Riikoja: Government's 100 days plan does not look beyond elections

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Indrek Lepik and Hindrek Riikoja. Source: Kairit Leibold/ERR

The coalition's 100 days plan does not look beyond the next elections, Maaleht Editor-in-Chief Hindrek Riikoja said on the Raadio 2 "Olukorrast riigis" talk show. Co-host, Eesti Ekspress editor Indrek Lepik found that it is difficult for the government to make plans in what is an uncertain situation.

Riikoja recalled how the government's coalition agreement was criticized for its vague phrasing and lacking concrete goals. He said that the cabinet's 100 days plan hardly provides a clearer picture.

"True, if the things outlined in the plan do get done inside 100 days, mostly as concerns laying down a strategy, looking into and determining certain matters, it will lay the foundation for subsequent action over the coming 18 months," he added.

Riikoja admitted that the plan provides some answer regarding things some people hoped the coalition would reverse or put an end to. He gave the example of reversing the second pension pillar reform, which the 100 days plan reveals will not be done. "It reads that the government will use funds freed up from the second pillar to cover pension insurance deficit, render average pension tax free and facilitate an extraordinary pensions hike. It is clear something like that will not be given up," the journalist explained.

Riikoja found that the coalition's plan lacks ambition, giving the example of the portion dealing with universal Estonian education.

"It makes me wonder where is the courage to move forward in certain areas. For example, talking about the goal of "Educated and smart people," the items therein concern Estonian-language education, while the chapter makes no mention of the fact that our number one goal in rendering the education system universally Estonian needs to be teacher training because the lion's share of teachers who would have to teach subjects in Estonian are not capable of doing that today. But we still need to teach every child, meaning that we need at least 30 percent new teachers. It's nice that we are setting goals and drawing up strategies for promoting Estonian education, but we should act with a little more courage," the host said.

Lepik said that the 100 days plan reflects the fact Estonia has a crisis government. "To be frank, I do not envy people who have to make concrete plans in the conditions of such uncertainty," he said.

"Talking about Estonian-language education, we should first be on top of education in general. It is a massive problem today, which is why we cannot hold it against the government in earnest if these plans are not too intricate. Details are incredibly hard to stick to in a situation where you don't know when the population will be vaccinated, when certain sectors will get back on their feet. Talking about the socioeconomic side of things and unemployment, it is directly tied to whether catering establishments, tourism etc. can function as before," he added.

"But the problem of teachers goes far beyond that and cannot be solved in 100 days. I believe we need a loud and clear message that the state values teacher training and the profession very highly as the entire school system is sitting on top of a ticking time-bomb, with the average age of general school teachers very high and Estonia looking at running out of them in the next few decades. This is something that needs to be addressed now," Lepik said.

Riikoja commented by saying that if the government's only goal for the next two years is crisis alleviation, this should be communicated, while it has not been done right now.

He added that it is possible to address quite a few things while also dealing with the crisis.

"The question of teachers – these are long-term problems solutions to which take between five and ten years and they can be addressed during the current crisis. The question is whether there is will to think ahead, to think beyond the next elections in this government. Looking at the 100 days plan, I see nothing that goes beyond elections," Riikoja said.

Lepik gave the example of the government's plan to come off oil shale energy. What it's lacking is what will happen to Ida-Viru County once energy is not longer at its heart. Riikoja added that people working in the oil shale sector in Ida-Viru County can rest easy for now as nothing will happen inside the next 10-15 years.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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