Overhauling Estonia's local government system, in light of the urbanization of the country, was at the heart of the first major debate at the two-day Arvamusfestival (Opinion Festival) in Paide today.
One of the first experts to speak, University of Tartu professor of constitutional law Ülle Madise, said locals would not be any happier today if Estonia had years ago embarked on cutting the number of local governments (there are around 220), a move advocates say would improve the distribution of resources.
"What would have happened if we had 15 or 100 or 80 municipalities? Would more kilometers of roads have dustless surfaces, would wintry roads be cleared faster? Would there be more rural jobs, fewer people moving to the city? I fear the answer to these questions would be 'no,'” Madise said.
She said that people tend to simplify the administrative reform debate, believing that new borders would make life easier.
A local government should mean that the local community can decide on its own, said Madise, adding that the other function is to be an extension of the state in helping people.
On another note, Madise suggested that the tax system should take into account the fact that, despite urbanization, many people in Estonia still move to their country homes for summer.
Another expert, the editor in chief of Akadeemia, Toomas Kiho, said that wages for civil servants and other state employees, like teachers, should be higher the further they work from large towns and settlements, as an incentive.