Estonia PM: our country's biggest challenge is increasing birthrate

  • 2015-04-09
  • from wire reports and TBT staff, TALLINN

Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas said in a speech to the Riigikogu (Estonian Parliament) about his government's principles on Thursday that the most important challenges facing the country at the moment included security and stability, economic growth and better management of the country, the government communications unit reports.

According to Rõivas, the coalition partners (Reform, IRL and the Social Democratic Party) decided early on that they would be not satisfied with a minimum of consensus between political parties with three different views; instead, they agreed on big challenges, goals and methods how to lead Estonia forward.

Rõivas said that it is not primarily the content of the coalition agreement that will define the government's results, but, above all, how enthusiastically the agreements are implemented.

“We can be sure that nothing will happen by itself. If necessary, we will go through fire and through water. Four years. Together. Exactly like we did during the 38 days until we reached the coalition agreement,” Rõivas said in front of the Riigikogu, referring to the coalition as “Persistent Union” because of the purposeful and decisive character of the three partners.

“That’s right – we are ready to go on together in a determined, unwavering and relentless manner in order to implement all that is written down in the coalition agreement,” he said.

Rõivas listed the challenges that the Government has to face, including ensuring that Estonia is better protected, its economy will grow and benefit all its citizens, and that wages in the country will increase. In order to maintain the sustainability of Estonia, more children must be born and to ensure that Estonia remains innovative, the country should be even better managed.

The government announced its intention to continues with what it called a determined, coherent and thoughtful security and defence policy. The primary independent self-defence will remain the shield of Estonian defence, while NATO’s collective defence guarantee will act as the sword.

According to Rõivas, an implementation of the broad approach of national defence will be continued with in order to ensure that society as a whole would be able to withstand a possible attack. This would also ensure that Estonia has the ability to quickly solve hybrid conflicts, the society of Estonia will remain coherent, and the country will be committed to resisting information war. The coalition planned to continue facilitating NATO’s presence in Estonia.

Rõivas said that by the hundredth anniversary of the independence of the Estonian Republic, the country's eastern border must be strengthened, including with technical surveillance system adequate for the external border of Europe and NATO, as well as with well-trained and well-equipped border guard units.

In order to achieve economic growth, the new government intends to reduce the taxation of labour force at the expense of the taxation of goods harmful to health and the environment. It has been agreed in the coalition agreement that the social tax rate will be decreased and the rate of tax-free income will be increased.

The request of the coalition to be created is to ensure that all Estonian people would share the benefits of economic growth. To this end, the creation of additional payments for people, whose income remains between the minimum wage and triple subsistence level, has been agreed on. This new system is designed to alleviate poverty and to assist people in improving their living standards.

In order to improve the living standards of people with lower income, the minimum wage will be increased to at least to 45 percent of the average wage level within four years; however, it is up to unions and employers to reach this goal together. The minimum wage will also remain to the agreement between the parties to the labour market to decide in the future.

In order to support families living in poverty, the government will increase the rate of subsistence benefit by 130 euros. This increase is significant, because it is the greatest rise of the rate of subsistence benefit over the last decade.

To ensure the sustainability of Estonia, the biggest challenge of the government is to increase the birthrate. According to Rõivas, it is important to respond to demographic challenges and act immediately, because the results of these processes will not be seen for decades to come.

To this end, the new government plans to increase benefits paid for the first and second child by 60 euros, while the monthly payment for the third child onwards will continue to be 100 euros and additionally, it is planned to pay the benefit for families raising three or more children in the amount of 200 euros.

While speaking about the state's plans for reform, Rõivas said that Estonia has no reason to undo the progress the previous governments have made, instead, he said, the country can use them as a foundation on which to continue to establish success.

“Every minister and every public servant must constantly look for ways to do things even more efficiently and to use the tax-payer’s money in an even more effective manner,” Rõivas noted.

In order to ensure better management of the country, the coalition has agreed to implement local administration reform, aiming to ensure local governments provide better public services to people, ensuring growth in regional competitiveness and the ability of the local governments to independently perform the duties assigned to them by law. To limit peripheralisation, the coalition drew attention to the need to develop entrepreneurship in local government.