Pärnu Political Debate Centers on Highly Paid, Non-Seasonal Jobs
A televised debate on Wednesday between candidates running for mayor in Pärnu centered around creating high salary jobs, while decreasing the dependence on the seasonal tourist industry.
Speaking on ETV's program “Valimisstuudio,” Social Democrat Piret Hallik-Sass said that Pärnu, dubbed Estonia's "summer capital" for its beaches, should look to the higher education sector for year-round jobs, adding that the University of Tartu's Pärnu College is a good base to expand the field and thereby increase jobs in the city.
IRL's Andres Metsoja agreed with Hallik-Sass, saying that the education sector and incubators could be a long-term solution.
Hallik-Sass also said her party, if elected, would create 4,000 jobs, while Andrei Korobeinik, the Reform Party candidate for mayor, said his party is more realistic, promising 500 to 600 new, highly paid jobs by 2017.
He said that the important draw for people is not jobs, but higher wages, adding that Pärnu already has the two sectors that offer twice the national average salary: health tourism and communication.
The Center Party and the Conservative People's Party representatives both focused their messages on developing the business sector, with Center Party MP Kadri Simson saying that the city has a strong vocational school, but graduates are leaving the area as there are no jobs for them.
Heldur Paulson of the Conservative People's Party said that the city should provide starting capital for new businesses, or set them up itself.
The current mayor and head of an election coalition named after himself, Toomas Kivimägi, said that the tourism sector has lowered the city's average wage, and the current administration recently unveiled plans for a industrial park that would create 360 new jobs.
Kivimägi and his election coalition won the previous elections in 2009, picking up 14 out of 33 seats on the city council. The Center Party won eight seats, followed by the Reform Party, IRL and the Social Democrats with five, four and two seats, respectively.