At the beginning of the sitting, Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas made a political statement and submitted the State Budget for 2016 Bill to the Riigikogu.
“The Government of the Republic has just submitted to you the State Budget for 2016 Bill with the amount of 8.9 billion euro. It exceeds what we planned in the state budget for 2015 by 4%,“ Taavi Rõivas said. “We gave you a well-considered and responsible budget that will make the life of Estonian people better. A budget that will ensure security, contribute to the growth of incomes, and increase the welfare of all, from children to the most dignified.”
Rõivas said that he wished Estonia to become a country where the standard of living and the security of Nordic countries has been achieved but which is both socially more flexible and technologically more dynamic. “A country which is well defended and economically successful, open and tolerant of differences, ensuring equal opportunities and valuing the family,” he said. “A country which is unwaveringly European and is indisputably part of the Western cultural space.”
In his statement, Rõivas pointed out the expenditure on security, the changes in taxes and benefits, teachers’ salary rise, the allocations for the development of agriculture and rural life, the reduction of the number of state public servants, and the work capacity reform which will be implemented in the coming year.
“Our aim is to develop Estonia to be a country where it is good to work and there is no need to go to look for a job abroad,” the Prime Minister said. “A country where the whole society is involved in the creation and distribution of the benefits of economic growth. A country with an innovative and flexible organisation of the society. A country that is known for its good business environment, creative works that enrich world culture, and friendly people.”
The representatives of factions Andres Ammas, Kadri Simson, Martin Helme, Priit Sibul, Remo Holsmer and Andres Anvelt took the floor during the debate.
The representative of the Free Party faction Andres Ammas noted that the draft budget provides no action plan or funds to stop the emptying of rural regions. “Before the elections, all the parties who are in the Government today promised to support small farms. Where is this support shown in the budget?” he said.
Ammas said that the Free Party will definitely do its best when submitting the motions to amend. “The first spare millions, good colleagues, to cover good and necessary proposals, amendments, can be found very easily: by reducing the financing of political parties by a half,” he said.
Kadri Simson who took the floor on behalf of the Centre Party Faction criticised the draft budget for the rise of the basic exemption from income tax being too small. She saw the transitional aid for farmers as the greatest problem in the coming year’s budget.
“We all admit that this year is an extraordinary year for farmers, the agriculture is probably in a major crisis. The import ban by Russia, low buying-in price of milk and swine fever have created a situation where this sector needs support,” she said. “The European Union allows to support Estonian agricultural producers additionally from the state budget until 2020. The rate of the support would be 21.5 million euro next year. Instead of that, the state will extraordinarily support our agricultural sector with 4.6 million euro planned in the budget.
The representative of the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction Martin Helme found that the budget that had been submitted lacked a long-term plan for the Estonian economy. “There is no vision whatsoever as to what could turn the Estonian economy to proper growth, both economic growth and productivity growth, in a long-term perspective,” he said.
Helme said that the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction did not see in the budget any plan to bring Estonian people back to Estonia. “We all know that Estonia is in a long-term demographic decline, and this decline is worsened or significantly worsened by the Estonian people leaving,” he noted. “We know that circa 70 000 working age people, and their children, permanently live outside Estonia. If we could have even half of these people back to Estonia, it would take off the labour market pressures from us for good many years.”
Priit Sibul who took the floor on behalf of the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction said that the budget for 2016 had been prepared conservatively and responsibly. “Conservative budget policy is one precondition for economic growth. Ensuring that the Estonian state is solvent and does not live beyond its means. It is also important to follow the principles that the debt burden of the state would not grow and the public finances would be in order also at the end of 2016,” he added.
Sibul also pointed out that, in addition to the administrative reform, the Government was planning to carry out reforms also at the state level next year. “If the number of working age people decreases in the whole country then the number of the people who receive their salary from the state must decrease as well,” he said. “Our faction supports and encourages the Government to also review the functions of the state, besides the reduction of the number of officials. There are too many functions and a revision is welcome here, too.”
