Re-nationalization: views across the spectrum

  • 2006-01-25
  • By Kairi Kurm
Agu Uudelepp, communications manager of the People's Union

The council of the People's Union took an official standpoint that it supports the purchase of Estonian Railway shares for a fair price. It has to be a reasonable price, and it will be decided during negotiations. We were against the privatization in 2000 and collected 163,000 signatures against it. Nobody forces them to sell the shares 's it is their own will.

Having a private business is taking a risk. It does not work this way that you privatize then your business plan does not work and someone else has to pay for it.

Toomas Raag, spokesman for the Center Party

In the Center Party's opinion, the government should buy the shares but should not pay for this too high price. It is up to the specialists and the ministry of economics to decide the price the government is willing to pay. The final price will be set at the negotiations.

The privatization of Estonian Railway was bad for the Estonian government. It is bad that the owners of Estonian Railway have not been able to properly fulfill the obligations set in the privatization contract. It has been harmful for the state so far. Otherwise, Estonian Railway would not have been a problem.

Meelis Atonen, Reform Party (former minister of economic affairs, MP)

The current situation is such that the owners of the Estonian Railway have put the company on sale. The government should act according to what the price of the deal is. Three billion is clearly too much to ask. If the offer is lower, why not purchase the shares? The current owners have problems with developing the infrastructure. It is not right to talk about nationalization, which means purchasing the shares against the owner's will.

The privatization was carried out by the privatization agency. They did not weigh all the aspects. The legislation should have been finalized before the privatization was started. I would not have privatized infrastructure, but would have separated operating services and privatized this only.

Burkhardt says that there are communists in power. I do not know what he means. All five ministers of various parties have followed the same principles. The railway legislation was adopted a few years ago. He has confused something and tries to cover up his failed business plan. Foreign investors can bravely invest in Estonia. It is clear that legislation has to be followed. Estonian legislation differs largely from that in America, that is probably the key point here.

Heido Vitsur, adviser to the minister of economics and communications

I do not want to comment on whether the railway should be privatized and what the fair price is. There are two kinds of opinions regarding privatization. A majority thought that it should not be privatized.

He (Burkhardt) is very emotional and his pronouncements are not true. The current government has nothing to do with it. The legislation was adopted about three years ago; the regulation of tariffs was last year.

Besides, there is no Estonian transit without Russian transit. Our position is that railway belongs to the government. That is why we intended to buy the shares. Even if it belonged to Russian capital, the company would still have to follow Estonian legislation.

Margus Tsahkna, spokesman for the Pro Patria Union

This (privatization) does not have to be the primary step. On the other had, the government and ministry of economics have started to pressure the railway and have made it difficult to manage the railway and have chopped the useful infrastructure. We have to carefully see that it does not get under the Russian capital as a result. We hope that government in the future would benefit from transit and not give it away.

We can say that capital has no nationality. The foreign policy of Russia of year 2000 to take neighboring economies under its control makes us anxious. I do not know if the new owner is better than the current one.

Heiki Nestor, Social Democratic Party, MP

We do not have a clear standpoint whether or not the government should purchase the shares. We do not know the price. We are in opposition. The government does not certainly have to buy the shares, but may do it if it is beneficial. It all depends on price and the perspectives.

Was it reasonable to privatize the railway? In this context it was. The privatization was announced in 1998. The preparation works had already been done when we got in power. In 1999 there was a big minus in the budget, and we could not see any opportunities to place more money in railway.

Prior to privatization, the government had to support the railway heavily. Here in 2001 it was already possible to take out proper dividends. The government has purposely made it difficult to manage Estonian Railway and is splitting the effective system. If they had not pressured the company during this last half year, I doubt there would have been a desire to sell the company. (Edgar) Savisaar acts according to influences coming from the East.

It does not matter which capital it belongs to. It is important that our government has the control over infrastructure. It can be a Swiss company purchasing the shares that actually may belong to Russian investors. It is certainly not necessary that our neighbor receive such a huge power over our economy.
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