State reform debated in the Riigikogu
Today’s session of the Riigikogu focused on the nationally important issue of state reform. Speakers included Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas, Attorney-at-law Jüri Raidla, Chairman of the Constitutional Committee of the Riigikogu Kalle Laanet, and State Reform Support Group Chairman Tanel Talve.
According to Laanet, debate over the administrative reform has already begun, and the constitutional committee chairman hoped that debate regarding state reform would help generate further discussion in society regarding Estonia’s future.
Below is an overview of points touched upon by each of the four key speakers.
Chairman of the Constitutional Committee of the Riigikogu Kalle Laanet
Laanet found that while the Estonian state is doing well overall, its residents expect their standard of living to increase as well as the number, quality, and accessibility of state-provided services to improve, and so the main objective of the reform should be a more cohesive, flexible, and efficient system of government
The committee chairman also noted that when it comes to reform, it will be important to take into account that a number of more serious concerns facing the country involve the country’s decline in population, and that also associated with state reform was the issue of marginalization.
Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas
Rõivas found that it was important to find ways to increase the efficiency of various ministers, government officials, administrations, and organizations, promote further cooperation between them, and even consider merging entities with overlapping activities and values.
He cited reforms in the Estonian Tax and Customs Board and the Estonian Road Administration as examples to be followed, where the introduction of e-services led to a 21 percent decrease in the number of employees and a 40 percent increase in wages over the course of five years.
The prime minister reminded his audience that the nation would be dealing with the reorganization of hospital and school networks, the digitalization of public services, the transition to “e-bills”, the launch of the healthcare system’s digital registration system, the reduction of unnecessary bureaucracy for businesses, and the legalization and regulation of shared economy.
Rõivas stressed that while government agencies are tasked with handling the long-term missions of ensuring the security and promoting the economic prosperity of Estonia, the state was not to increase the proportion of government-paid employees in the workforce or government expenditures’ share of the GDP, and that it must focus on increasing efficiency while decreasing administrative burden.
Attorney-at-law Jüri Raidla
Raidla found that the Estonian state was not broken, and that its Constitution had been serving its people well. He noted that the state did not need to be renovated so much as modernized in order to continue serving its people just as well in the future.
He also stated that state reform was not an objective unto itself, but rather a means necessary for the continued functioning of the state, and for that, in his opinion, three main points needed to be agreed upon: the objective of the reform, i.e. how they could reduce costs without sacrificing quality of statehood; its concept and content, i.e. strictly defining a list of components comprising the reform, taking into account various political parties’ election platform promises, the Estonian Cooperation Assembly, the Estonian Employers’ Confederation, and suggestions from additional parties involved; and the scale in time and space of the specific actions involved based on previously identified and defined goals.
Raidla found that it was important to begin working at a swift pace to ensure that something would be accomplished by the rapidly approaching 100th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia in 2018.
State Reform Support Group Chairman Tanel Talve
Talve called upon the Riigikogu to be the leader of Estonia’s state reform, while also citing concern caused by the lack of a comprehensive action plan, stating that while they could be of help in the compilation of a reform agenda, the emergence of a few individual ideas alone did not constitute a strategy. Thus he found that it was important to establish the initial objective of and timetable for the state reform, as well as the regularity of its monitoring, particularly as the responsibility for the reform will be split among a number of different ministries.
The group chairman noted that the State Reform Support Group had already submitted its proposals to the Constitutional Committee of the Riigikogu regarding the development of the foundations for the state reform.
The first proposal was to make the subject of state reform as an essential national issue a regular subject of discussion in the Riigikogu; the second was for the Constitutional Committee to take a leading role in both the defining of the nature and the initial task of the state reform, as well as the development of the Riigikogu’s decision, which he found would provide clear guidelines for robust, purposeful, and systematic activity in the carrying out of the state reform.