Prime Minister Jüri Ratas was in ERR's Vikerraadio studio on Thursday, talking about the latest economic forecast from the finance ministry. While this was not significantly different from the spring forecast, which areas will be cut and which can expect a boost is likely to bring some controversy next month, however, he said. He also noted that the sacred cow of the balanced budget remained very much in place, regardless of what other EU countries might be doing.
Speaking on the 'Stuudios on Peaminister' broadcast, Ratas said that finance minister Martin Helme (EKRE) had received an overview of summer's economic forecasts from ministry officials, and that these would form the basis of next year's state budget.
"What has changed compared with the spring forecast will be at the center of next month's discussions," Ratas said.
"Where are savings needed? Where is the opportunity, if it exists at all, to add to the budget? However, on the whole, the situation since spring hasn't changed much," Ratas continued, speaking to presenters Arp Müller and Mirko Ojakivi.
For those on public sector wages, Ratas said that there would be no redundancies and wage cuts in certain sectors, and that scope for boosting salaries in some areas might be on the table too. He did not specify which areas these might be.
"Speaking about educators, for example, various coalitions have been pushing for a teacher's salary that stands at 120 percent of the national average. We have in fact raised the minimum salary for teachers over the last three years, to €1,500 per month compared with €1,250 per month before. However, final salary decisions are to be made in September," Ratas said.
The finance ministry is to present the summer forecast, one of the central bases for the 2020 state budget draft, on Monday. Ratas said the deadline for the state budget itself is Sept. 26, the last working day at the Riigikogu before it takes a week's break. The state budget has to be presented at the Riigikogu by late September, come what may.
Ratas also noted that Estonia's fiscal rules are often stricter than many of those in other EU countries and the EU's own regulations, which allow all low-debt, risk-free member states a budget deficit of one percent.
"For example, the assumption in Finland is that the rules set out by Brussels allow for a deficit of up to one percent. However, if you're asking whether the current coalition is likely to go down that route, then there hasn't been any agreement on this in the coalition," Ratas said.
In fact, to date, the strategy has seen fully balanced budgets on an annual basis, he said.
"At present, there is no other agreed way of doing things. And taking the latest state budget strategy prepared a few months ago, I do not see any other consensus likely to arise within the government right now," the Prime Minister continued.
Editor: Andrew Whyte