Former Reform Party leader and prime minister Andrus Ansip said that the Reform Party should never have formed a government with the Center Party and that a coalition with the Social Democratic Party (SDE) and Isamaa should have been preferred from the start.
Ansip told ERR that there is no one culprit for the Reform-Center coalition coming undone.
"In hindsight, we might say that those who suggested this coalition should never have been formed were right. It should have been between Reform, SDE and Isamaa. But hindsight is 20/20 and this realization is useless now," Ansip said.
The former premier added that he does not believe Reform should have been more accommodating with Center in the final stages of the crisis. Instead, Reform should have demanded more from its partner at the beginning.
"I'm embarrassed to see Tanel Kiik (former minister of health and labor for Center – ed.) appear on "Aktuaalne kaamera" and announce for Center that the party had decided to form a coalition with EKRE. The latter have railed against and humiliated Kiik to the best of their ample ability. With good reason, it has to be said – Kiik clearly failed to contain the coronavirus crisis and should have resigned over Estonia's excessive Covid mortality rate. But a person should retain some level of dignity. Tanel Kiik hasn't – he is content to appear on TV and say that they should form a coalition with EKRE."
Ansip said he cannot understand how other parties plan to pay for all of their expensive promises.
"It has to be said about Jüri Ratas that he has never been good at counting money. Over two years, Estonia missed €357 million in excise duty and VAT on excise receipt. An insane amount. Everyone still remembers the Latvian vodka rally (Estonians buying alcohol over the border in Latvia because of high excise duties – ed.), while no one seems to be responsible. €357 million gone in the blink of an eye, and the people do not seem to be holding it against Ratas. Which is when you get the feeling that the government's coffers are bottomless. But the government can only redistribute what hardworking taxpayers have contributed."
Ansip said he does not see a shower of benefits in wartime when money needs to go toward national defense.
"Left and right – not to those who really need it. I know it's unpopular to say that there is a limit to the state's wallet. Promises of universal benefits harm more than the budget. They create the impression that the state is somehow standalone and omnipotent and that all you need to do to get paid is make loud demands."
Ansip said that the Reform Party has never said it is against hiking child benefits, while decisions need to be based on what's fiscally possible.
The former leader recommends against his party heading to the opposition. He recalled that Estonia also had a minority government between May 2009 and elections in 2011.
"Costs had to be cut at the time, which is what we did, together with the Social Democrats and Isamaa. When the Social Democrats could no longer take it, they left, and we continued as a minority government. Being in a minority government means having to explain to the people in greater detail why certain decisions are useful and others are not. If the people understand, it is always possible to find support from the opposition."
He recalled that there were those who demanded Estonia borrow instead of going down the path of austerity back in 2009, adding that his government found other ways.
"Borrowing is not a sin and needs to be done from time to time, while it has to be done responsibly. The right time to borrow is in a crisis, not when times are good. During the latter, one should build reserves. We are forced to admit that Jüri Ratas' government did nothing of the sort. They thought the good life would go on forever, except it never does."
Ansip said that were Reform to head to the opposition, it would amount to admitting defeat and harm Estonia as it would allow people who have shown themselves to be squanderers and unable to handle the coronavirus crisis to come to power.
Editor: Marcus Turovski