The restful surroundings of the Vihula Manor Country Club and Spa in Lääne-Viru County were the scene of day one of a two-day cabinet session, which will hammer out the 2024 state budget.
This year, the mood is perhaps a little more somber than in some previous years, with ministers on the hunt for €200 million in cuts to be made in 2024 alone.
Speaking to ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) Thursday evening – at 6.30 p.m. to be precise – Minister of Finance Mart Võrklaev (Reform) said that while the mood at Vihula was both friendly and business-like, the major challenge ahead has still been a cause for concern.
Võrklaev said: "We have reached the elephant in the room, that is, our budget being in a tight situation as we said, so the cabinet must now find a way out of this situation."
"We have been looking at the budget situation during the daytime, discussing what needs to be done in the future. Now, these ideas and possibilities need to be brought together."
"However, it is clear that the work is largely focused on how to rectify the state budget, in this difficult situation," Võrklaev went on.
That difficult situation essentially refers to the stated need to find €200 million in cuts next year – the figure set on next year's deficit in fact. The finance ministry has put the deficit through to 2027 at around one billion euros.
The output on paper of the Vihula summit and other meetings will be the state budget for 2024, the state budget strategy for 2023-2026, both of which must be submitted to the Riigikogu by the end of the month, along with any bills which have in their content any budgetary implications, AK reported.
Võrklaev said the mood had been friendly, if busy, with the concerns as noted above.
"While the budgetary process is usually a period for good news, were we do something, unfortunately this crisis and these costs has left us at the point where we have to think about how we can sustain the country over the long term, how we can reduce the deficit, the debt burden, to avoid a situation where all the taxpayers' funds go on servicing loans and interest rates," the finance minsiter went on.
The state budget bill for 2024 must be presented to the Riigikogu by the end of this month.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mirjam Mäekivi, Anne Raiste, Merili Nael
Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera.'