Estonia's new Finance Minister Annely Akkermann (Reform) is a proponent of an activities-based state budget and intends to pursue a more conservative fiscal policy.
"I represent the school of having a state budget based on activities," Akkermann said in an interview to morning show "Terevisioon," adding that this makes it possible to debate how much to contribute towards general education, higher education, medicine, social services etc.
"That is the level we could be discussing in the Riigikogu, moving through topics. The alternative is to hash out how many people are working, how much they get paid, how many pens to buy or whether offices will be rented or constructed. That is not really the parliament's horizon and should remain on the level of operational management," Akkermann suggested.
The fresh finance minister, who emphasized throughout the interview that she has read and understood the 2023 draft budget, did not agree with the host's suggestion that detailed expenses are hidden somewhere deep in the current budget, causing confusion in terms of what money is spent on.
"We need a certain level of generalization in the Riigikogu. We cannot be counting pens in the parliament. I'm sure activities-based financing and a system where the budget is clear and legible can be made better. But the people in the ministry responsible for the budget have come a long way in the last three years, and I'm sure they can come further."
Akkermann said she is also a proponent of more conservative fiscal policy. She described Estonia's 2.6 percent fiscal deficit as close to the limit, with the EU allowing a deficit of 3 percent. The minister added that extraordinary circumstances, especially a war raging 1,000 kilometers away that requires Estonia to ramp up national defense, affect this year's state budget. She also pointed at soaring energy prices and their effect on the budget through support measures.
The minister would try to boost state income in the 2024 state budget should she continue in her post following next year's parliamentary elections. Continued inflation is forecast to increase tax revenue, while Estonia will have to carefully consider how much expenses can grow and to what extent it can reduce its loan burden.
Akkermann told "Aktuaalne kaamera" news on Tuesday evening that she has criticized so-called Riigikogu protection money or direct regional investments in the past and remains against the practice today, as well as that she sees no problems in how her predecessor was elected to represent Estonia in the European Court of Auditors. Opposition EKRE MP Mart Helme submitted a criminal complaint over Pentus-Rosimannus' ECA application on Tuesday.
Former Finance Minister Keit Pentus Rosimannus announced her resignation as minister and from politics on Tuesday. President Alar Karis appointed Annely Akkermann on Wednesday morning, following Reform setting up her candidacy on Tuesday.
Editor: Marcus Turovski