Prime minister: We are prepared to amend energy support measures
While the government did not make any decisions regarding the energy inflation support measures on Thursday, they are prepared to amend the support scheme in order to make it simpler for people to apply.
"Firstly, we discussed the bottlenecks for a long time, so that we would have more production capacities on the market and so that there would not be such price peaks, where we stumble and require help to move forward with renewable energy production," Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said on Thursday.
She noted that there are several bottlenecks for renewable energy development in Estonia, but they are most common in environmental protection.
The government will also begin mapping out the situation regarding the energy inflation compensation support measure. Kallas pointed out that Tartu will begin paying out compensation this Thursday. "We take all this feedback and criticism regarding the support measure very seriously and are prepared to amend them for people to receive support," Kallas said.
Security is an area which has not gotten enough attention in Estonia, as well, although it directly affects the state, the prime minister added. "I had a phone call with the Norwegian prime minister [on Wednesday], who we sense the security situation in exactly the same manner. We also spoke about electricity support measures, Norway's measures have been discussed in Estonian journalism and I was able to right to the source. They are just as worried in Norway, but their situation is a little different," Kallas said.
Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik (Center) said it is important to support both private persons and companies during the energy crisis. Energy costs in public institutions are also growing, including in the healthcare sector and in hospitals. "Volume has almost doubled compared to before, we are talking of millions of euros in total costs during this heating period," Kiik said.
The effects of the energy inflation will also reach those that do not see too much of an increase to their electricity bills, the minister said.
Coronavirus infections in an upward trend
The prime minister said coronavirus infections in Estonia are in an upward trend. "Estimations say infections can grow to 6,000-7,000 daily infections on peak days. I would like to say that there have been talks as if the Omicron variant is milder, but we also have the Delta variant still moving around, which is not as mild. Unvaccinated people are most affected," Kallas said.
She noted that testing capacities in other countries have become issues, but that will not be an issue in Estonia and testing options will manage the wave of infections for now.
Tanel Kiik noted that the Omicron variant is indeed milder and should not panic anyone vaccinated, because hospitalization rates have been stable and most patients are unvaccinated. This has, however, caused hospital beds to fill up somewhat, leaving people in need of other treatments unable to go to the hospital in cases.
The government also approved a patient insurance draft law on Thursday. "The goal is to implement a vaccine insurance system from May. This would make it possible for people to apply for benefits for COVID-19 vaccine side effects retroactively," Kiik said. Other vaccines will also be included in the insurance system from 2023.
"All vaccines offered in Estonia have been highly tested, checked and studied, administering these vaccines is always safer than infection. But we know that every medicine has side effects, including vaccines," the health minister said.
CO2 quota revenue was €42 million higher than expected
Minister of Finance Keit Pentus-Rosimannus (Reform) said the rapid growth of tax revenue continued in the last quarter of 2021 as the state received more than €750 million in taxes, which is up 13 percent compared to the year prior.
"Often, while looking at overall VAT receipts, there is an impression that there are hundreds of millions more in VAT from the energy sector. If we compare to the previous year, there was €41 million more of it. This estimated increase is around €19 million. For comparison - the current support package is more than €200 million," the finance minister said.
The government also looked at the general state of the budget and the deficit based on 11 months is €562 million. "We should remember that number when there is talk of overpayment. Unfortunately, we are quite far from classic overpayment," Pentus-Rosimannus said.
According to the current forecast, VAT receipts should go €70 million over the previous estimation. The CO2 quota trading revenue has increased by €42 million. "All this means that if speak about measures funded from CO2 quota trading revenue, the actual volume is around €79 million. Additional CO2 revenue does not cover it in its entirety," the finance minister explained.
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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste