Tuesday, 4 March 2008

25% of Lithuanians Still Haul Water by Bucket

I was going to write about something else, but I saw this article and it fit so well with a radio program I heard this morning. The program reported that salaries in Lithuania were the lowest in the EU and that the difference between what normal workers and and upper-level managers make was the biggest in the Baltic States (a geographical region that includes Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, three countries that for 40 years were part of the U.S.S.R.).

If anyone reads Lithuanian, the article can be found here: http://www.delfi.lt/news/ringas/lit/article.php?id=16179747. I won't translate the entire article.

25% of Lithuanians Still Haul Water by Bucket

Every fourth inhabitant of this country still hauls water by bucket, and 33% of Lithuanians are living in poverty in one way or another, Dr. Romas Lazutka, a professor of philosophy at Vilnius University, said. Although it's obvious that some citizens are living a "Western European" lifestyle, the economic situation of others has changed little in the past 20 years.

-Has the gap between the rich and the poor grown larger?
-It has without a doubt because those who are rich are growing richer and the situation of those who live on the streets isn't changing and isn't likely to change. When we're talking about poverty, we shouldn't talk only about people who live on the street. It's worth asking whether the gap between the rich and the poor, not only people who live on the street, is getting bigger.

-A couple of years ago, there was a lot of talk about two Lithuanias. Can we still say that there are two Lithuanias?
-It's possible to say that, but in that case we're not talking only about poverty in Lithuania. I'd say that we could also talk about the division between people who have the power to make decisions and those who don't. But speaking in terms of money, the salary gap in Lithuania is the largest in the EU. The wealthiest 20% are making 8 times more money than the poorest 20%. The average in the EU is 5 times more.

-What did you have in mind by saying that some Lithuanians live a "Western European" lifestyle?
-Such people travel abroad a couple of times a year, have a nice house or apartment, own a new car, don't overwork or save money at the cost of their health, and can take advantage of all types of entertainment.
But surveys show that 30% of Lithuanians cannot even leave their homes for a week during their vacations. Such households still burn wood for heating and cooking and don't have any money to pay for the most necessary home repairs.
(The next section talks about what indicators the professor is using to measure poverty. I'll skip that.)

-Are there a lot of people living in poverty in our country?
-Yes, more than 20% according to income and 30-50% according to other measurements. For example 25% of Lithuanians still haul their water by bucket from a well.

-Yes. About the same percentage still have only outhouses, no indoor plumbing. And there is no government program to combat this problem in the countryside. (But let me add that such conditions can also be found in the capital of Lithuania.) The houses there are falling apart, have no running water...

-Why isn't more said about poverty in the country?
-People don't want to talk about inequality because they connect it with Bolshevism. They just don't understand how much this problem has been discussed over the past hundred years and how it is viewed in civilized capitalistic countries.
The topic of poverty is also avoided by the richest group, who are not particularly patriotic or good citizens...

1 comment:

CuzNuz Ruth said...

Sad. It's really sad to see some of the results of all those years under communism but we have some of the same attitudes right here in the States.