health professionals and legal experts should find a consensus on mandatory alcoholism treatment. The idea to introduce treatment for people with alcohol addiction without their consent has been proposed by Healthcare Minister Rimantė Šalaševičiūtė. Some experts have raised concerns that forced treatment would violate people‘s rights.

Lithuania‘s banks plan more lending

According to the assessment of commercial banks, the financial status of residents and of the majority of the economic activities is improving – the survey of banks, initiated by the Bank of Lithuania, reveals that banks plan to increase loan portfolios moderately, the country‘s central bank reports.

«Bank expectations to increase lending moderately show that banks expect a healthy development of the whole economy and credit market. Interestingly, smaller market participants, which expect to grow the loan portfolio faster, intend to increase competition for the largest banks,» said Tomas Garbaravičius, member of the Board of the Bank of Lithuania. The largest banks plan to increase loan portfolios by up to 5 percent; however, smaller loan market participants predict a growth of more than 15 per cent.

Ref: 020/

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