Social ills plaguing Lithuania's regions - alcoholism, suicide, domestic violence, abuse of children and massive emigration - are as a result of "free market worship" and the government's failure to address widening inequalities between the country's thriving economic centres and periphery, said former adviser to the Lithuanian president Virginija Būdienė.
© DELFI / Mindaugas Ažušilis

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"The politicians have already written off the countryside, they only haven't said so publicly," she told DELFI.

Būdienė was President Dalia Grybauskaitė's education adviser during her first term on office, 2009-2014, and led the Domestic Policy Group in the beginning of the second term, before quitting the president's team. She is now a lecturer at the Faculty of Philosophy of Vilnius University.

Būdienė posted a critical comment on her Facebook profile, criticizing the government's response to a recent tragic domestic violence incident where a father threw his two children into a well. President Grybauskaitė has suggested setting up a new agency for child protection in families at risk.

"It is cheap political PR, since we've already got too many institutions, only they are small, weak and sluggish. The killed children are a consequence. As are massive emigration, suicides, and alcoholism," Būdienė said.

The root cause of these problems is the government's failure to pay attention to economic development and job creation in regions and the Lithuanian countryside.

Virginija Budienė
Virginija Budienė
© DELFI / Kiril Čachovskij

National and EU funds, intended for regional development, are mostly invested into infrastructure and beautification, but not job creation or human capital, she said.

"These are grimaces of cynicism, because those park benches and those community centres are then used by alcoholics and for funerals. Everyone else is moving out after jobs, schools, post offices, hospitals," the former presidential adviser said.

The problem, she said, was the "extreme free market worship" which leads to closing down small schools and hospitals in the countryside, concentrating culture in the major cities and turning it into pure commerce, closing down higher education institutions in provinces. "This way, the state itself is destroying regional centres, abandoning them to fend for themselves," according to Būdienė.

The mental health of the population is a particularly neglected area, she believes.

"The Child Development Centre is falling apart, helplines are stranded, there is no accessible psychological support - preference is given to medicating psychiatrists and pharmacy, if not false prophets, parapsychologists and NLP - specialized support centres are under-resourced and cash-strapped," Būdienė believes.

She has also criticized the "medieval mentality" that dominates policies on sexual education, contraception accessibility, vaccination, artificial insemination, and manifests itself in calls to ban abortion.

Most politicians, Būdienė says, are pandering to the "average voter", especially before elections.

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