If funding on research and development (R&D) is to meet the 1 percent of GDP target agreed in late 2018, the bill would come to over half a billion euros this year and over the next four years, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) said Wednesday, noting that this was in fact essentially impossible.
The previous coalition, which Ratas headed, signed an agreement that R&D spend would reach 1 percent of GDP in the following years, and this figure was reiterated during the coalition negotiations in April. However, the government's budget strategy discussions last week, announced at the beginning of this week, found that funding would need to be frozen at its current level of 0.71 percent of GDP, notwithstanding the agreement.
"When we come back to next year's budget in September, let's review it then," the prime minister said, ERR's online news in Estonian reports.
Ratas also noted that if his government had not taken into account the need for savings, R&D funding would in fact have fallen to 0.53 percent of GDP by 2023. €591 million would be needed to meet the 1 percent of GDP spend, something he said was not viable at present.
He also noted that fresh data from the Ministry of Finance states that an additional €152.4 million is to be found over the next four years. Education minister Mailis Reps (Centre) said Tuesday that the additional figure was around €143 million.
Ratas also said one of the first things agreed in the state budget discussions, involving the three coalition partners, Centre, the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) and Isamaa, was that state budget cuts would not be made to R&D or to defense spending.
The announcement has led to widespread protests from the rectors of most of the major academic institutions in Estonia, who held a crisis meeting on the matter Tuesday evening, as well as from students' union and academic union bodies. The latter announced a one-hour strike for June 5, when both the Riigikogu and the Ministry of Education and Research building in Tartu, are to be picketed.
President Kersti Kaljulaid also noted Tuesday that she sympathized with those affected by the decision, adding that if adequate support for academics, scientists, researchers, students and others were not forthcoming, many of them would likely move outside of Estonia.
Editor: Andrew Whyte