On Thursday, January 16, in addition to several other major topics, the papers and online news portals in Estonia also wrote about the benefits a regional progressive income tax system could provide, companies being added to the Consumer Protection Authority's blacklist, a house fire being investigated as arson, and a Eurasian lynx seen twice around town in Türi.
Opinion: Regional progressive income tax would boost rural entrepreneurship
Following the nationwide administrative reform, many regions across Estonia have become marginalized, but money is still primarily going to major cities and toward the improvement of conditions in and around them — even bank loans, 80 percent of which reportedly go to Tallinn and Harju County and another 13 percent to Tartu, small business owner and Saaremaa resident Esta Alev writes for weekly Maaleht (link in Estonian).
If people can't take out loans to build homes or develop businesses, the government seriously needs to come up with something with which to at least convince those still living in rural areas to stay, or else certain parts of the country really will soon be empty.
Since no money has actually been found in the current state budget to support rural living — beyond some support measures, which can really only support handfuls of individuals — then one possible means to at least help stem the tide in Estonia's periphery would be the introduction of a regional progressive income tax, according to which an employee would pay just 50 percent of the standard income tax rate if they physically work over 20 kilometers out of town, and be entirely exempt from income taxes if they work over 30 kilometers from the nearest town.
The key here would be implementing this according to the business' physical, not legal address, and in reality so few people live in such remote areas that I believe this would ultimately save on unemployment benefits, rather than cost the state anything.
Another suggestion would be to increase the income tax rate on employees working in Tallinn by 1 percent, which, with its myriad opportunities in comparison with people living in extremely rural areas, surely wouldn't have a significant effect on these employees; surely even Tallinn residents realize how important it is to maintain life outside of the capital city, and that not everyone can simply move to the capital in search of a better life.
Consumer protection watchdog expands blacklist
The Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority (TTJA) announced that as of December, 24 new businesses have been added to their blacklist (link in Estonian), warning consumers to always look up a company's background, including whether or not they are on the blacklist, before making a purchase or signing a contract, online portal geenius.ee writes (link in Estonian).
Businesses are blacklisted if a consumer takes a dispute with a company to the Consumer Disputes Committee, the committee rules in favor of the consumer and the business does not comply with the committee's ruling within a period of 30 days.
Among the newly blacklisted businesses is waste management company Eesti Keskkonnateenused AS, which picked up a dumpster a client had rented for the day at noon already and thereafter refused to refund their money when asked.
Likewise to be blacklisted last month was electronics retailer ONOFF, from which a client had ordered a "NoFrost" refrigerator which nonetheless froze. The retailer explained that the product description mistakenly referred to the fridge as frost-free, and, refusing to accept a return or refunding the client's money, offered the client a gift instead (a microwave, blender or iron).
Fire caused by careless smoking considered arson
On January 9, an emergency call was received about a two-story house on fire on Lohu Street in the Southern Estonian town of Elva, which rescuers determined after extinguishing the blaze had begun when old car seats and other trash in the garage connected to the house had caught fire, regional paper Tartu Postimees writes (link in Estonian).
While the entire building sustained smoke damage, all of the residents made it out safely, although rescuers determined that there was no smoke detector in the house that could have alerted residents to the fire sooner.
A criminal investigation has been launched into what the police are regarding as arson, which carries a pecuniary punishment or maximum of five years in prison.
Rare lynx sighting caught on video in Türi
The Eurasian lynx is a rare enough sighting as it is in Estonian forests, but one family recently came across one walking around the Central Estonian town of Türi, regional paper Järva Teataja writes (link in Estonian).
After getting over the initial shock, one of the family members took out their phone to record the wild cat, spotted near Türi Railway Station.
A week later, the lynx was spotted in Türi again, this time walking around the other end of town, along the lake, and in people's backyards and on garden shed rooftops.
Editor: Aili Vahtla