Minister: I recommend defense minister take another look at defense cuts

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Minister of Public Administration Jaak Aab (Center). Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Minister of Public Administration Jaak Aab (Center) said that the ministry's proposals for austerity cuts will be assessed in the fall to make sure no regular workers need to be laid off. Aab recommended Minister of Defense Kalle Laanet (Reform) find an alternative to laying off 270 active servicemen.

Aab visited ERR's web show "Otse uudistemajast" on Wednesday and commented on the cooperation of Reform and Center parties after Jüri Ratas resigned as prime minister in the start of the year. "The cooperation had to begin quickly. We were able to get it going relatively fast," Aab said.

Show host Toomas Sildam asked Aab about the government's austerity plan to make €60 million in cuts in each ministry's fields. The minister responded that savings can always be looked for and if the nation can be governed more economically, it should be done.

Speaking about the defense ministry possibly laying off 270 active servicemen to make the necessary cuts, Aab said he does not support it. "It is not the best plan. I will say that clearly. I would warmly recommend the defense minister read over those lines again."

"I really hope they look into this cut and find alternative measures. I would also recommend the finance minister look over the defense ministry's budget with a few officials," Aab added.

The experienced minister also said the possible cut of the Estonian Defense Forces' orchestra is questionable. "If they start from the orchestra, I would ask what the reasoning is. Orchestras have symbolic value," he said.

Aab confirmed that proposed ministry cuts must be re-evaluated in the fall. "This austerity is achievable so we would not go at regular workers."

After finance minister Keit-Pentus Rosimannus (Reform) proposed Eesti Energia suspend their oil shale plant development, Aab said there has been no official decision made yet. "It is possible to proceed in principle. The serious problem is burning oil shale for electricity, it cannot last forever."

Responding to a question about EKRE's chances in Ida-Viru County, a long-time stronghold of Center Party, Aab said it is significant, but not too much. "It seems like a desperate search for support. EKRE has come to stay in Estonian politics. They have a certain voter group, we cannot deny they have support in different regions," the minister said.

Toomas Sildam asked if former education minister Mailis Reps has explained to Center what her embezzlement case actually entails. Aab noted that he knows as much as the regular Estonian citizen about the case, having read about it in the press. He noted that if there has been a misdemeanor, it deserves punishment. At the same time, Aab called for Reps to not be prematurely convicted.

"If a person has been grilled with a suspicion for a long time and it does not reach prosecution, that is not a good thing," the public administration minister said.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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