GALLERY: April 27 - May 3 (1)
The short, only four-day working week was rather slow, with continued political debate on budget strategy taking the center stage in media outlets.
Tax debate continued throughout the week, with the VAT rise on tourist accommodations rising into stronger focus. On Thursday, Estonian travel and tourism unions launched a petition - signed by more than 400 of its member and related businesses - claiming that the proposed VAT increase (from 9 to 20 percent) would paralyze the industry and hurt Estonia's prospects as a tourist destination. Minister of Enterprise Urve Palo had previously said that rising VAT for hotels and other accommodation providers would be shooting the economy in the foot.
Although the minister of finance, Sven Sester, called for further debate on proposed excise duty and VAT tax hikes, Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas said the coalition agreement is closed for discussion and the government will not back down from its promises. So, additional funds will have to be found to cover higher child benefit rates, lower labor costs and the upkeep of defense costs at 2 percent of GDP level, as well as the potential hole in the budget, left by a slower pace of economic growth.
In other news, nearly 10,000 school-leavers reached for their pens and chocolate bars on Monday to kick off the exam period with an Estonian language or Estonian as a second language exam. High-school students in Estonia have to sit three state exams to graduate - Estonian, English and maths, and one combined school exam, as well as write a short dissertation on their chosen topic.
As Estonia faces labor shortage - surveys show that Estonia may need tens of thousands of skilled people in coming decades, Enterprise Estonia launched a new information portal called Work in Estonia on Tuesday, which aims to simplify the process for local companies to employ overseas specialists, and to introduce those specialists the opportunities and conditions in Estonia. The portal is part of a larger initiative to attract more overseas talent to the country.
On Thursday evening, Estonians, especially student organizations in Tartu, celebrated the Walburgis Night with bonfires, processions and concerts. The following day, May 1, was a public holiday in Estonia.
Friday also saw the opening of the 2015 world exhibition in Milan. Estonia's pavilion "The Gallery of _" was mentioned in the CNN's best designed pavilions list. EXPO 2015 will stay opened until October 31.
On Saturday, over 43,000 people gathered to take part in 1,771 different community activities across the country. Let's do it! campaign has been taking place in different forms since 2008. The main purpose of the day is the contribution to the civil society in Estonia by promoting active attitude, strengthening local communities and supporting the development of local leaders.