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Julius Sabatauskas, Gintautas Paluckas
© DELFI / Orestas Gurevičius

Vilnius vice Mayor and member of the Social Democrat Party (LSDP) presidium Gintautas Paluckas warns that the coalition with the Peasant Greens (LPGU) is a trap for the Social Democrats. In his opinion the Peasant Greens have a strategic aim to have a silent and inactive SocDem Party at their side, thus it will be necessary to renegotiate relations with the coalition partners.

Talking at a Saturday LSDP council meeting, G. Paluckas said that currently the Social Democrats are rubbing at sharp edges and destroying the party’s ratings. As the newest poll figures published on Saturday show, compared to September, the Social Democrat’s popularity decreased from 16% to 7%.

According to him if the SocDems are truly a value based party, it should be gravely concerned by the principle that people who can lead their lives and pay for their expenses are being made into benefit receivers. The politician had in mind the cabinet proposal to abolish the VAT exemption for heating costs.

“This is not social democracy. Social democracy is not a factory of benefits receivers. Social Democracy is the enabling of people to solve their own problems, build their lives that is emancipation, that is liberation, finally from dependency on money or the fate decided by money,” spoke G. Paluckas.

“The variant proposed by the LPGU so benevolently today that increases heating costs and will make it so the Social Support Department is flooded by another 100 or 130 thousand benefit seekers or receivers, we are receiving it with applause. Social status is an incomparably important psychological thing. People who go forth with their hand stretched out to request state support and welfare payments, they feel bad psychologically,” highlighted Paluckas. According to him the Social Democrats should not seek an increase in benefits recipients.

According to G. Paluckas “In entering a coalition with the LPGU we clearly knew that it is a forced coexistence. I publically described this coexistence as a trap because in representing the leftist powers in Lithuania we are competing with them using LPGU strategic insights. <…> Having us at the side, inactive and silent, such is the LPGU strategic goal,” noted the Social Democrat.

G. Paluckas explains that entering forced coexistence has to be accompanied by a clear strategy for coexistence, critique and argument.

Criticising for silence

The politician points out that the LSDP has failed to speak up recently, with others taking their positions. The Liberals are apparently taking the SocDems’ position on artificial insemination though it was a piece of progressive legislation passed through their efforts. The SocDems stayed silent in the case of neo-nationalism – the national costume (The LPGU leader Ramūnas Karbauskis has proposed to gift all seven year olds with a national costume). The same has apparently happened with the removal of the VAT exemption for heating, though G. Paluckas reminds that just a few weeks ago the SocDems were putting their Minister of Finance Rasa Budbergytė on a cross for proposing this.

“Speaking of our relations with the Peasant Greens, I believe that it is inevitable that we will renegotiate relations. I have no doubt that it will happen sooner or later because such a coexistence, a power balance and distribution of spheres such as this is not acceptable to us as Social Democrats. I believe that it is a matter of time and we will get back to it,” stated the Vilnius vice Mayor.

R. Žakaitienė warns of looming chaos

Lithuanian Municipality Association Director Roma Žakaitienė observed that there have been no preparations for the abolishment of the VAT exemption for heating.

“We are definitely frightened that they are trying to change methodology within one week, that over the next week something that could cause true chaos could be passed. Furthermore we are talking about one number – 140 million. The situation in the municipalities is very uneven, some save more funds, some less. Thus putting the burden on the municipalities would definitely be unfair,” warns R. Žakaitienė.

She proposes to review a certain factor – the municipalities are maintaining education institutions, thus by removing the exemption, the heating costs of kindergartens and schools will rise. She urged fellow party members to make realistic evaluations of the situation and not make rushed decisions.

Žakaitienė explains that the number of individuals receiving compensations will rise more than twice in many places, three times in some. For this extra manpower is needed and lacking a clear mechanism, massive chaos could erupt from January.

A. Butkevičius – heating prices will inevitably rise in 2017-2018

The LSDP Chairman Algirdas Butkevičius reacted to the criticisms levied by fellow members. “Firstly we have to understand politically that the removal of the VAT exemption means that it will be removed for all individuals and businesses. Beyond that there were discussions of compensating for a specific category of people who spend 20% of their income on heating at the moment. If I remember correctly there are 130 thousand such people in Lithuania, there are promises of the bar being lowered to 10%, if such a portion of income is used up for heating, then a compensation would be paid,” explained Butkevičius.

He conceded that the number of individuals receiving welfare payments will rise. Butkevičius explains that there are only two paths. One is political – not to remove the VAT exemption because the proposal was presented too late and was not thoroughly discussed in even the political council.

“Meanwhile if it is passed, then we have to clearly state that no legislation may be breached. <…> In such a case it has to be clearly identified, how much to increase direct dotations to municipalities because of course it is not an option to have municipalities pay for heating from saved funding,” spoke the Social Democrat leader.

A. Butkevičius also highlighted that in 2017-2018 heating prices will rise irrelevant of political decisions, economic, social or financial situation. Supposedly this could already happen in the second half of 2017. “It is completely unrelated to the VAT exemption. Because the last government’s hard earned discount for gas is ending, as are agreements with other companies,” explained the politician, concluding that no-one will be able to obtain discounts by this point.

Delfi reminds that the Social Democrats earned 17 seats in the Seimas elections and conceded their loss. The Social Democrats formed a coalition government with the election winners, the Peasant and Greens Union. The LSDP obtained three minister posts, that of ministers of justice, economy and foreign affairs.

On November 4, party Chairman Algirdas Butkevičius announced his withdrawal from his post as chairman and from the coalition negotiation group with the Peasant and Greens Union, but the party council denied his announcement. A new party chairman is to be elected in spring.