Estonian PM: It's me that is chasing after coalition partners

  • 2024-05-24
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN - Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas on Thursday refuted the opinion that an agreement cannot be reached on the supplementary budget because the head of government has been unavailable, Postimees reports.

This week, ministers of Estonia 200 and the Social Democratic Party (SDE) criticized the process of the planned 175 million euro negative supplementary budget. The behavior of Prime Minister Kallas and Finance Minister Mart Vorklaev was also briefly criticized, since the government has not been able to gather at the same table to negotiate once this week. According to the prime minister, she has been in Estonia for the last two weeks and ready to hold meetings.

"I have been chasing after coalition partners who have been away for various reasons and have not been able to take part in these meetings," Kallas said, adding that discussions have instead been held over the phone. 

"A positive supplementary budget, that's where everybody gets more money -- it always gets done pretty easily," the premier said, speaking of the  supplementary budgets of recent years. "A negative supplementary budget, where something is taken away from everyone -- of course everyone is fighting. Some are more adept at cutting others' expenses than at supporting their own cuts, but that's understandable."

At the government press conference on Thursday, Kallas said that the primary point of contention now is cuts in the area of administration of the  Interior Ministry.

"At Thursday's government meeting, the interior minister was not present, and therefore discussions on the supplementary budget did not take place," she said.

Finance Minister Vorklaev told public broadcaster ERR that Interior Minister Lauri Laanemets, the chairman of SDE, has suggested that the cut in the ministry's operating costs could be four million euros, and he has taken this into account.

"The current cutback target for the Interior Ministry, to be taken from operating costs related to personnel, is somewhat smaller than the amount the Interior Ministry's area of administration spent on bonuses and performance pay last year," the finance minister said.

The minimum deadline for the government to approve the supplementary budget and send it to the Riigikogu is the end of next week.

Ex-prime minister Andrus Ansip, a politician from the Reform Party, agrees with another former head of government, Juri Ratas, that cutting 175 million euros, an amount equaling 0.4 percent of gross domestic product, would be not much of an achievement.

"It's like someone weighing a hundred kilos would shed 400 grams with a brutal effort. The task itself is all but ambitious. And the fact that even this tiny amount cannot be handled shows complete ineptitude," Ansip said.

"If next year's budget will have a deficit of 2.2 billion, 175 million means that we are just pretending to balance the budget," Ansip added, expressing the opinion that since there is no economic crisis in Estonia in the classical sense, there was no reason to let the budget build such huge a deficit.

It is also disgrace, according to Ansip, to try to cover up the lack of budgetary discipline with the war in Ukraine and the increase in defense spending, whereas in actuality "shamelessly, shamelessly little" has gone towards defense.