The Lithuanian president has nominated Ingrida Šimonytė, a former finance minister who represents the conservative Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD) party, as the country's next prime minister.
“I am convinced that Ingrida Šimonytė, the candidate for prime minister, as an experienced politician, sees the challenges facing the country and is ready to respond to them competently,” President Gitanas Nausėda told the parliament on Thursday.
Šimonytė, who is not a member of any political party, was proposed to the post by the centre-right coalition of the conservative TS-LKD, the Liberal Movement and the Freedom Party. The three parties hold 74 seats in the 141-member Seimas.
“I like her straightforward way of speaking,” President Nausėda told reporters later on Thursday. “Ingrida is good at expressing her thoughts, and I believe that she can react well to a situation [...] and make appropriate, adequate decisions, but no matter how many positive qualities there are, this requires teamwork.”
“We – the president, the government and the Seimas – should all work like a team,” he added.
Coronavirus and ‘green Lithuania’
Dealing with the pandemic is the most urgent challenge for the new government, Nausėda told the parliament.
“Today, it is our urgent task to join forces to contain the spread of Covid-19,” he said. “We must work together to reduce the negative effects of the pandemic on the healthcare system and the economy, as well as on culture and other sectors most affected [by the crisis].”
“This will be the first task of the new government, but we must also look at the future of the Lithuanian state,” he added.
Nausėda called on the new government to strive for more social justice, adequate funding for public services, eliminating unfair tax breaks, reducing income inequality, and increasing the financial independence of municipalities.
The president also wants the new government to focus on “creating a green Lithuania”, innovations and more funding for research and development.
Growing debt a key challenge
Addressing the parliament, Šimonytė said one of her tasks would be to manage the country's growing public debt.
“The state debt will jump significantly this year and will continue to grow next year,” Šimonytė told MPs on Thursday.
“We can thank the euro area that the price of that debt is favourable for us today,” she added.
Lithuania's public debt stood at 35.9 percent of GDP at the end of 2019, but is estimated to get closer to 48 percent at the end of this year due to the coronavirus crisis, and is expected to exceed 50 percent in 2021.