Ilves approves new Minister of Social Affairs
TALLINN - Estonian President Toomas Hendrick Ilves has approved Hanno Pevkur to take over as the country's new social affairs minister.
The Reformist Party proposed the candidate in the week leading up to the official resignation of Maret Maripuu on Feb. 23. Maripuu announced last month that she would stand down despite having survived a vote of no-confidence.
Prime Minister Andrus Ansip presented the candidate to Ilves on Feb. 20.
Ansip underlined that the search of Maripuu's replacement took a long time because it was necessary to find a strong candidate.
"In the face of Hanno Pevkur we are dealing with a competent manager who, according to the Reformist Party, will be able to manage such a sensitive and important area as the social system of the government in the best possible way," said Ansip.
Pevkur is a popular, and relatively young, politician who has previously held the position of governor of Tallinn's Nomme borough and deputy mayor of the capital city 's where he was responsible for education, culture and sport affairs. He has also worked as adviser to the Minister of Justice.
A member of the Reformist Party since 2000, in the 2007 Parliamentary elections Pevkur won a seat from the Nomme and Mustamae boroughs.
In 2007 Pevkur took Maripuu's seat in Parliament after she left to fill the Minister's position. This year the situation has been reversed, as Pevkur will take over Maripuu's position as minister and she will return to Parliament.
Pevkur said that as Minister of Social Affairs he intends "to direct his efforts toward making the Estonian welfare system as a whole efficient for those who need help and economically manageable for the state."
"My main responsibility is that in economically difficult times everyone in need [receives] timely help, starting from pensions and finishing with education possibilities," added Pevkur.
Even though Maripuu has been heavily criticized over the failure to introduce a new pension delivery program and pension related software, Pevkur said that there were some positive outcomes of the work of the previous minister.
Pevkur said that Maripuu was able to introduce important reforms, such as new employment contract legislation that will give more guarantees and flexibility to workers.
"To the positive achievements we can also add constant pension's growth and stable family politic," said Pevkur.
The no-confidence bill leveled at Maripuu earlier this year accused the minister of administrative incompetence in directing ministry affairs, saying that the minister took too long to inform the public about the payment problems. It also accused her of lying to the public and showing carelessness toward the people directly affected by her decisions.
The criticism was primarily related to the non-payment of disability benefits for several months as a result of the introduction of an underdeveloped new IT system and shortcomings in the introduction of a new pension payment and home delivery system.