President Ilves on administrative reform: We do not have much time left
In his opening address at the 12th annual Town and Parish Days in Tallinn on Wednesday, President Toomas Hendrik Ilves focused on the plan of the recently introduced administrative reform bill, recalling the fact that over his nine years in office, he has considered the yet undone reform a model of the country’s inefficiency.
“I’ve had no doubts that state and local government reform is unavoidable,” said Ilves. “The Estonian population is aging as well as declining, expectations for standard of living improving are growing, and for many, urbanization is final.”
According to the head of state, in terms of the administrative reform, nothing would make him happier than to be able to sign the administrative reform bill into law before the end of his term.
“We do not have much time left,” stressed the president. “Bear in mind that the next local elections will be held in just a year and a half, in October 2017. Thus it can be said — albeit drastically, but with reason — that administrative reform as currently planned is going to be possible for the last time right now. If it fails now, we will be left in a position where the state will impose its will with a simple formula — one county, one local government.”
Ilves admitted that the new administrative arrangement will not automatically spawn new theaters, hospitals, or sports arenas in newly created population centers, and that it is inevitable that many of the differences between life in bigger population centers and their peripheries would remain.
“The whole idea behind the reform is to make life possible everywhere in Estonia — in every village — and that it would be better organized than it is today,” stressed President Ilves.
First and foremost this would mean flexible transportation management, as post-reform Estonia will still boast a total of approximately 57,000 kilometers (about 35,400 miles) of roads, a fact which the redrawing of parish borders would not change. The reform will also not diminish differences in country and city living — which should be regarded as a blessing, not a burden.
The Estonian head of state went on to call on decision-makers to be proactive and bold in planning the revenue bases of the new local governments, which may mean letting go of old dogmas. “Maybe together with the administrative reform we should be rewriting a few chapters of tax policy as well,” said the president. “Let us not fear such ideas.”