Raimond Kaljulaid: Opposition awake but there is room for improvement

Raimond Kaljulaid.
Raimond Kaljulaid. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

I cannot agree to the claim that the opposition has wasted the entire spring and summer without offering any alternative to the government's policy, while politics today seems to be offering the voter the same goods in different packaging, Social Democratic Party MP Raimond Kaljulaid writes.

Indrek Kiisler's daily comment "Time for the opposition to wake up" is surely a noteworthy text and criticism. Kiisler writes that he "perceives a problem in the opposition's inability to offer viable alternatives to the current government's policy."

I cannot agree to the claim that the opposition has wasted the entire spring and summer without offering any alternative to the government's policy or explaining what it would have done differently in its shoes. But what I do agree with is that the voter increasingly finds themselves in a situation where they are offered the same goods, simply in different packaging, which situation has gradually developed over the past decade.

It has widely been suggested that joining the EU and NATO somehow gifted Estonia its own "end of history," while this illusion is just as misguided as the Western world's idea of history having ended in the 1990s.

The predominant neoliberal consensus that followed EU and NATO accession was opposed for years by Edgar Savisaar's Center Party. Center joined the so-called mainstream after it got a new chairman in 2016. This allowed the Conservative People's Party (EKRE) to set itself in contrast to the now largely identical political "elite," stand out and quickly marshal support.

Coming to domestic policy – what I find the most interesting is virtually complete consensus that our current tax burden is just right.

Interestingly enough, Estonia's consensual right-wingers are not demanding forceful tax cuts, while the consensual left is making no attempt to explain to society that a Nordic welfare state that is our goal cannot be achieved without fundamental tax changes – without progressive income tax or property taxes, ensuring local governments an independent revenue base or developing a care insurance system.

Regular land evaluation last took place in 2001 and the next evaluation will not affect land tax receipt before 2024.

As concerns Kiisler's question of whether "anyone has heard anything specific in terms of the opposition's plans for delivering the Estonian economy from the mire it finds itself in following the coronavirus crisis," it should be expanded. What are the visions of political parties in Estonia for the future of the economy and the state's role therein?

I believe that the main question is what could be the sectors and industries, in addition to information technology, to which the state and entrepreneurs should seriously contribute in the next 10-15 years. Could it be the timber industry where we seem to have good prospects?

How can the state, in cooperation with research institutions and companies, help the sector move toward greater value added in Estonia, while at the same time balancing industrial interests with society's nature conservation expectations? Could environmental technologies be another such field?

To generalize even more. I'm sure that right-wing populism is a passing phenomenon. The ideology in its recent form is having serious trouble in America and the United Kingdom and is rather fighting retreating battles. That said, it is unlikely that Estonia or the world will return to the recent neoliberal model after the current populist age runs its course.

Once the time of the current government ends, it does not mean Estonia will be picking up where Taavi Rõivas left off. Both the world and Estonia have changed too much for that.

What will be the next age for Estonia? I hope and am working toward a social democratic age where we set about constructing a welfare state on the prosperity we've created over the past three decades. Following the example of the Nordics but in a different age – a post-digital turn age.

Perhaps [former prime minister] Taavi Rõivas' concept of a "New Nordic" country wasn't so far off after all, even though it was and is not in any way compatible with the Reform Party's idea of tax and fiscal policy.

A welfare state cannot be thin. A thin state inevitably leaves the majority without access to the fruits of growth. A thin state is unable to invest sufficiently in education, healthcare and social welfare. It simply cannot afford it.

But which party has the courage to say it out loud? The left in Estonia moving further away from the center would contribute to everyone's options and ensure a greater selection of alternative approaches for the voter. By the way, local government council elections make for a good sandbox in which to practice.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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