The practice of "protection money" symbolizes almost everything that's wrong in Estonian political system, Lauri Hussar writes.
The Riigikogu Finance Committee is set to discuss MPs' proposals to amend the 2023 state budget bill on December 1. At the heart of these discussions will be proposals for allocating so-called Riigikogu protection money sums, cleverly disguised as direct investments. I heartily recommend everyone take a keen interest in how these sums (€4 million in total – ed.) will be distributed.
According to MP Eduard Odinets (SDE), we are talking about useful and interesting investments in different regions. These useful investments are handled in a publicly transparent manner and aimed at sports clubs, village squares, associations of the elderly and congregations.
But there are also the interesting projects. Riigikogu direct investments are known as protection and roof money for a reason. It means that MPs and parties can allocate sums to those who can be of use to them presently and in the future. This is where we need to remain vigilant and take MPs to task in terms of how much was given to which projects and why.
Why go to the trouble of asking? Because Riigikogu protection money symbolizes almost everything that is wrong in Estonia's political system – the allocation scheme is completely random. For example, one may be tempted to allocate €45,000 to a society called Ungern Khaan that sought to erect a monument to a mass murdered and proponent of restoring Czarist authority. Only a strong public reaction managed to avoid it in the end.
This year, we can see proposals to support people mourning the [removed Narva] tank, lighting a path leading to someone's personal summer house, construction of an adventure park in an MP's home village and money for a church that supports the Ukraine war. Not to mention support for fellow party members' associations. It is only slightly less painful to see candidates switching constituencies virtually funding their campaigns using the state budget.
Despite years of criticism, the "protection money" system has not been amended or changed to any notable degree, not to mention abolishing it. The only conclusion is that it benefits the decision-makers. Critics in the parliament have emphasized that the nature of the practice shows signs of institutionalized corruption, and still they haven't put and end to it.
It has been suggested ad nauseam that the state budget is becoming increasingly opaque and changes are in order. "Protection money" only seems to have been rendered transparent by attaching the names of MPs.
I urge everyone to analyze the beneficiaries list and try to understand the connection between the contributing MP and the recipient. It is the least we can do as the process of vocally distributing €4 million takes attention away from the state budget and its choices.
Eesti 200 have always been opposed to the practice of "protection money." If we absolutely have to allocate funds in this manner, it could be done following the inclusive budget principle. Local governments know these principles and can set a good example for the Riigikogu. It would still see Santa Clause visit those who need help and lend momentum to good ideas.
Editor: Marcus Turovski