TALLINN - A coalition agreement hasn't even been drawn up, and some of the future government's probable members are already dusting off old plans and pet projects. Taavi Veskimagi, former finance minister and co-chairman of the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union, which finished third in the March 4 election and is slated to become a senior partner in the next coalition government, has returned to the idea of listing state-owned enterprises.
Other than a range of benefits, the idea, which Veskimagi put forward in 2004, rests on two basic principles: that state-owned companies should have easier access to equity finance and that private capital should have exposure to national companies.
"Estonian residents should have the opportunity to receive profits from the country's economic success. I think that listing state-owned commercial enterprises on the stock exchange is an important step in this direction," Veskimagi wrote in the Postimees daily.
As Estonians' incomes increase, the state should provide for a wider spectrum of investment opportunities, which in turn will facilitate a "culture of investment," the former finance minister argued.
"Look at Finland, where the population's high standard of living is, among others, based on income from stocks and other investments," wrote Veskimagi.
Compared to three years ago, when the Res Publica party, to which Veskimagi belonged, ruled the government, the IPO idea has undergone an important transformation. Now, as Estonia teeters on the abyss of an economic overheating, Veskimagi suggests that more financial products will help soak up additional income and give people an added reason to save, not spend.
Though he doesn't mention any companies specifically, the two likeliest candidates for a listing would be Eesti Energia (Estonian Energy) and Eesti Raudtee (Estonian Railway).
Despite losing Hansapank, Estonia has the most dynamic stock market in the Baltics thanks to IPOs by companies such as Tallink and Tallinna Vesi (Tallinn Water).
Reform Party member Meelis Atonen, a former economy minister, refused to comment on the proposal. "It is an issue to be handled at the coalition talks," he was quoted by BNS as saying.