Contrasts between the way changes to the law affecting parental benefits have been handled compared with what has gone on with the coalition's pensions reforms, post-Christmas hangovers leading to a surfeit of old trees dumped in public places, and info about how to apply for solar panel installation support were among the topics in Estonia's papers and news portals on Monday, January 20. All links in Estonian unless otherwise noted.
Laws always work better when they're thought through in advance
Minister of Population Riina Solman (Isamaa) has been in the news (link in English) quite a lot recently, with daily Eesti Päevaleht (EPL) proposing amends to parental benefits, off the back of two articles by the weekend version of the paper and the Pere ja Kodu magazine, published by the same group, the paper says.
EPL said in an editorial that this was timely, since there was no reason why a family who wanted two children in close succession should lose money if they could not wait two and a half years, adding that Solman's pressing to extend that period to three years (link in English) would help alleviate the likelihood that a family might postpone the birth of a child for purely economic reasons – in order for both parents to earn a salary for one year – with the risk that the planned child might not materialize at all.
EPL felt the episode demonstrated the importance of a thorough discussion on draft laws before they come into force – even though the new family benefits regime, planned to come in in stages through to 2022, was already quite well-prepared, the papers aid, with less of the seeming disregard for both stakeholders and experts than has been the case with the reform of the pension system.
Nonetheless, it is always good to prepare for the unpredictable, making even more stark the prospect of the coalition's seeming aversion to thinking through and discussing the law to make the second pillar of the pension scheme – which deals with employee contributions – optional where it had been mandatory for most wage earners in Estonia for the past decade, and future storms likely to come up on the issue for both the current Jüri Ratas administration and his successors, EPL said.
In fact, whereas the parental benefits discussions could lead to delayed births, those births will still be born into a country which might have seen much of its savings accumulated over decades, something which cannot be so eaesy to rectify retrospectively and which in itself may affect birth rates.
Both Bank of Estonia chief Madis Müller and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) (links in English) expressed skepticism over the wisdom of making the second pillar voluntary, due to short-term economic shocks as large numbers of people withdraw savings, followed by longer term effects of diminished pensions pots among an aging population.
Volunteer-staffed anti-misinformation site Propastop took aim at a range of phobias its says the Kremlin either suffers from itself, or tries to cultivate among others - which in addition to providing interesting information may boost reader's lexicons somewhat.
These include "Alethophobia" - a fear of the truth, one of the commonest areas of baiting and involving directly falsifying information, or at least distorting the truth, and "Allodoxaphobia", which is apparently a fear of judgment, or of being judged negatively – which Propastop says the Kremlin can do by picking on, isolating and rendering undesirable or evil anything which deviates from the preferred narrative – even when the stories originate in Russia
Added to this is "Atelophobia" - a fear of imperfection; in this case a fear on the part of the Kremlin and its media organs of its own potential mistakes, including the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014, and "Eleutherophobia" – a fear of freedom, presumably as evidenced by Russian misinformation in painting the EU, the west etc. as hotbeds of everything that is bad.
Related phobias include "Autophobia" – the fear of being alone, leading to a search for allies who might support Kremlin narratives, and the natural corollary – accusations of "Russophobia", as well as "Demophobia", a fear of the Russian leadership of large-scale rallies or protests, for example those which took place in Moscow last year.
A fuller list is available from Propastop here (link in English).
Boilers don't run safely forever
From largely imagined fears to real dangers, a cautionary tale from Lõuna Eesti Postimees – South Estonia's regional daily and part of the Postimees Group as its name suggests – brings into focus the importance of checking boilers and their attendant gauges, pipes etc.
A man in Tõrva in Valga County came to grief when the water jacket on his home boiler ruptured Sunday evening.
The man suffered scalds (from steam rather than water) and was treated by first responders.
Those with home boilers should always ensure up-to-date safety etc. regulations are followed, and check gauges regularly in case pressure levels get too high (or low), as well as the gauges themselves, if they are old, to ensure they give accurate readings.
A much more horrific case in Russia recently saw a burst hot water pipe kill five people, in the city of Perm.
Christmas trees looking far less attractive now
Again from Postimees, but this time in the capital. While Christmas is long gone even in the Eastern Orthodox calendar version, it has left a detritus of dried out Christmas trees dumped in streets and other public areas in the capital, the daily says, despite the city's neighborhoods running official collection points.
These, particularly when near residencies, parked vehicles, traffic etc., can be hazardous, as well as being unsightly and possibly polluting, according to Andre Hanimägi, elder of the Haabersti distrcit of western Tallinn.
The full list of collection points - over 30 of them – is in the article; in the meantime those seeing illegally dumped trees should contact the Municipal Police (MuPo) on 661 9860.
Solar panel installation support
Again related to matters domestic, and perhaps an incongruous topic for January in Estonia, portal Geenius points out that installing solar panels, while an environmentally friendly way of generating power, can be expensive – though various subsidies exist to help with that.
Private home-owners can apply for support via distribution company Elering's scheme here, where €5.37 per Kwh over a 12 year period can be obtained, for solar panels up to 50 KW capacity, as well as from credit provider KredEx, with buildings more than 27 years old.
In the case of housing associations, local authorities or commercial enterprises, the Agricultural Registers and Information Board (PRIA) provides support – and the sector is growing; whereas a little under a million euros was granted for solar panel support (from about twice that in requests) in 2015, by 2018 that figure had grown to over €4 million (from close to €5 million requested – the PRIA received 80 applications that year, Geenius says).
Again, Kredex can provide support – up to a maximum of 30 per cent total eligible costs and/or €30,000 per applicant, whichever is higher, Geenius reports
Of the above sources, EPL and Delfi are owned by Ekspress Meedia, one of two major media companies in Estonia, Ekspress Meedia also operates two weeklies, Maaleht and Eesti Ekspress, and has a 50 percent stake in daily Õhtuleht, which it may be selling (link in English), according to some reports. Postimees and its regional variants is owned by the other major media concern, Postimees Grupp (formerly Eesti Meedia), which also runs TV2 television channel, radio channels and other concerns. Postimees newspaper itself has been facing staff difficulties and mass resignations of late (link in English). Propastop is run by members of the volunteer Estonian Defence League (Kaitseliit), and Geenius Meedia OÜ is an independently-run commercial portal.
Editor: Andrew Whyte