Samost and Sildam: Little change in budget under different government
Anvar Samost and Toomas Sildam said on their Sunday Vikerraadio talk show "Samost ja Sildam" that the 2022 state budget plan would not have differed much under a different government.
Samost described it as a classic election year budget that will be processed before local elections on October 17 and the effects of which will extend until the 2023 Riigikogu elections period.
Sildam said that ruling Reform and Center politicians will try to take wage hike messages to their voters before the October 17 elections, which Samost described as only natural. "It is only natural politicians are trying to please voters," he said.
That said, Sildam continued, the budget would not have been very different under the previous government (of Center, Isamaa and EKRE). It is possible EKRE would have demanded more money for internal security, while the previous government would likely also have canceled excise duty hikes," he added.
"I agree in that the state budget would not have been radically different under another government," Samost agreed.
He said the latter aspect has practical reasons as 80 percent of the budget is set in stone through legislation. "Secondly, parties' leeway also seems similar, with no major fiscal policy differences between them, just details," the host said.
Samost said that Estonia's fiscal policy choices are largely shaped by factors we cannot control, which is why parties appear similar in relevant decisions.
"In a situation where the European Commission keeps printing mountains of money in the conditions of 5 percent inflation in Estonia or 4 percent in Germany, we can keep talking about fiscal balance, the need to combat inflation, energy price hikes etc. until the cows come home – but it will only be a fun rhetorical exercise. That is the context," Samost remarked. He added that the budget will likely not see any surprises before it is passed.
Sildam said that any attempt to obstruct the passing of the budget would see it tied to a confidence vote in the government and passed.
Samost recalled how the Reform Party started talking about the need for cutting costs as soon as it took office in January. "Looking at differences between parties, the question for me was how long it would take Reform to understand the reality of economic environment," he said.
Sildam described Reform's €60 million austerity plan as a dogmatic approach to fiscal balance. "They dusted off the same plan they used before they were sent to the opposition in 2016," Sildam found.
"Despite suggestions in spring by Center Party leader Jüri Ratas and the Riigikogu Finance Committee chairman (also Center) to wait and see how the economy would perform, Reform maintained its austerity rhetoric throughout the summer," Samost said, adding that he doubts Center would have agreed to cost-cutting during a double elections year, in a situation where Estonia's austerity logic is rather a unique phenomenon in the world as it is.
"It comes as a surprise that Reform conducted itself in such a counterproductive fashion for all those months," Samost said.
Sildam offered as the reason different views inside the party that the public cannot see.
Samost said that while the new budget plan is a bit clearer and elements in it easier to compare, the fact the budget is put together as activities-based renders it "just as absurd as it has been for the last two years." That said, every ministry's chapter includes an annex that allows it to be compared to the previous budget.
"But if you asked me whether I think we would have a different budget under a different government, I remain skeptical," Samost said.
The hosts also analyzed the growing popularity of the Conservative People's Party (EKRE), the Riigikogu passing amendments to the Electricity Market Act, power supply security and higher traffic fine amounts.
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Editor: Marcus Turovski