Government classifies budget cuts working documents

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Money. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The government has decided not to publish ministries' proposals for cost-cutting, with the documents bearing the "internal use only" stamp.

The government convened for a cabinet sitting Tuesday to discuss the 2024-2027 fiscal strategy and the 2024 state budget draft bill, including austerity measures for next year.

But the government has decided not to share ministers' proposals for cutting back with the public and has classified relevant memos as for internal use only.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Finance said that the budgets cuts table is not an official document on the use of budgetary resources, which could not be classified under public access to information rules, but rather constitutes fiscal strategy material, regarding which decisions will be made once it is approved.

Deliberations are set to continue Thursday. The government will make the final decisions at its September 14-15 outing to Vihula Manor. The 2024 draft budget needs to be presented to the Riigikogu by September 27.

Minister of Education and Research Kristina Kallas (Eesti 200) said after the Tuesday cabinet meeting that a public debate on budget cuts could result in everyone rushing to defend their particular lines of funding in the budget, which is why the documents are classified.

"Unfortunately, the cuts will have to come in the form of top-down decisions, which is the only way we can realistically get them done," she remarked.

The education minister said that austerity proposals reviewed on Tuesday were nothing major and concerned sums of €100,000 here or there.

Kallas said that the government wants to quickly cut €50 million for next year, while fixed public costs need much bigger cuts down the line.

Kristina Kallas. Source: Government Office

The cabinet also discussed freezing the salaries of top-ranking public servants as outlined in the coalition agreement. "A lot depends on political will there as the salaries in question also concern those of MPs," she said.

The minister added that even cutting the planned salary advance of top-ranking public servants by half would help save a lot of money.

Minister of Finance Mart Võrklaev (Reform) has suggested that Estonia could save around €1 billion over the next four years. The education minister said that Estonia will need to make major political decisions in terms of whether to drop certain activities or public tasks.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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