The Lithuanian government plans to introduce food coupons with a pilot project to be launched next year. The scheme is aimed at supporting families in financial need and small businesses, though critics doubt its effectiveness.
The government plans to distribute food coupons to families with small children who would then be able to exchange them for products at designated shops.
Since the scheme constitutes government subsidies to businesses, the Ministry of Agriculture has sought the green light from the European Commission. It said that government can provide up to €200,000 in support to a business over the course of three years without the permission from the EC.
The programme will be open to small businesses with up to 10 employees and annual turnover of under €2 million.
The scheme is to be financed by the government, with funds for the pilot project to come from the EU's rural development programme.
“We hope that the pilot project [...] will prove successful, we will then move forward,” said Virginija Žoštautienė of the Ministry of Agriculture.
The scheme would only be expanded if the pilot project shows the need for it, she added.
The Lithuanian government said last October that the food coupons would be available to families with pre-school-age children. They could get up to three 10-euro coupons each month.
The scheme has been criticised for creating additional red tape, though. Marius Dubnikovas of the Lithuanian Business Confederation has commented to BNS that food coupons are an antiquated and inefficient measure that would require significant public investment and administrative resources.