News2020.03.20 13:30

Former president to run Lithuania's coronavirus relief fund

Paulius Viluckas, BNS 2020.03.20 13:30

Lithuania's Finance Ministry has set up a coronavirus relief fund to be managed by former president Dalia Grybauskaitė.

People have been invited to make donations to the fund which will initially be used for purchasing protective gear, coronavirus tests and other medical equipment for health workers.

Read more: Lithuanian president backs eurozone's ‘coronavirus bonds’

“I have signed an order to set up a relief fund to help those in urgent need,” Finance Minister Vilius Šapoka said at on an online news conference on Friday.

“Every business, large or small, and every individual will be able to contribute to the fight against the virus by making donations,” he added.

According to the ministry, the fund has already raised 44,000 euros in donations.

Best-case scenario

The Lithuanian Finance Ministry estimates that the country's coronavirus-hit economy may shrink between 1.3 and 2.8 percent in 2020, if the Covid-19 epidemic is brought under control before the middle of the year.

However, the drop may be even bigger if the virus persists.

Read more: Lithuania extends 90-percent subsidies to keep jobs during coronavirus downtime

“If Lithuania and Europe fail to contain the virus within the first half [of the year], we'll have completely different figures,” Finance Minister Vilius Šapoka said on Friday while presenting the ministry's updated economic growth projections.

According to the minister, the coronavirus crisis has forced the world to take “unprecedented steps”.

Deputy Finance Minister Miglė Tuskienė said that preliminary estimates suggested the eurozone's economy contracting five percent.

“According to preliminary estimates by various international experts, a five-percent contraction is something quite realistic for the eurozone this year,” she said.

The Lithuanian economy is better placed to withstand the shock this year than it was during the 2008-2009 financial crisis, according to Tuskienė.

“The economic situation is easier. We have no serious imbalances; we have reserves,” she said.

The Finance Ministry predicts that unemployment in Lithuania will rise to 8.1 percent this year as a result of the coronavirus-induced economic downturn, but is likely to ease to 7.3 percent next year.

Inflation is expected to slow down to 1.8 percent this year before accelerating to 2 percent in subsequent years. Inflation is expected to ease despite concerns that consumer prices may rise during the quarantine, Tuskienė noted.

Wage growth is expected to decelerate to over 5 percent in 2020 and 3.9 percent in 2021.

Read more: Lithuanian economy could contract up to 2.8 percent, finance minister warns

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