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Prime Minister Andrus Ansip replied to the interpellation concerning supplementary funding for water supply and sewerage projects, submitted on 10 September by Member of the Riigikogu Jüri Ratas. The interpellator referred to extensive delay in carrying out the construction works in water supply and sewerage projects funded from the European Union Solidarity Fund, caused by insufficient financial resources. Jüri Ratas wished to know the size of the allocations for these projects in the 2008 State Budget; the extent to which local governments are subsidised in carrying out these projects; and the amount of possible fines should Estonia fail to fulfil its obligations.

The Prime Minister considers the situation in our water sector normal. On the average, 89.9 % of the EU population is connected to common water supply system. At the end of 2006, the coverage in Estonia was 86 %, at the same level as in Finland, Sweden and Denmark. Austria is the country with the lowest coverage indicator.

During the period of 2000-2006, water supply projects were prepared in the amount of EEK 3.698 billion. In reality, EEK 5.7 billion were invested from 2000 to 2006 into the water sector, mainly because of the rise in prices. The water sector projects planned in Estonia for 2007-2013 are to receive investments from the Structural Fund in the region of EEK 11.6 billion. The 2008-2011 State Budget Strategy plans to support water sector projects with the following structural assistance sums: EEK 814 million in 2008, EEK 2.047 billion in 2009, EEK 1.468 billion in 2010, and EEK 1.005 billion in 2011. „The size of these investments shows that the Government is fully committed to financing water supply projects,” Mr Ansip assured. The Prime Minister explained that we should not speculate about possible fines in case we cannot complete the projects on time. „Fines are an extreme measure imposed on states who fail to implement sufficient measures to improve the situation. Since Estonia clearly makes efforts to bring the water supply and sewerage systems up to date, there is absolutely no room for claims that Estonia is not adequately dealing with the problem,” Mr Ansip said.

The Prime Minister also replied to the interpellation concerning the rise in prices and excise duties, submitted by Members of the Riigikogu Jaanus Marrandi, Tarmo Mänd, Ester Tuiksoo, Villu Reiljan, Karel Rüütli and Mai Treial on 11 September. The interpellators expressed their concern about the rising inflation and the increase of excise duties and price of electricity. The interpellators wished to know the plans of the Government for managing the inflation. The Prime Minister explained that the Government has compiled the most conservative budget of all times and has presented it to the Riigikogu for deliberation. The expected budget surplus for the next year is EEK 3.6 billion. This year was the first year when a considerable surplus was planned in the budget. The Prime Minister explained problems related to inflation. „The living standards of an average household will not deteriorate because of the rapid rise of prices, because in 2008 as well the average rise in incomes will be nearly twice as high as the average rise in prices.” In the opinion of Mr Ansip, the situation ends up improving instead of worsening. „For entrepreneurs this does mean additional pressure from expenditure, which on the domestic market may come in the shape of more expensive merchandise and services, but will hopefully make the people use energy more sparingly,” said the Prime Minister. The same applies to local governments: their income increases as economy improves and they can actually spend more, since the inflation does not eat up the whole margin.

The Minister of the Environment Jaanus Tamkivi replied to the interpellation concerning the Supervisory Board of the State Forest Management Centre, submitted on 11 September by Members of the Riigikogu Jaanus Marrandi, Tarmo Mänd, Ester Tuiksoo, Villu Reiljan, Mai Treial and Karel Rüütli. The interpellators condemned the politisation of the leadership of the State Forest Management Centre, as well as the fact that forestry specialists were pushed aside in managing state forests.

Mr Tamkivi explained that pursuant to the Forest Act, two members named by the Resolution of the Riigikogu, two representatives of the Ministry of the Environment, one representative of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, one representative of the Ministry of Finance and three experts proposed by the Minister of the Environment are appointed to the Supervisory Board of the State Forest Management Centre. The Board is thus made up of nine members in total. „No one has intended to take the management of state forests out of the hands of specialists. Every board has the opportunity to invite specialists and experts to discuss specific issues if there is fear that some of the information may be passed over,” Minister of the Environment assured.

The Riigikogu Press Service