The non-parliamentary Parempoolsed party condemn the decision to hike the so-called Riigikogu protection money or direct regional investments during an elections year as the practice cannot solve local problems and smells of corruption.
The party's representative in the Riigikogu Siim Kiisler (formerly Isamaa – ed.) presented a motion to amend the State Budget Act bill to end the practice of so-called Riigikogu protection money (sums MPs get to distribute as they see fit – ed.) and put an end to a de facto situation of parties using public funds for campaigning.
"The cost of protection money in next year's state budget is €4 million – money parties are using to try and buy supporters all over Estonia," Parempoolsed leader Lavly Perling said.
"Even though fiscal deficit is deepening and the public debt growing, a full million is added to protection money sums. Last year, the total sum was €3 million or €30,000 per MP. Looming elections in spring is the only logical explanation," Perling remarked.
The 2023 budget bill gives every MP €39,600 to distribute as they see fit, whereas a single allocation cannot be under €5,000. This means that every Riigikogu member can hand out an extra €10,000 compared to previous years. The conditions allow MPs to support organizations that have been active for over a year and filed their previous year's annual report. The money is meant for investments or as activity support.
Parempoolsed have decided to add the pledge of abolishing the practice of Riigikogu direct investments to their platform.
"The problem is that this kind of personal or party-level funding clearly expects a return favor in the form of political support at elections. These kinds of presents and agreements have the smell of political corruption," Lavly Perling said.
"Estonia cannot improve its reputation as a country fighting corruption when our MPs send the opposite signal every year."
Parempoolsed are convinced that parliamentary protection money cannot solve regional problems, which require a systematic approach. Among other measures, local governments should be given more say and freedom in managing their income and expenses.
"As far as regional development is concerned, the primary thing is to increase local governments' revenue base and rights. One-off allocations are of no help. Earmarked support needs to become part of local governments' revenue base and Estonian cities and municipalities need to be given full control of their money. Local governments should also get a bigger share of income tax," Perling said.
Next year's state budget bill passed its second reading last week. Parempoolsed's proposal of abolishing the practice of protection money was rejected. MPs are required to present their direct funding proposals on Monday, with the Riigikogu Finance Committee set to deliberate on December 1.
Editor: Marcus Turovski