The 2018 state budget bill passed the first reading in the Riigikogu on Wednesday evening despite sharp criticism by the opposition. The deadline for amendment proposals was set for Nov. 1.
“This budget supports the growth of our economy, security, and the well-being of our families in such a way that the it is close to balanced, the tax burden will not increase, the debt burden will decrease, and the state’s finances will be in good condition also at the end of 2018,” Minister of Finance Toomas Tõniste (IRL) said introducing the budget to the Riigikogu.
Tõniste answered questions of opposition MPs for two hours. The Riigikogu voted to put the budget to a second reading. President of the Riigikogu Eiki Nestor (SDE) set the deadline for amendment proposals for the bill for Nov. 1.
Chairman of the Riigikogu’s Financial Committee, Mihhail Stalnuhhin (Center), said this is the first time the state budget surpasses €10 billion and that additional money will be given to all areas of government, ranging from education to agriculture.
“For years the Reform Party has tried to claim that decreasing wages and support or stagnation is in the interest of a good thing, this being a balanced state budget. All in all, nobody benefitted from that policy. Today, we have the opportunity to offer what the governments led by the Reform Party took away from people,” Stalnuhhin said.
He added that all the ministries will benefit from next year’s budget. “The Ministry of Education and Research will receive €135 million in additional funding, including a €48 million increase in the salary fund of teachers. The average wage of teachers will be raised to €1,380 per month. An additional €34 million will be contributed to healthcare next year, which among other things will also shorten waiting lists for specialist doctors,” Stalnuhhin said.
Stalnuhhin also pointed out that the volume of investments will increase and surpass €1 billion next year.
The parliamentary group of the opposition Reform Party proposed on Monday to send the budget bill back to the government. Party chairman Hanno Pevkur said that a budget deficit is not permissible, especially in a time of economic growth.
Altogether 36 of the Riigikogu’s members voted for sending the bill back to the government. 52 voted against the motion, the parliament’s press office announced on Wednesday evening. The proposal wasn’t backed, and the first reading of the bill was completed.
The size of expenditures and investments set out in the budget bill is €10.58 billion with a projected revenue of €10.33 billion. Expenditures and investments increase by €922 million or 9.5 percent, and revenue by €986 million or 10.6 percent compared to the current year.
The budget builds on the four major objectives identified in the fiscal strategy that the government adopted in spring: promote economic growth, increase the population of Estonia, strengthen security, and increase the welfare and cohesion of society.
The state budget for next year is expecting economic growth to be 3.3 percent next year. The budgeted deficit is 0.25 percent.
Editor: Dario Cavegn