VILNIUS - Despite calls by management of Vilnius European Capital of Culture 2009 (VECC) to disband the company in the face of budget shortfalls, the prime minister has said the project will go ahead as planned.
VECC suggested to its two parent organizations, the Ministry of Culture and the Vilnius Municipality, that the company be disbanded because the administrative costs of paying the 43 staff at the organization amount to 3.8 million litas (1.1 million euros) 's money which would be better utilized for the projects themselves.
"Administration won't have anything to do because there is no money for marketing and administration work. We don't have any duties, so it is better to give them to the culture projects," Albertas Barauskas, the VECC press officer, told The Baltic Times about the cascading funding problems.
Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius was shocked to hear of the proposal and urged organizers to go ahead with the planned program.
"I can only say that Vilnius 's European Capital of Culture is in the works and will continue to be. Twenty-five million litas has been allocated toward this cause," Kubilius said.Kubilius said the sum is considerable in terms of the current economic situation Lithuania is facing.
"And I would opt for a stop to these discussions on whether the money is sufficient or not, and instead take-off with actual implementation of those programs, which can be implemented," the prime minister said.
VECC's administrative costs come to 3.8 million litas, Barauskas said. The Vilnius Municipality is responsible for funding, but the city budget for 2009 is yet to be approved.
The Vilnius municipality should provide funds for 4.3 million litas worth of cultural, arts and public projects, 7 million litas worth of national program marketing and communication, as well as 3.8 million litas for administrative costs.
However, the money that has been allocated to the project following the heavy cuts seen earlier in the year is only about 5.2 million litas.
Barauskas said this two-thirds shortfall is why the company has suggested disbanding itself, adding that it was just one suggestion of many.
Elona Bajoriniene, director of the VECC, told The Baltic Times that she and her colleagues are working around the clock on a special committee set up by the prime minister to find solutions to the funding problems.
"There are state businesses that had a profit last year and maybe it is possible to approach them and ask how they would look at the situation and see if their profit could be given to the program. This is one of the ideas for the solutions."
"Another idea is that that additional funding could come when the state budget would be revised during the year. Even if the economical situation would decline, it would be seen as a priority project," she said.
The VECC has been granted 25 million litas from the state budget for the 2009 program, with the money to be directly administered by the Ministry of Culture.
Head of the specially appointed task force on procuring funds for the VECC, Government Chancellor Deividas Matulionis, has proposed that the program turn to in-house resources and said there will be no additional financing on the government's part."The prime minister is well aware of the significance of the program, but the economic situation calls for being straightforward 's we are in quite a bit of a slump, the budget situation is tense, perhaps there can be some trimming and cutting to fit within the 25 million litas frame, lets try and find a solution," Matulionis said in a session of the parliamentary Education, Science and Culture Committee.
The VECC financing issue has been a hot topic in parliamentary committees and commissions in recent weeks, but no specific solution has been found for the 7 million litas gap in the program's budget.
In mid-January, the European Commission's mission in Vilnius expressed regret over the budget cuts of VECC. Vilnius is the first capital city in Eastern Europe to be granted the prestigious title of European Capital of Culture. Vilnius assumed this title in 2009 along with Austria's city of Linz.