Parliament grants approval for painful social reforms

  • 2000-12-14
VILNIUS, (ELTA) - The Lithuanian parliament approved by a narrow majority Dec. 7 the controversial government-pushed amendments to national legislation that would guarantee employed pensioners only a minimum pension irrespective of either their age or salary size.

Other changes would entail curtailment of pensions for pension-age invalids to merely the basic part of pension, acceleration of pension age and introduction of compulsory insurance records to make persons eligible for sickness and maternity benefits.

A package of these unpopular measures, the recent target of criticism from the elderly, would save over 120 million litas ($30 million) for the State Social Insurance Fund, whose budget deficit has nearly hit the limit of 500 million litas.

Vilija Blinkeviciute, social welfare minister in the new centrist government, said that her (Conservatives-dominated) ministry had prepared the controversial reform a year ago but lacked political will to bring it to Parliament. The minister affirmed that whatever the outcome of deliberations in Parliament was, discussions on the critical plight of the insurance fund would speed up the creation of accumulative insurance funds and essential social reform.

Arturas Melianas, chairman of the social welfare committee in Parliament, said in further debates Parliament would heed various motions and introduce more changes to soften the impact of reform on the low-income population. But the committee leader argued that rejection of the aforesaid amendments, as proposed by the opposition, would mean deeper problems for the fund and the country would soon reach the limit of no-money-left for all pensioners.