State budget needs rationalisation but not cuts, says prime minister
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) has called for an overhaul and rationalisation of the state budget in the near future.
In an opinion piece penned for daily Postimees, Mr Ratas said his party's ambitious manifesto going into the March 2019 elections necessitates a broad-based review covering all sources of income and destinations of outgoings.
2018's state budget drawn up by the current coalition of Centre, the Social Democratic Party (SDE) and Isamaa/Pro Patria, passed its first reading at the Riigikogu in October and was set at €11.3 billion, with €299 million of that earmarked for child allowances, €180 million to the health insurance fund (EHIF), and €143.9 million in agricultural support.
The proposed review does not imply cutbacks, which would not be feasible in any case, according to Mr Ratas, but rather a more efficient distribution.
"A proper x-ray image of the budget will tell us where money amassed in areas could be more urgently required elsewhere, plus how our joint resources could be used more effectively," he stated.
This would reduce duplication in public sector and state activities, and reveal which organisations might be dispensed with altogether.
"Every euro received from the taxpayer must be used in a thought-through and purposeful manner and must serve our jointly agreed objectives," he continued in his piece.
What is at stake in 2019
At stake in the 2019 elections is whether or not to continue with building a coherent and European welfare state, along the lines of what his party and SDE have been working towards, where no person is superfluous to requirements, he suggested.
Mr Ratas implied the alternatives include a cutting back of the state as espoused by the Reform Party, together with Isamaa/Pro Patria, Estonia 200 and Free.
"The other option would be to turn back to the 'every man for themselves' thinking, which has brought with it massive and deepening societal inequality and divisiveness among Estonians which has lasted for decades. I believe that Estonia must go forward," he argued.
Mr Ratas has been in office almost exactly two years since replacing Taavi Rõivas of Reform, with the latter party leaving the coalition and Centre joining it.
The general election is on 3 March 2019.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte