Kaja Kallas: Government budget bill a mañana bill of perpetual borrowing
The state budget the government approved Tuesday lacks strategic vision and the necessary leap a crisis-era budget would require, opposition Reform Party leader Kaja Kallas says, and leans to much on borrowing.
For this reason, Kallas dubbed it "the budget for perpetual mañana borrowing"
"The focus of the 2021 state budget should be on a strategic vision and using the crisis to make reforms," Kallas said Wednesday, after Prime Minister Jüri Ratas presented the bill to the Riigikogu.
"This budget will largely determine how Estonia's economy and society recover from the coronavirus crisis, how successful Estonia is compared with its competitors, and whether it can be an efficient state. A state that values the well-being of its citizens and its society, both now and in the future. However, unfortunately, the budget presented to us today does not do that," Kallas told the chamber.
She also called one of the major health components, the planned Tallinn Hospital, not only a pipe dream but also fraudulent, given it is planned by using euro money, and is not even at design stage yet.
The capital is covered by three main, separate hospitals in east, west and north Tallinn respectively.
The government is also deferring the cost of borrowing to the next administration, likening it to a party, after which comes the inevitable hangover.
No scope existed for social leaps and investments, efficiency gains, and long-term investments and reforms that would develop and make more efficient and competitive the economy, as well as in green areas, e-solutions and innovation, and workforce qualifications, she said.
Reforms own counter-proposals.
Reform Party budgetary counter-proposals
Of these perceived neglected areas, Kallas said that science and innovation were particularly key.
"The creation of an applied research center and through it directing money to various development activities would help motivate companies to engage in product development more actively than before. This will allow them to invest in the introduction of new technologies and increase the competitiveness of companies with less risk," Kallas said.
Kallas said that Reform would also reduce waiting lists and the burden of care, smart IT solutions in health and social services, and greater accessibility to medical and palliative care.
Improving e-Estonia, internet connections, and reducing dependence on areas such as tourism, hard hit by the pandemic, are also projects Kallas said Reform would undertake were it in office at this stage, adding that a special climate fund would complement the digitization of the private and other sectors, as well as enhancing green innovation and overall economic competitiveness.
Kallas said that the economy of Ida-Viru County, Estonia's easternmost region which is home to most of its oil shale mining sector and related industries, should be diversified via investment.
Kallas also said that following finance minister Martin Helmes' (EKRE) wisdom above all others, including that of the Bank of Estonia, seemed a mantra for the current government for the foreseeable future.
"But we have not lost hope," she said.
Contrasts between the coalition's approach to the current crisis via borrowing, with that of Andrus Ansip's (Reform) government in the last crisis 10 years ago, are often drawn, in the media, and by both sides of the political divide.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte