TALLINN - The number of public servants has increased by nearly 1,000 in 10 years despite government pledges to cut public spending, BNS reports.
In July 1997, there were 19,971 public servants in Estonia, according to the official statistics. By the end of 2007, the number had swollen to 20,824, an increase of 853 positions.
A spokesperson for the transportation ministry defended the increase.
"It is not a question of the government splashing out money. It is understandable. When we joined the European Union we had a lot of workers [for deal-making projects]. The economy is constantly growing. The roads are more crowded now," the spokesperson said.
Statistics for 2006 and 2007 show the number increased by 1,500 during that year alone.
Airi Alakivi, head of the public service department at the State Chancellery, explains that the jump is due to the fact that some rescue workers were not counted as public servants in 2006, but were included in 2007.
Alakivi told BNS that part of the rise in overall numbers was the need to employ people for the European Union's decision-making process since Estonia became an EU member in 2004.
Alakivi said that the large number of public servants was required, for example, for the application of EU structural funds, and there were 300 to 500 public servants dealing with that sphere immediately.
One area that has seen a significant increase in public servants is tourism promotion. A marketing expert explained reasons behind the rise, saying many more tourists visit Estonia now than ten years ago, and a strong tourism industry creates jobs and helps the economy.
The growth in the number of public servants in the country is also connected to the increase in the obligations of governmental institutions. For example, the justice chancellor's office was given additional ombudsman's responsibilities, and the State Audit Office was put in charge of auditing certain local governments.
Alakivi also pointed out that in some areas the number of public servants has fallen drastically. In county governments the number of public servants has fallen by 40 percent, or about 400 people.
By law, professional soldiers are also regarded as public servants, but they are not reflected in the count. Including the professional soldiers, the number of Estonian public servants was 21,331 at the end of last year.
There were 5,449 public servants serving in local government, according to the December 2007 count.