Lithuanian capital's mayor-elect to face financial chaos in city

GMT 07:13 2015 Thursday ,19 March

Arab Today, arab today Lithuanian capital's mayor-elect to face financial chaos in city

Lithuanian capital's mayor Remigijus Simasius
Vilnius - XINHUA

The Lithuanian capital Vilnius' financial problems will be the main challenge during the first year in term, Remigijus Simasius, Vilnius mayor-elect, predicts.
The representative of the Liberal Movement was elected in the mayoral run-off on Sunday, outdistancing the former long serving mayor Arturas Zuokas.
This week, the negotiations over the establishment of the ruling coalition in the Vilnius City Municipality Council have been taking place. The final decision regarding the coalition should be made next week as each party participating in the negotiations will have to hold internal discussions.
"There's a financial chaos at the municipality and that's obvious from the audit reports," Simasius said in an interview with BNS news agency.
"My goal is to go through this financial minefield this year in a way that would allow the city to function as smoothly as possible," he added.
A partial selling off of municipal assets is on the mayoral agenda as well, Simasius noted.
Vilnius debt amounted to 1.2 billion Litas (around 369 million U.S. dollars) in 2014, municipal data shows. The capital city's 2015 budget was approved with a deficit of almost 15 percent, Simasius stressed.
According to him, the municipality will need to borrow 70 million euros (76.5 million U.S. dollars) this year to fund the operating costs, such as streets lighting, cleaning services or wages for kindergarten staff.
"I am perfectly aware that the first year will be the most difficult," the new head of the city said.
Simasius insisted he would stick to cutting non-effective costs rather than imposing belt-tightening policy on Vilnius citizens.
Improved competitive environment in Vilnius' heat-supply and utilities services, reforming public transport, continuation of the most important infrastructure projects will be on the mayor's top agenda this year.
Algirdas Butkevicius, prime minister of Lithuania, said during elections on Sunday he was expecting the mayor of Vilnius and his team to cooperate fluently with the government when implementing projects financed from the state budget and European funds.
The construction of Lithuania's national stadium and the Vilnius western bypass, reconstruction of sports palace are among the projects in which the government hopes for active municipal participation.
Simasius believes it is more important to make the current system of buses and trolley buses work more effectively and encourage the city dwellers to use public transport more, instead of driving their own cars.
Simasius also vowed to privatize municipal taxi company Vilnius Veza, arguing that its maintenance extends financial burden on the city's budget. Vilnius Veza was created by the former mayor Arturas Zuokas.
Zuokas implemented a few initiatives to reform the current public transport system, such as introducing of high-speed bus routes and ban of private small buses.
Zuokas also made efforts to create Vilnius metro system. However, the project became a subject of intense public debate in the city and was put aside due to environmental and other concerns.
The new mayor also faces quite a few social problems to solve, such as lack of places in Vilnius kindergartens, which thus leaves a few affordable options for young families. Problem of childcare will become a subject for the very first meeting of the new municipal council, Simasius promised.
He also claimed "no problems" for gay parades in the capital city. "We must enjoy democracy in Vilnius," Simasius was quoted as saying by BNS news agency.
Simasius, born in 1974, is a Lithuanian jurist and politician. He served as a minister of justice from 2008 to 2012, and was a member of the Seimas (Lithuanian parliament) from 2012 to 2016.

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