Pundits ponder Cabinet's 100-day milestone
TALLINN - After 100 days in office, Prime Minister Andrus Ansip and his ruling coalition met the centennial mark on July 21 with confidence. The government had succeeded in keeping its most important promises, Ansip stressed in an article he wrote for the Maaleht weekly.
The prime minister pointed out the Cabinet's most noteworthy achievements 's extending the parent's salary payment to 15 months, increasing the birth payment to 5,000 kroons (320 euros), raising the pension rate, decreasing income tax to 23 percent and raising the tax-free monthly minimum income to 2,000 kroons.
At a press conference held on July 21, Economy Minister Edgar Savisaar positively compared Ansip's progress to the previous government. The ruling coalition is the first, he said, to avoid heavy criticism during its initial term.
This was Environment Minister Villu Reiljan's fifth time passing the hundred-day line. He commended the developing budget plan, where social, cultural, environmental and security needs will be given proper weight.
However, Foreign Minister Urmas Paet said that a more appropriate time for coalition reflection would be in March 2007. The one issue draining the Foreign Ministry's energy is the border treaty between Russia and Estonia, he explained, noting that, at the same time, the worst was behind.
The Postimees daily published a deep analysis of the political period, calling Social Minister Jaak Aab and Finance Minister Aivar Soerd whipping boys. Aab was criticized for his failure to cover health insurance needs, while Soerd was blamed for the state's instable budget and deficit.
On a positive note, Savisaar was distinguished as the most active minister for his role in engaging Estonian Railway, the nation's privately owned cargo handler (see story on Page 5) and the Port of Tallinn, in addition to increasing pension and hindering ecological reform.
Sociologist Andrus Saar, who founded Saar Poll, pointed out that in spite of the prime minister's position, the Reformist government had less support than its predecessor. The reason for this, he said, could be because Ansip's coalition ministers have relatively more autonomy.
Meanwhile, the Postimees daily praised individual achievements. Education Minister Mailis Reps, for example, was distinguished for slowing her predecessor's reforms, while Minister of Justice Rein Lang was mentioned for his petition to decrease the number of jails.
Sociologist Juhan Kivirahk pointed out that the reforms from Parts' previous government disappeared at once.
As many expected, the first to condemn Ansip's cabinet was Opposition leader and Pro Patria member Mart Laar. The former prime minister was quoted by the Baltic News Service as saying that the coalition was inert. There were only a few proposals during those days, he added, and most of them concerned the distribution of finance and local elections.
In Laar's opinion, the 2006 state budget was Ansip's most difficult achievement, and it proved just how unrealistic the coalition's promises were.
Social Democrat Eiki Nestor said that the government had kept its short-term agreement points. Referring to the recent scandal involving Chief of Police Robert Antropov, he added that many people remembered the interior minister's name thanks only to the scandal.
"The current political situation is dull," political scientist and MP Toomas Alatalu, who does not belong to any faction in Parliament, said. In this way, he added, he supports the opposition.
As far as the next 600 days, Ansip has scheduled public health financing, education, environmental protection and improving the demographic situation on the national agenda.