Riigikogu passes 2017 budget
The Riigikogu passed the bill on next year's state budget on Monday. Spending and various investments next year will amount to a total of €9.65bn.
The Riigikogu passed the 2017 budget with 55 votes in favor, and 40 against.
Next year's budget revenues are projected to be €9.48bn, while €9.65bn are budgeted for expenditures and investments.
“Next year's budget will give the Estonian economy momentum," chairman of the Finance Committee, Mihhail Stalnuhhin (Center), said in answer to MPs' questions.
The opposition Free Party's Andres Ammas in turn voiced his opinion that the budget had been overly optimistic from the get-go. "It's a sad picture, as only a growing economy could provide the money to fulfill all these nice wishes," he said.
According to Ammas, the budget's main shortcoming is the absence of a big plan. "There is a plan for redistributing the funds, but no plan for creating more wealth," he said. He acknowledged that the budget had improved in the course of the debate surrounding it, and added that had the coalition not been in such a hurry, a budget which the Free Party could support might have been achieved.
Aivar Sõerd from the opposition Reform Party noted that the effect of the tax changes approved on Monday would become clear only gradually, but that it was clear already that the tax burden would increase over the next two years.
Martin Helme of the Estonian Conservative People's Party (EKRE) praised the new budget for increasing agricultural support and local government funding, as well as pay rises for rescuers and teachers, but said that the government’s tax package also adopted on Monday was poorly thought through, and would not bring the expected gains, which is why EKRE couldn’t back the budget.
The biggest slice of the 2017 budget is earmarked for the Ministry of Social Affairs. Totaling €3.84bn, it accounts for 17.5% of Estonia’s gross domestic product (GDP), which represents a year-on-year increase of 6.6%, or €253.2m.
To reinforce Estonia's security, defense spending will rise by €28m to 2.17% of GDP. Continued works to build infrastructure at the eastern border are expected to cost €20m. Some €14m has been set aside to support voluntary mergers of municipalities.
Estonia's presidency of the Council of the European Union in the second half of next year will cost €66m. Within the framework of the presidency, 11 informal ministerial meetings and seven high-level conferences, as well as 203 expert-level events, will take place in Estonia.