The representative of the Reform Party Faction Remo Holsmer noted that the next year’s state budget that had been submitted to the Riigikogu included the ensuring of the security of the Estonian state, the promotion of economic growth, improvement of the subsistence of people, at the same time ensuring the continuation of sustainable public finances. “The keywords that this is the largest budget ever and it is financially sustainable are definitely important,” he said.
Holsmer said that, according to the budget, the salary fund of teachers and culture workers, social workers, police officers and other internal security officers will grow by 4%. “On the one side, the state is shrinking, reducing the number of officials but, at the expense of that, will pay more salary to those officials who will remain in office,” he added.
Andres Anvelt who who took the floor on behalf of the Social Democratic Party Faction said that the budget for 2016 would definitely improve the people’s standard of living. He pointed out that the budget provides for a raise of the child allowance, the subsistence level and pensions.
“For Social Democrats, the budget for 2016 is a solidarity budget that will increase the cohesion of the society, and the red thread running through it is the person and the welfare of the person,” Anvelt said. “The budget will help the vulnerable and weaker members of the society.”
The Riigikogu passed two Resolutions:
The Resolution of the Riigikogu “Amendment of the Resolution of the Riigikogu ˮFormation of the Estonian Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europeˮ” (95 OE), submitted by the Foreign Affairs Committee, provides for the exclusion of the head of the delegation Hannes Hanso from the delegation, and the appointment of Marianne Mikko as the head of the delegation. It also provides for the exclusion of the substitute member of the delegation Mart Helme from the delegation, and the appointment of Jaak Madison as a substitute member.
76 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the Resolution, nobody was against and there were no abstentions.
The Resolution of the Riigikogu “Amendment of the Resolution of the Riigikogu “Formation of the Estonian Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the North Atlantic Treaty Organizationˮ” (94 OE), submitted by the Foreign Affairs Committee, provides for the exclusion of the substitute member Marianne Mikko from the delegation, and the appointment of Sven Mikser as a substitute member.
71 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the Resolution, nobody was against and there were no abstentions.
The Riigikogu concluded the first reading of three drafts:
Under the draft Resolution of the Riigikogu “Amendment of the Resolution of the Riigikogu “Formation of the Security Authorities Surveillance Select Committee”” (91 OE), submitted by the Social Democratic Party Faction, Kalev Kotkas will be appointed as a member of the Security Authorities Surveillance Select Committee in replacement of Hardi Volmer.
The deadline for submission of motions to amend the draft Resolution is 15 minutes after the end of the plenary sitting of the Riigikogu on 29 September.
The Draft Resolution of the Riigikogu ”Formation of the Riigikogu Committee of Investigation to Investigate the Corruption that Occurred in the Management of Port of Tallinn Ltd and the Measures Necessary to Prevent Such Incidents in the Future” (88 OE), initiated by 52 members of the Riigikogu, provides that the Committee would analyse what had happened in the state enterprise and formulate conclusions on the reasons therefor and the facts that had facilitated it. According to the draft Resolution, the Committee will have to submit the final report of its investigation to the Riigikogu and the public by 1 May 2016 at the latest.
The deadline for submission of motions to amend the draft Resolution is 9 October.
The Bill on Amendments to the Local Government Council Election Act and Associated Act (42 SE), initiated by the Constitutional Committee, will lower the voting age in the Local Government Council Election Act from the age of 18 to 16. On 6 May, the Riigikogu passed the Act on Amendments to the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia which lowered the voting age for local government council elections. This Bill provides for the introduction of this amendment also to the Local Government Council Election Act.
Jüri Adams and Priit Toobal took the floor during the debate.
The Centre Party Faction moved to reject the Bill. 29 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion and 42 voted against, and there were 6 abstentions.
The deadline for submission of motions to amend the Bill is 13 October.
Video recordings of the sittings of the Riigikogu can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/riigikogu (NB! The recording will be uploaded with a delay.)
Riigikogu Press Service
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