In defence of Maripuu

  • 2009-02-04
The Baltic Times' Jan. 29-Feb. 4 editorial, "Trading Lame Horses," has a point when it says that the Baltic States need better political governance, but I believe that the editorial shoots wildly off the mark when it uses the outgoing Estonian minister of social affairs, Maret Maripuu as an example of this governmental incompetence.

The editorial makes the case that Maripuu has an impressive political resume, but that "an average person off the street would be" more qualified for the post, as a "quick look at her resume" reveals "no experience in anything that might be related to social affairs." Someone who is practicing more than drive-by journalism might ask themselves 's  "what does someone who works all those years in the Tallinn City Council do with their time?"

What they do is try to help with the problems of average people 's the homeless, the unemployed, students, young families, pensioners, you name it 's deal with in their daily lives. You can find Maripuu's signature on several Tallinn City bills dealing with subsidies to people living below the poverty line.
But for TBT it would have been more impressive to have volunteered at a "homeless shelter." That's equivalent thinking to "I once read a book. Now I'm a librarian." From the tone of this article, it might be hard for the writer to believe it, but politics and politicians are always about resume building.

If Maripuu was interested in that, she could have tried to institute no change at the ministry that spends a large slice of Estonia's budget; one that feeds an archaic system that creates monetary incentives for people to get on and stay on the public dole and disincentives for disabled people who do try to work and engage with society. If she was just another political drone, as TBT sees her, she could have presided over the status quo - most people never would have heard a thing about her, and she never would have ended up as your editorial's poster child for fecklessness.

True, there were huge problems in implementation, but they were technical, not of a strategic nature. The disability payment system is closer to Western standards than two years ago, when Maripuu took over, which is what TBT advocates. But a politician trying to change things for the better wouldn't have fit the easier narrative of incompetence.
Speaking of narrative, the editorial also claims that Maripuu "botched things up" and then "lied about it." I'm still fuzzy on what TBT thinks she lied about.

The Center Party's Vilja Savisaar claims that Maripuu lied. Is she the touchstone for determining truth at TBT? Vilja Savissar? Did she fess up to another surreptitious tape recording we haven't heard about yet?
Now that would be a political editorial worth writing.

Scott Abel


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