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2020.05.21 12:26

Covid-19 bares weakness of Lithuania's healthcare and social security – EC

Kristina Jackūnaitė, LRT TV, LRT.lt2020.05.21 12:26

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the shortcomings of Lithuania's healthcare system, the European Commission said in a report.

Low efficiency, underfunding and limited accessibility of Lithuania's healthcare are some of the structural issues highlighted in the EC's annual report that gives recommendations to all member states.

Read more: Lithuania unveils €6.3bn 'DNA of the Future' economic stimulus plan

“Bearing in mind the previously-existing problems in the functioning of Lithuania's healthcare, we believe that this sector's resilience, accessibility and quality are particularly important at this time,” says EC representative in Lithuania Arnoldas Pranckevičius. “Which is why we suggest increasing investment [into healthcare].”

Improving the accessibility and quality of health services, increasing funding and paying more attention to disease prevention are some of the key recommendations for Lithuania.

The country's Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis, however, disagrees with the assessment, saying healthcare is functioning well.

“Patients' rights and opportunities to recover and get quality treatment show that [the system] functions pretty well,” he said.

The EC predicts Lithuanian economy contracting 7.4 percent this year due to the coronavirus crisis and has urged the government to speed up measures aimed at supporting businesses and protecting jobs.

Žygimantas Mauricas, a chief economist at Luminor bank, says government subsidies are not reaching businesses fast enough due to red tape and inexperience in deploying state support.

He believes that the government has put in too many conditions for getting support, which slows down the process and deters some businesses from even applying.

About 30 percent of the 500 million euros intended for business subsidies had been paid out by now, a government spokesman said on Wednesday.

The coronavirus crisis has shown that Lithuania's unemployment insurance system is not up to the task, either, says economist Romas Lazutka of Vilnius University.

“Only every third jobseeker is getting social benefits, which is very important during a crisis,” he says. “Unemployment is rising and there needs to be an intervention.”

In the wake of the crisis, the government introduced 200-euro monthly allowances jobseekers would be entitled to for six months.

Read more: Lithuania approves post-pandemic welfare package: €200 payouts, 6-month subsidies

However, the measure is too small and too short to address the systemic issue, Lazutka believes.

In its report, the EC has also said that Lithuania spends too little on social security and its tax system is not progressive enough, which leads to one of the highest rates of inequality and poverty in the European Union.