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Foreign Investors Grill Politicians in Pre-Election Debate

Members of Estonia's English-speaking business community put hard questions to senior representatives of Estonia's five main political parties in a debate organized by foreign chambers of commerce.

The event entitled "Business Meets Politics: Creating a Fertile FDI Environment," which took place in Tallinn's Nordic Hotel Forum on February 10, was a rare opportunity for the foreign investors to hear the parties' positions represented in English in the run-up to the nation's March 6 parliamentary elections.

Topics raised by the moderator and audience members included introducing a cap on social tax, problems in the nation's education system, the shortage of skilled labor in the country, the possibility of tax exemptions for employer-financed education and training, and ways to make Estonia more attractive to investors outside of the Nordic area.

Audience members were often tough with the party representatives, challenging Marek Strandberg of the Greens on his party's plans to fund its proposed "citizen salary," and taking them to task over the nation's higher education system.

For his part, Finance Minister Jürgen Ligi, who represented the ruling Reform Party, brushed off a question related to primary education, later complaining that his time was valuable.

Other panelists were Mart Laar, head of IRL, deputy chairwoman of the Centre Party Kadri Simson, and Sven Mikser, who leads the Social Democrats.

Estonia's sixth parliamentary party, the People's Union, was not represented.

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