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The President of Eesti Pank Ardo Hansson replied to the interpellation concerning the organisation of cash circulation and payment services (No 423), submitted by Members of the Riigikogu Neeme Suur, Jüri Morozov, Barbi Pilvre, Rannar Vassiljev, Karel Rüütli, Etti Kagarov, Tiit Tammsaar, Rainer Vakra, Heljo Pikhof, Inara Luigas, Lembit Kaljuvee, Jaan Õunapuu and Kalev Kotkas on 16 June.

Neeme Suur who took the floor on behalf of the interpellators noted that the number of cash machines had decreased by 12% and the number of bank offices had decreased by 35% over the last years. However, according to the data of Statistics Estonia, the percentage of people aged 15–65 who have never used the Internet amounts to 20% in Estonia. The trend of decrease of bank service in rural areas is continuing and has already reached regional centres. The number of bank offices as well as self-service payment terminals has been reduced significantly. According to the data of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, as at the end of last year, 96% of bank offices were located in cities. The interpellators wished to know which solutions Eesti Pank had discussed to ensure uniform availability of cash and payment services throughout Estonia. 

Hansson noted that, as the President of Eesti Pank, he had established the minimum requirements for the provision of cash and payment services in an emergency. The Regulation stipulates that, in an emergency, the four larger banks in Estonia restore cash and payment services to the extent of 70% of the regular volume of service within 12 hours. It is for banks to decide how they restore these services, but they must describe the plan for the restoration of services to Eesti Pank who in turn forwards the information to the Ministry of Internal Affairs. This stage has already been completed and after a couple of years, when the situation will have changed, these plans will be reviewed, Hansson explained. According to his understanding, the idea of the Emergency Act is to ensure the restoration of vital services in an emergency. This Act is not intended to resolve a situation where people do not have access to some important service at a day-to-day level. Nor has the Emergency Act been established with the aim of influencing the trends of urbanisation or peripherisation. “This is about regional policy, and not about an issue of responding to an emergency,” Hansson said. He added that the regional policy is the responsibility of the Riigikogu, the Government and local governments. On the other hand, the issues of cash circulation are important to Eesti Pank and we wish to participate in the shaping of the cash circulation policy, Hansson confirmed. 

The President of Eesti Pank does not find that commercial banks should sustain an unreasonably large network of offices and cash machines. In his words, there is not much difference whether it would be maintained by bank clients or the Estonian taxpayer. Either way, it is an unreasonably expensive solution. At the same time, commercial banks should formulate more clearly their vision of the availability of banking services and come up themselves with socially accepted solutions. “In summary, in the opinion of Eesti Pank, the provision of cash and payment services throughout Estonia could be economically efficient in principle. At the same time, access to the banking service must be available to people in Estonia. So we must find flexible alternative solutions in Estonia,” Hansson said. He called on commercial banks, state authorities and local governments to actively participate in the discussion on the availability of banking services to be held under the leadership of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications. 

The Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Urve Palo replied to interpellations concerning the implementation of the implementation plan for the National Development Plan “Estonian Maritime Policy” (No 417) and bus traffic (No 420). 

The Minister of Social Protection Helmen Kütt replied to the interpellation concerning problems in care homes (No 419). 

During the open microphone, Kalev Kallo and Mihhail Stalnuhhin took the floor. 

The Riigikogu Press Service