State Reform Foundation: Slash number of state officials in half ({{commentsTotal}})

The foundation believes that Estonia needs no more than ten different ministers.
The foundation believes that Estonia needs no more than ten different ministers. Source: Erik Prozes/Eesti Meedia/Scanpix

According to the executive power chapter of the Foundation for State Reform's recommendations, the think tank would retain just half of all current state officials, trim down the size of the current government, combine all current ministries into one whole, and make the prime minister the government's primary strategist.

The foundation's document explains that the prime minister should receive independent competency and serve as the state's primary strategist.

In order to achieve this goal, the think tank finds that a Strategy Centre of the Republic of Estonia under the direct subordination of the prime minister should be established on the foundations of the current Strategy Unit of the Government Office, the Foresight Centre of the Riigikogu as well as specialists from the central Bank of Estonia.

Representatives of Estonia's public sector have indicated that one of the biggest issues in state governance is the lack of concrete priorities and a longer-term plan. Also problematic are the imprecision of objectives, dependence on a specific minister as well as the changes that come with each change of government. The current planning model has remained in use practically unchanged for the past 10-15 years, the foundation described.

In order to ensure the independence and non-politicisation of high-ranking state officials, including secretaries general, deputy secretaries general and directors general, the foundation recommends considering a solution according to which hiring for these positions would be conducted by staffing companies hired by the state for the occasion.

These staffing companies would not only compile a ranking of finalists, but also specifically name its top three candidates for a position. The state would then be required to either hire one of these recommended candidates or publicly explain why they declined to do so.

Term limits, required relevant experience

In order to avoid power being consolidated into specific individuals' hands as well as encourage the innovation, motivation and fresh ideas needed in these positions, the think tank has recommended implementing term limits of two terms of five years each in any one of these positions.

The reformers also believe that a government consisting of no more than ten ministers in addition to the prime minister would suffice. They found that ministers without portfolios should be eliminated, and that no ministries should be allowed to be located outside of the capital city of Tallinn.

They went a step further, recommending as one possibility that all ministries be united into one institution. In Sweden, they noted, employees of the Regeringskantslietb, or state government, sign work contracts with the joint government institution, not with a specific ministry.

This joint government institution would in turn have sector-specific ministers who would together with the prime minister form Estonia's state government, but there would be just one secretary general and one support services unit in office.

From the standpoint of effective governance, the foundation has recommended setting general competency and experience requirements for ministers. As is the case in other fields and jobs, nobody should become minister who lacks considerable experience in the field in question and who has not previously proven themselves as a leader or a visionary.

In the interests of smooth and broad-based governance, the think tank suggests considering introducing shadow ministers. The prime minister could thus invite shadow ministers to give presentations at government meetings discussing issues that significantly affect national issues. The shadow ministers could also speak at the meetings of relevant Riigikogu committees as well as have the right to give presentations in their relevant fields at Riigikogu sittings.

According to the think tank, the adoption of a shadow government would ensure that, in the case of the makeup of the government changing, the opposition would include MPs better acquainted with a given area of government.

Halve number, increase wages

Over the next eight years, the need for the current large number of state officials should disappear as a result of a number of reforms. The foundation recommends cutting the number of state officials in half. The seemingly drastic reduction was supported by New Zealand's example, in which the number of public servants was cut from 88,000 to 37,000 between 1988-1994.

The resulting savings in wage funds could be used in turn to increase the wages of the remaining officials, the think tank noted.

The board of the Foundation for State reform consists of Jüri Käo, Olari Taal and Rait Maruste. The foundation's council consists of Aivo Adamson, Alar Karis, David Vseviov, Jaak Aaviksoo, Jaan Puusaag, Jüri Raidla, Kristi Liiva, Marek Helm, Raivo Vare, Riina Varts, Ringa Raudla, Tarmo Jüristo, Toomas Tamsar, Tiit Pruuli, Urmas Varblane and Viljar Arakas.

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Editor: Aili Vahtla



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