VILNIUS - Due to large budget cuts to the Defense Ministry, the nation's defense system will shed 422 positions in 2009. The job cuts will include both eliminating vacant positions and dismissing or failing to extend the contracts of existing employees.
A total of 226 professional service troops and 196 public servants and contracted employee positions have already been cut for 2009, the minister's spokeswoman said.
She said soldiers whose age requires transfer to the reserve, as well as terminating expiring labor contracts, will be laid off.
"The reduction of the number of civilian employees 's civil servants and those working under labor contracts 's will first of all involve giving up the vacant positions. But we will have to discharge some employees, as well. We have currently planned discharge of 77 employees, part of whom have already received notices," Danguole Bickauskiene told the Baltic News Service.
Those who are laid off will join the nations growing unemployment ranks, which are currently at around 150,000, the national Statistics Department repoorted.
Bickauskiene said the dismissal of some of the civilians would involve sacking janitors or support staff. She said that cleaning and security services among others, would now be outsourced.
She also added that the management reform would result in further cuts in the number of cleaning and support staff.
So far, no lay offs of public servants have been planned, but the possibility has not been ruled out.
The Defense Ministry's budget has been cut by 89.6 million litas (26 million euros) in 2009, including a 6 percent decrease in personnel budget and 16.7 percent drop in utilization spending.
The ministry will receive 168.7 million litas less than planned this year and reported receiving 114.7 million litas less than promised in 2008. The defense budget will amount to 1.163 billion litas, or 1.01 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP).
Defense spending in NATO member-states averages 2 percent of GDP, though Lithuania has never reached the funding level.
In 2007, Lithuania's 1.18 percent of GDP ranked 22nd among 26 NATO countries in terms of defense spending (excluding Iceland, which has no army). Latvia and Estonia spent 1.61 percent and 1.62 percent of national GDPs, respectively, that year.
Since 2005, Lithuania's GDP share for defense declined steadily, with 1.23 percent in 2005, 1.18 percent in 2006 and 2007 and 1.12 percent last year.
Military experts recently warned that the country risks destabilizing its army if it cuts the budget any further.
Lithuania's move to make further cuts of the defense funding would jeopardize international commitments, the head of the parliamentary National Security and Defense Committee, Arvydas Anusauskas, has said.
"At the moment we are able to operate and meet all of our international commitments by reorganizing funds in the army, but if it was reduced further we would not be able to," Anusauskas told The Baltic Times earlier this month.