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Centre wants equitable state and more R&D

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas.
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas. Source: Erik Peinar/riigikogu

"A just state for all," (Estonian: ''Õiglane Riik Kõgile,") is the Centre Party's new election slogan, unveiled by party leader and prime minister Jüri Ratas on Wednesday.

"In November 2016, the Centre took on governmental responsibility with the clear aim of increasing the cohesion and strength of society," Mr Ratas said, at a presentation at the party's headquarters, looking ahead to the 2019 election.

"Our desire is to build a just state for all, regardless of gender, age, nationality or place of residence,'' he continued, something he said successive previous governments have not paid enough attention to.

Mr Ratas contrasted Centre's advances on that score in its short time in office (less than two years), however.

"Increases in income for lower earners resulting from tax reform, additional health care and local authority funding, increase in child support, free public transport and supporting farmers are but a few examples of this governments successes," he said.

Whither Progressive Taxation?

These areas are key ''... because the whole of Estonia needs to live," he continued, adding a just state ensures economic growth percolates down to all, as well as eliminating bureaucracy and focussing on environmental protection, aided by Centre's continued commitment to progressive taxation.

"[Progressive taxation] has already been on the agenda for two decades and will continue to be so down to March 3, 2019,'' Mr Ratas told the Baltic News Service, without elaborating.

The opposition Reform Party has stated its intention to remove the social tax.

Beer and sandwiches with the unions

Consultation with trade unions and employers is also key, Mr Ratas said.

"It is vital to listen to social partners – both trade unions and employers. These trilateral meetings with the Confederation of Estonian Trade Unions and the Estonian Employers' Confederation are key" he continued, adding job creation is equally important in rural areas.

Education minister wants more research funding

Meanwhile, Minister of Education and Research and Mr Ratas' co-labourer at Centre, Mailis Reps, said Estonia needs to reach the rate of 1% of gross domestic product (GDP) in state research funding.

Speaking at the Riigikogu research policy conference on Wednesday, Ms Reps pointed to a lack of a social agreement as an achilles heel, proposing a cross-party compromise on the issue.

Minister for Education and Research Mailis Reps (standing) at the Centre Party's conference. Source:Anna Aurelia Minev/ERR

"I believe attendees agree effective research requires money and that current R&D funding is insufficient," the minister said, according to spokespersons.

As important as defence spending

 "We as a country have committed to 2% [of GDP] in defence spending, so why not do the same for research? This would protect our state, people, economy and culture. The exact form this agreement could take is up for discussion; I am putting the idea out there," she continued.

Ms Reps said the government was on the way to reaching its target provided the budget, currently going through the Riigikogu, is approved: state research funding will pass €20 million and amount to 0.81% of GDP if that were to happen.

Ms Reps also commended researchers on Estonia's internationally high level research and its ability as a nation to contribute to global research cooperation.

Publicising research advances

"Sadly, society does not hear enough about researchers' achievements and possible new applications," she said.

"Making clear the importance and impact of research is the joint responsibility of researchers, research institutions, funding contributors, developers and policymakers," she continued.

Ms Reps added that research is a great example of how results can be reached via a common goal, something unattainable to individuals, companies, organisations and even states.

"Examples include lunar missions, new life-saving medications or complex cyber-defence systems. But research alone cannot guarantee results; all parties must believe solutions are possible and jointly take on risks and investments," she added.

The annual "Research as Estonia's Engine of Development" conference is the fifth of its kind, this year entitled "How Research Protects Estonia", and is jointly organised by several bodies including the Estonian Research Council, the Riigikogu cultural affairs committee and the Estonian Academy of Sciences.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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