What the papers say: Pensions and transport policy clutter

Estonian dailies (picture is illustrative).
Estonian dailies (picture is illustrative). Source: ERR

Estonian papers looked at inconsistencies in successive Estonian governments' approaches to the issue of transport, particularly on road or rail, a clarification of the three-pillared pensions system at a time when the second one may lose its mandatory status, and how while Moscow may celebrate the "liberation" of Tallinn on Sunday, in that city itself, many hold a very different view.

Successive transport policy vagueness

An editorial in daily Eesti Päevaleht (links in Estonian unless otherwise noted) looked at contradictions or duplication in the Estonian state's appraoch to transport policy, noting that this has been at times borderline botched, perhaps explaining the continued reliance on the car for getting from A to B.

However, at around the same time, economic affairs and infrastructure minister Taavi Aas (Centre) called for the electrification of the entire Estonian rail network, even though his predecessor and party-mate Kadri Simson couldn't find the funds to keep the Tallinn-Pärnu rail connection, and yet took measures to extend the line from the village of Riisipere to Turba, as well as renovating Pärnu Airport and introducing free public transport on county bus lines in most of Estonia's counties.

Going further back, Urve Palo, (a former Minister of Entrepreneurship with the Social Democratic Party, now no longer in party politics) went against the grain at the time in nationalizing ferry transport between the Estonian mainland and the main islands of Saaremaa and Hiiumaa. As it turned out, according to the National Audit office, this proved viable in the long run, though disruption in summer 2016 shook the public's confidence in state-run transport at the time.

Finally Juhan Parts (economic affairs minister under Andrus Ansip's government, 2007-2014) did the same with train transport, but due to an underestimation of how popular train transport would subsequently become, too few locomotives were ordered, the article says; in any case many are questioning how both a high-speed electric rail link (Rail Baltica) and four-lane highways can be justified.

The pensions system's second pillar, as well as the first and third

The removal of the mandatory second pillar pension fund, the brainchild of coalition party Isamaa, has been keenly debated, with arguments for and against withdrawing money from the fund if and when that becomes possible next year, as well as no clear picture as to how many people will opt for either choice.

News portal Geenius gave an overview of the system, starting with the so-called First Pillar, often referred to as employer contributions, but in effect a promise from the state that, since your employer pays your social tax, much of which goes to the pensioners of today, you will be eligible for same when you reach 65 – and if you want a rough idea of figures, you can always visit this pension calculator here (link in English).

The in-the-spotlight second pillar sees 2 percent of an individual's salary going into the fund every month, a figure tripled by the state putting in 4 percent from the same person's social tax, a mandatory scheme for all those born since 1984 (and all those who did not opt-out of the scheme when it was introduced in 2010), with fund managers investing according to the strategy the recipient picks and being available, again, on retirement.

Finally the third pillar is a private version of the second and is optional and can be withdrawn from at any time, with fund managers, a choice of different schemes etc.

The coalition aims to get the bill making the second pillar optional passed this Autumn to come into effect at the beginning of 2020, with the first withdrawals projected as likely a few months after that.

Tallinn occupied not liberated

As reported on ERR News, the 75th anniversary of the occupation of Tallinn by the Red Army will be marked by fireworks in Moscow, where it is described as a liberation.

Defence League (Kaitseliit) volunteer-staffed Propastop blog states that calling it a liberation is a myth (link in English) given it was simply exchanging one occupation (i.e. the Nazi German one) for another, with the erection of the Bronze Soldier statue commemorating the Red Army's fallen following shortly afterwards.

Communist newspapers such as Rahva Hääl, Noorte Hääl and Õhtuleht (not to be confused with today's Õhtuleht) perpetuated the narrative of these events and eager Estonian workers in Tallinn and elsewhere welcoming the "liberators" with open arms, right throuh to 1989 and the singning revolution, in hundreds of articles, Propastop says.

Not only did this take place in Estonian-language media in the Estonian SSR, but also in the rest of the Soviet Union, with the difference being that in the Russian Federation itself, the same version of events is propagated to this day, hence the fireworks display, the 2016-issued five-Ruble coin which depicted the Bronze Soldier (in 2007 moved to the military cemetery in central Tallinn) and other blasts of the trumpet.

As to the rationale for doing this in 2019, the article claims that this is mailnly to counter the very fact of the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the damage to Russian prestige, with a narrative of being the all-conquering liberators from fascism, as well as creating confusion and division in both Estonia and other countries where the Red Army rolled into (even Bulgaria, never a part of the Soviet Union but a Warsaw Pact satellite, recently asked the Russian embassy in Sofia to cease referring to entry of Soviet troops into that country as a 'liberation').

The article concludes by noting that a liberator does not need to usurp a previous occupier and then not leave for nearly half a century – the last Russian troops left Estonian in August 1994 – not the least since Nazi German troops had already vacated the city (for a couple of days from Sept. 20, the Estonian blue-black-white flew atop Pikk Hermann tower, something which did not happen again for nearly 45 years) meaning there were no battles of liberation barring a few skirmishes.

Indeed, of the 12 Red Army soldiers buried on Tönismägi, beneath the Bronze Soldier statue, three had hardly met a glorious end – one had drunk himself to death with methanol, another was shot in the process of scrawling graffiti, and the third, a woman, had been killed in a traffic accident, the article says.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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