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Where is the extra money needed to raise teachers' salaries coming from?

The "Super Ministry" building, which houses the Ministry of Finance, in Tallinn. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Most of the €5.5 million needed to raise teachers' salaries will come from a paused artificial intelligence development project, and the e-Residency program, officials said on Wednesday. Almost €1 million will come from the Ministry of the Interior.

Elo Eesmäe, spokesperson for the Ministry of Education and Research, told ERR the money found for the salary increase will total €5.5 million.

"While the initial projected need was €5.7 million, the revised calculations indicate an additional need of €5.5 million," she said.

Minister of Education Kristina Kallas (Estonia 200) said on Tuesday a €3 million artificial intelligence project will be paused and the money rediverted to salaries.

"We call this the work of the AI Advisory Board. We're going to postpone it and do it with fewer resources and raise the money from there. This is the Council for the Development of Artificial Intelligence for education and research, but it was a carry-over from last year, and we moved it up," she said.

Spokesperson of the Ministry of Social Affairs Taavi Audo told ERR €200,000 will be cut from the ministry's operating expenses in 2024 and used for teachers' salaries.

"This is a new decision, so the exact cuts are not known today. No services, benefits, or allowances will be reduced," said Audo.

The Ministry of the Interior's Secretary General Tarmo Miilits said a contribution of €900,000 will be made.

"This means a one-off transfer of money to the Ministry of Education and Research in 2024. Out of the €900,000 needed, €500,000 will come from the money reserved for a possible move in the budget of the Ministry of the Interior, €400,000 from the Ministry of the Interior's management costs and certain development activities," he said.

The secretary general could not give additional information about where cuts will be made but said the general principle will be for departments to consume less.

Giving away funds reserved for moving does not mean that the Ministry of the Interior will not change its location, Miilits said.

"We will continue to look for rental opportunities for a new building with the help of RKAS [Riigi Kinnisvara AS], within today's budget, or to find a better use for the vacant space in the Ministry of Interior building. We plan to find the funds in cooperation with RKAS," he said.

The ministry does not plan to cut bonuses and performance fees.

The Ministry of Regional Affairs and Agriculture will contribute €400,000 by cutting operational costs, public relations adviser Heili Sõrmus said. 

€1 million will come from the Ministry of Economy Affairs and Communications (MKM).

"Cuts will come from the e-Residency program and operational cost savings will come mainly from in-house activities, where automation will be maximized and so less support will be purchased from the market," Laura Laaster, head of public relations at MKM, told ERR. 

Performance bonuses will not be cut.

"There is no separate fund for performance-related bonuses, which are part of the normal salary fund. Whether, and to what extent, a performance-related bonus can be paid this year depends on how large or small the internal balances in the payroll fund are at the end of the year – for example, any surplus funds left over from sick leave, temporary vacancies, and so on. According to the government's decision, the civil servants' payroll is also frozen this year," said Laaster.

On Tuesday, Kallas said €5.7 million will come from the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Regional Affairs and Agriculture, and the Ministry of Social Affairs. 

These ministries are mostly the responsibility of junior coalition partners SDE and Eesti 200. However, the Ministry of Social Affairs has two ministers for health (SDE) and social protection (Reform).

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, headed by Eesti 200 chairman Margus Tsahkna, is not part of the political agreement.


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Editor: Aleksander Krjukov, Helen Wright

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