Prime minister: Ratas' budget strategy criticisms odd given his involvement

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Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform). Source: ERR

Riigikogu speaker and former prime minister Jüri Ratas' criticisms of the recently-unveiled state budget strategy are puzzling, given he was involved in discussions on the topic and his party, Center, is one of the two coalition partners which reached an agreement on the strategy, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) says.

"It is strange when Jüri Ratas, who was an ever-present at these budget debates, sitting at the table, starts criticizing his own work. It is clear that this was the agreement we reached," Kallas said Tuesday, appearing on Vikerraadio show "Stuudios on peaminister."

Ratas said last Thursday that the strategy, often known as the RES for short, an abbreviation deriving from its name in Estonia, needs to be revisited in the light of the summer economic forecast when it comes, adding that these figures should be taken into account ahead of the 2022 state budget.

As its name suggests, the RES covers budgetary strategy over several years (2022-2025), while each year's actual state budget is drafted the preceding fall, with a view to passing a Riigikogu vote by year-end.

Ratas' party mates, Jaanus Karilaid – Center's deputy chair – and Erki Savisaar, who is chair of the Riigikogu's finance committee, have both been more critical still, calling the cuts – which would total €61 million per annum – unreasonable.

Kallas also noted that the strategy had been a compromise, and had not been a purely Reform-stamped document.

"No one has ever been totally satisfied with the RES. Perhaps this just demonstrates that it is a ideal compromise – neither the people in our party nor in the Center Party are satisfied," Kallas said.

Unpopular decisions must be made in order to improve things in Estonia, she added.

While in opposition, Kallas had criticized the then-coalition of Center, EKRE and Isamaa for its strategy of borrowing in the face of the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout.

During the last economic crisis starting in 2007, Reform, under then-prime minister Andrus Ansip, came to follow an austerity program.

As to whether this might spell the end of the Reform-Center coalition as early as the fall, Kallas did not rule out the idea, saying that: "The Reform Party can also form a new government, and maybe even the Reform Party would have more opportunities. There is always a chance that the government will change."

The current partnership came into being in January.

The next direct elections are to the local municipalities, in October 2017.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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