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Ministries told to stop handing out merchandise and gifts to save money

Civic Day souvenirs distributed by the Ministry of the Interior.
Civic Day souvenirs distributed by the Ministry of the Interior. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The government told ministries and agencies last week they can no longer distribute merchandise and gifts in a bid to save money. Some institutions are not happy about the change.

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) made the proposal during a cabinet meeting. She told ERR state institutions do not need to use gifts to market themselves.

"It takes a lot of natural resources to produce all these hoodies, thermos cups, and pens, and in the end, these masses of souvenirs sit uselessly on the shelf. Giving gifts for taxpayers' money like this is neither economical nor reasonable," Kallas said.

She said ministers agreed merchandise would be scrapped not only in ministries, but also in organizations, foundations, and companies in their sectors.

However, exceptions remain. "Of course, gifts of protocol can be made in the future, gifts have their place in international relations, and Estonia follows this international custom," said Kallas.

The Government Office said the principle must be followed by national organizations as soon as possible based on economy and rationality. 

Ministries split

It is not yet known how much money this measure will save, but ministries think it will not be much.

For example, the Ministry of Interior has spent €15,100 on merchandise in 2023. This includes protocol gifts and awards for volunteers. 

"We've donated and gifted ministry commemorative coins, badges and medals, as well as thank-you letters," said Siim Vahi, head of Information and Asset management Department.

The ministry does not want to stop handing out awards to volunteers.

"Memorabilia and gifts play an important role in an organization's culture of employee recognition. For example, recognizing very good police officers and rescuers with a letter of appreciation from the Minister of the Interior is part of the organizational culture of the Ministry of the Interior and our administration," Vahi said.

In some cases, the thank you letter also comes with a valuable gift, such as a watch, but there is a limit. For example, only eight are handed out each year in the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA), which is an organization with 4,500 employees

"Recognition of this kind carries great value for employees and this tradition is worth preserving," said Vahi.

The Ministry of Culture has spent €40,000 on gifts and merchandise this year. Most of these are handed out during foreign visits, to foreign guests, or as protocol gifts.

These have included books, music, and design objects produced by Estonian creators.

This year Tartu 2024 Capital of Culture merchandise was also handed out, which included program and notebooks. Additional tote bags and water bottles were given out in relation to the Youth Song and Dance Festival.

Last year, the ministry spent €73,500 on gifts. It agreed savings can be found in this area.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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