The level of state funding set aside to fix Estonia's roads is no longer enough to carry out the minimum required maintenance, construction companies said on Tuesday.
Construction and road maintenance companies protested outside the Rigiikogu on Tuesday to draw attention to reductions in government spending.
The change occurred in 2015 when fuel taxes were decoupled from funding road construction, "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported.
Veiko Veskimäe, chairman of the construction engineering company Verston Ehitus' board, said the state cannot currently build EU-standard roads such as the Tallinn-Pärnu highway.
"The state made a killing, took money from Europe that was meant to be an additional investment to upgrade or develop infrastructure, and then reduced its funding in the process. And today, 30 years after regaining our independence and 18 years in the European Union, we are in a situation where our main road to Europe has not even been built and we are in penultimate place in the European Union in the development of the TEN-T road network," he said.
The money needed to maintain existing roads has risen to €4 billion. State funding can no longer guarantee the basic level of repairs, Veskimäe said.
It is also expected to drop significantly in the coming years and as work is scarce, infrastructure construction companies are already struggling.
"If such plans come to fruition, it will surely mean redundancies and a drastic reduction in capacity for quite a few companies," said Veskimäe.
Minister of Economic Affairs Riina Sikkut (SDE) said she failed to convince the coalition to increase spending in the sector in next year's budget.
"The revenue side of the budget simply has to be increased, we cannot finance the running costs of road maintenance, for example, on an annual basis with a loan. But, at the same time, in the case of road investments, as we have talked about in the case of defense investments, large investments could also be financed by loans. So there are a number of options, depending on the next coalition agreement," said Sikkut.
Former economic affairs minister Taavi Aas (Center) said the money will only be found by changing the funding model.
"Bringing back fuel excise duty would certainly be an option. But I think to achieve a real revolution, additional resources will still be needed. We should not be afraid to borrow funds to finish our main roads," said Aas.
Editor: Helen Wright