Social Democrats chairman: Government made two mistakes in 2017

Minister of Health and Labour Jevgeni Ossinovski (SDE).
Minister of Health and Labour Jevgeni Ossinovski (SDE). Source: (Siim Lõvi /ERR)

Chairman of junior coalition partner SDE, Jevgeni Ossinovski, said on ERR's Raadio 2 on Sunday that the government made two mistakes last year. It changed approaches too often, and it tried to do too much in the time it had, Ossinovski said.

"Changing your mind all the time is never sensible, because you inevitably create the impression of chaos," Ossinovski said, referring to the government's tax policy seesaw. Taken one by one, the proposed changes had by and large all been thought through and thoroughly analyzed by the Ministry of Finance, he added.

"Pressure to change them came from one party, one that hasn't done too well politically, namely IRL," Ossinovski said. The Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL), though part of the government and in charge of the Ministry of Finance, had put the government in a precarious position by demanding some of its tax initiatives to be dropped, even though some of them had actually been initiated by them.

The second mistake, Ossinovski said, was that the government tried to get too much done within a short time. He quoted his fellow party member and veteran politician, Marju Lauristin, according to whom just 5 percent of the given time can be spent on coming to a decision, while 95 percent need to be spent on explaining it to the public.

"When the new government came together we initially had ambitious plans that were all put into action within a single year," Ossinovski said. In his ministry alone, they concerned pension reform, parent benefits, and the health care reform.

"Because we attempted to get too much done there wasn't enough time for explanations," he added. This created a situation where the things that actually worked were thrown in with all those that hadn't.

The government's most criticized move was its step to increase the tax-free income to €500, and to change the system to the effect that its amount shrinks as people's gross income increases.

Ossinovski told Raadio 2 that the most sensible approach would have been to increase income tax to 22 percent at the same time as increasing the tax-free amount. This would have made it possible to achieve the same result, but without making the system more complicated at the same time, as different levels of tax-free income wouldn't have been necessary and nobody would have had to go through complex calculations to get to their net salary.

"But IRL didn't agree with that, they wanted seven new taxes instead, of which they later demanded that five should be dropped," Ossinovski said.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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