'Olukorrast riigis': Pension reform effects need to be considered

'Olukorrast riigis' hosts Indrek Lepik and Hindrek Riikoja.
'Olukorrast riigis' hosts Indrek Lepik and Hindrek Riikoja. Source: Siiri Lubasoo/ERR

Journalists Indrek Lepik and Hindrek Riikoja discussed the effects of money withdrawn from the second pension pillar on the "Olukorrast riigis" talk show. The hosts described Estonia's pension reform and freezing state payments into the second pillar during the crisis as shortsighted moves the effects of which need to be considered in the future.

Second pillar pension asset payments based on applications started on September 2 and 3, with a total of €1.34 billion withdrawn.

Lepik said that this brought a lot of free money to the market much of which will be spent. "The first figures – enforcement agents received €70 million worth of loan repayments on September 3. This by roughly 13,000-14,000 people. While I'm sure debt collectors, banks and child support recipients are waiting their turn," he said.

"Traders say that retail turnover is up. The money will land on the market quickly, with commercial banks forecasting half of it going straight into consumption," he added.

This will temporarily boost state revenues if only through income tax and VAT receipt. "The economy is flying as it is, with short- and long-term effects the question. We can see quite a lot of positives in the short perspective. I believe traders and everyone else will rejoice for a time, while we might see sector-based inflation bubbles in the long term. Everyone knows a handyman is already hard to come by, while it might soon be the case for washing machines," Lepik forecast.

The unfrozen sums also sent the Tallinn stock exchange rallying, which according to Lepik represents the nearest investment opportunity. "Looking at the money that made its way to the exchange, daily turnover is over €15 million," he said.

"There is a bubble. The question is whether it is all bad or what will become of it in the long run," Lepik said.

Riikoja said that while he does not believe all the money will be spent, the effects of the pension reform need to be considered in the future.

"I'm not as skeptical or think so little of people as to believe everyone will go on a spending spree. A part of the money will be spent, while people using the money to purchase real estate or others things of lasting value cannot be automatically classified as unfortunate behavior. That said, I still am not sure the second pillar reform made sense as it will saddle us with a lot more pensioners the state will have to support in the future as they lack savings of their own," Riikoja said.

The state is set to resume payments into people's second pillar funds and has promised to compensate people for missed returns currently at 16.4 percent.

"Because the payments will be resumed in early 2023, interest will continue to mount until the end of next year. The state has borrowed from its citizens at an extortionate rate, which warning was delivered at the time the decision was made. An utterly shortsighted move in hindsight," Lepik said.

Riikoja added that people investing their pension assets in the stock exchange need to count on the possibility of losing it. "People who see the Tallinn exchange as a way to make a lot of money need to keep in mind that only very clever and knowledgeable people who know the ins and outs of stock market logic ever see major returns. Most people buying shares today will inevitably lose because market crashes are always unexpected. That is the greatest shame," the host said.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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