Eesti in brief - 2009-08-19

  • 2009-08-19
Despite the economic crisis, Estonia plans to continue preparing for an extensive weapons purchase program for its defense requirements, reports news agency LETA. Over the next ten years the country will spend 60 billion kroons (3.8 billion euros) on developing its defense forces. Defense Minister Jaak Aaviksoo says that "Estonia's defense needs do not depend on whether the country is in the middle of a financial crisis or not." In addition to cooperation with its NATO allies, priorities are to beef up intelligence and communications' capacities, and improve the efficiency of anti-aircraft systems. Aaviksoo said that the most difficult matters concern procurement, as global prices have not been affected by the economic situation. "Unfortunately, not all of the things that were initially planned to be purchased can be bought this year, perhaps not next year either, so we have for now postponed these plans," he explained. Estonia's plans require defense spending to rise to two per cent of GDP by next year, in line with NATO rules.

The Ministry of Social Affairs is going to deprive the right of thousands of people, who are classified as having worked in unhealthy working environments, the benefit of retiring ten years early. Last year 35,000 pensioners were registered to retire before reaching the pension age, as they worked at factories which the state lists as 'harmful. 'The list was made in Soviet times and includes employment in areas such as mining, diving and some chemical industries. Specialists in the most dangerous and unhealthy jobs had the right for early retirement, ten years ahead of the official pension age. According to the head of the Central Employers Union, Tarmo Krijs, the Soviet practice was to promise early retirement to get people to work in such dangerous workplaces. Chief of information at the Department of Labor Inspection Heidi Vilu says that, "Taking into consideration the level of Soviet public health services in manufacturing jobs, in certain cases early retirement could be justified, however, nowadays it is not the same." She promises that "Today the technologies have developed so much that one can do any kind of work quite safely, without damaging one's health."