Riigikogu hopes to start government's aid package discussion on April 6
The debate on the government's first package of measures to support the economy during the emergency situation will be brought forward two weeks and is expected to be finalized in April, said deputy speaker of the Riigikogu Helir-Valdor Seeder (Isamaa).
Seeder told Indrek Kiisler in an interview with ERR's "Otse uudistemajast" broadcast: "As far as the Riigikogu's adoption of the aid package is concerned, we certainly want to adopt it in April. But it depends on when the government completes it and submits it to the Riigikogu. Now the hope is that it will be brought into the Riigikogu on April 6, though earlier it was scheduled for April 19 to wait for the release of the spring economic forecast."
Seeder said the Riigikogu would begin to process the package in the form of an additional budget under an accelerated procedure. "It's going to take a week or more, but the usual long process can't be allowed," he said.
Seeder, who is also chairman of Isamaa, considered it possible that the aid package would pass through the Riigikogu as a so-called cluster proposal.
"Apparently, this a cluster proposal because there is an urgent need to regulate different areas of life - social, economic, legal, financial," he said. "If we do things the normal way of having all these drafts go to different committees, it will be much longer."
Cuts are possible
Seeder acknowledged the government's proposed measures to support the labor market and businesses, but he said it was likely that cuts would come later.
"We also need to start thinking about how to restructure our public spending to cut costs," he said, pointing out that the government's revenue base is shrinking as a result of the crisis. However, the cuts would not be discussed until after the second supplementary budget was adopted, he said.
Seeder also stressed that today the government has the freedom to implement the labor market measures promised by the government, but this depends on how quickly the Ministry of Social Affairs and the unemployment fund complete the relevant regulations.
"Here we do not have to wait because the Riigikogu is going through these packages. Today, the government is free to implement labor market measures, it depends on the Ministry of Social Affairs and the unemployment fund - how quickly they can design and implement their own measures. Its implementation can be started right away," he said.
€2 billion economic package
The government agreed on March 19 to launch a €2 billion package of measures to boost the economy and mitigate the effects of the crisis caused by the coronavirus. This sum is almost 7 percent of Estonia's GDP.
State funds will be used to support businesses through KredEx and the Rural Development Foundation. The package also includes support for the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund's labor market support (Töötukassa), sickness and tax benefits.
The package will allow tax debt to be postponed for 18 months, there will be a temporary suspension of the second pillar pension contributions, as well as partial compensation for the direct costs of canceled events.
From March to May, the State will reimburse employees for the first three days of sick leave for all certificates of incapacity for work.
Employees who cannot work during this time will receive 70 percent of their wages for two months from the government. This is capped at €1,000 and will be worked out as 70 percent of this income based on their salary for 2019.
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas said: "The aim of the measures is to mitigate the most difficult initial stage of the crisis in order to support and protect Estonian working people and businesses. The State will do everything in its power to ensure the functioning of the Estonian economy in exceptional circumstances."
More details can be found here.
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Editor: Helen Wright