Lithuania - Infrastructure, power, and communications

Lithuania inherited a balanced transportation system (e.g. roads, aviation, merchant marine) from the Soviet period. However, the (broad gauge) railway system was

Country Telephones a Telephones, Mobile/Cellular a Radio Stations b Radios a TV Stations a Televisions a Internet Service Providers c Internet Users c
Lithuania 1.048 M 1997) 297,500 (1998) AM 3; FM 112; shortwave 1 1.9 M 20 (1995) 1.7 M 14 225,000
United States 194 M 69.209 M (1998) AM 4,762; FM 5,542; shortwave 18 575 M 1,500 219 M 7,800 148 M
Russia 30 M (1998) 2.5 M (2000) AM 420; FM 447; shortwave 56 61.5 M 7,306 (1998) 60.5 M 35 9.2 M
Latvia 748,000 77,100 AM 8; FM 56; shortwave 1 1.76 M 44 (1995) 1.22 M 42 234,000
a Data is for 1997 unless otherwise noted.
b Data is for 1998 unless otherwise noted.
c Data is for 2000 unless otherwise noted.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [Online].

built to keep Lithuania integrated in the USSR and separated from the West. Privatization, modernization, and development of the priority transportation infrastructure is of particular importance for an east-west and north-south transit country like Lithuania, especially in view of the European Union accession process.

Lithuania has 71,375 kilometers (44,352 miles) of roads of which 64,951 kilometers (40,360 miles) are paved. There are 417 kilometers (259 miles) of expressways. All of the 2,002 kilometers (1,244 miles) of railways are broad gauge. Although Lithuania is a small nation, it has a substantial merchant marine fleet with 52 ships, including 23 cargo ships, 2 petroleum tankers, 3 passenger cruise ships, and 11 refrigerated cargo vessels. Lithuania has 600 kilometers (373 miles) of waterways that are navigable year-round. The nation's main ports are Kaunas and Klaipeda. Klaipeda is the largest port in the Baltics and handles 20 percent of all cargo imported to or exported from the region. In 1998, the port handled 16.1 million tons of cargo, and expansions will allow the facility to handle 30 million tons by 2004. There are 96 airports in Lithuania, but only 25 of them have paved runways. Vilnius, Kaunas, and Palanga have international airports. All told, Lithuanian Airlines carried 230,000 passengers in 1997. The United States supplied Lithuania with US$30 million to upgrade the airport at Siauliai which is now one of the largest cargo airports in Europe. Moreover, there are 105 kilometers (65 miles) of crude oil pipelines and 760 kilometers (472 miles) of natural gas pipelines.

The government is engaged in a variety of infrastructure improvement projects. By 2005, some 55 individual projects are scheduled for completion. These projects are in response to dramatic increases in land, sea, and air transport. For instance, since 1994, automobile traffic has increased by an annual rate of 15 to 20 percent per year. The nation's largest airport at Vilnius and the seaport of Klaipeda are both undergoing expansion and renovation projects. The other major project is the construction of the Via Baltica highway which will connect all the Baltic republics (Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia). The EU would like to construct 2 major highways through Lithuania to allow the organization access to Russia and the other countries of the former Soviet Union. Although work has not begun on the road systems, the EU has already pledged aid for the projects.

Lithuania is also in the midst of constructing a power line to supply electrical exports to the West. Lithuania produced 15.58 billion kWh of electricity in 1998. Some 13 percent of this came from fossil fuels and 4.3 percent came from hydroelectric sources, but the overwhelming majority, 82.61 percent, came from nuclear power plants. The nation consumed 7.829 billion kWh of electricity in 1998 and exported 7 billion kWh while it imported 340 million kWh.

Lithuania's energy sector needs modernization as well. Post-Soviet Russia's supply network is unreliable and subject to political manipulations resulting in cuts of oil to Lithuania. The opening of the Butinge oil terminal on the Baltic Sea in 1999 allows Lithuania to diversify its supply of crude oil by sea. Currently, the nation has about 10 million barrels of proven oil reserves. Other sources of power, such as Ignalina nuclear power plant (of the Chernobyl type), are controversial for safety reasons. Electric power generation needs to be modernized and privatized, while new and profitable supply networks to Western Europe via Poland need to be established. Lithuania's power complex experiences substantial problems with generation, distribution, and sales. The capacity in the system is about 2 to 3 times higher than the national demand for power generation and gas distribution. As a result of inherited Soviet-style inefficiencies, losses amounted to about one-third of supply and were made worse by non-payment of debts by some clients, for example, in Belarus.

The telecommunications market in Lithuania is liberalized except for fixed-line telephony where Lietuvos Telekomas enjoys a monopoly until the end of 2002. A national fiber-optic cable system is nearing completion, and rural exchanges are being improved and expanded. By 1997, there were 1.1 million main telephone landlines in use. Mobile cellular systems are functioning and rather widely accessible. In 1997, about 297,500 mobile phones were in use. Access to the Internet is growing, and by 1999, there were 10 Internet service providers.

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