At the beginning of the sitting of the Riigikogu, Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas made a political statement in connection with the submission of the Administrative Reform Bill to the Riigikogu.
The Prime Minister stressed that the main aim of the administrative reform is to ensure high-quality public services and strong local governments all over Estonia. With that, smaller local governments would gain capacity in the performance of their functions, and local life would be even better organised for the Estonian people. Rõivas noted that although the Government has planned several reforms and important decisions for this year, the implementation of the administrative reform is more important and very principal advancement as compared to the debate over the necessity or aims of the reform that has been going on for nearly two decades. “At last, experts and local government leaders have reached an agreement and the Government has made a decision. The establishment of the legal framework for the reform to be successful is a great responsibility and a historic opportunity to improve the life of the Estonian people,” the Prime Minister said.
Rõivas said that the passing of the Act concerning the administrative reform would immediately affect the quality of life of the Estonia people. Even if most of the people do not go to the city or municipality government every day, everybody uses some of the local services, from childcare to the welfare of the elderly. “We wish that strong and capable rural municipalities and cities that can better organise education and create an even more favourable environment for business would emerge all over Estonia,” Rõivas said. He added that although a greater number of local governments will not automatically guarantee better services, larger local governments have clear potential to offer better services. The Estonian local governments will have to have the capacity to offer equally good service to all people regardless of their place of residence.
The representatives of factions took the floor during the debate. They presented their observations, and arguments for and against the Administrative Reform Bill. Andres Ammas from the Estonian Free Party Faction, Kersti Sarapuu from the Estonian Centre Party Faction, Siim Kiisler from the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction, Martin Helme from the Estonian Conservative People’s Party faction, Ivari Padar from the Social Democratic Party Faction and Kalle Laanet from the Estonian Reform Party Faction took the floor.
Thereafter, Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas replied to three interpellations.
Members of the Riigikogu Andres Herkel, Kadri Simson, Külliki Kübarsepp, Monika Haukanõmm, Martin Helme, Artur Talvik, Krista Aru, Ain Lutsepp, Siret Kotka, Viktor Vassiljev, Aadu Must, Anneli Ott, Valeri Korb, Mart Helme, Jaak Madison, Henn Põlluaas, Raivo Põldaru, Arno Sild and Uno Kaskpeit had submitted an interpellation concerning jobs and mass redundancies (No. 158).
The interpellators highlighted examples of mass redundancies in several regions of Estonia. They referred to the fact that the unemployment rate in Ida-Virumaa is consistently higher than the Estonian average. The income of the families of the persons who are made redundant will drop dramatically and social tension will grow, including the pressure to leave abroad. The interpellators wished to know the Prime Minister’s opinion on the response of the unemployment insurance fund and other relevant agencies to the redundancies, and how counselling and training activities and other assistance measures had been launched.
Rõivas said that the Unemployment Insurance Fund had responded immediately. “Assistance has been provided both to the enterprise and to the employees very likely to be made redundant. Already when the initial information on the redundancies was given, career counsellings and job search workshops were conducted in the enterprise. Also, an information day for the immediate superiors of the employees to be made redundant was organised at once. Information on the labour force to become vacant was intermediated at the job fairs of the unemployment insurance fund, and the profiles of all employees were mapped. This is an important input for planning the services and finding new jobs,” the Prime Minister explained. He noted that, analogously to the redundancy in Ida-Virumaa, the unemployment insurance fund had also offered immediate help in responding to the redundancies in PKC Group. Before redundancies, question times and job search workshops had been organised and individual counselling had been offered in the enterprise. Also, at least two job fairs are planned to be organised in cooperation with the enterprise.
Rõivas explained that, through Enterprise Estonia and several other structures, the state actively helps to attract investors to the region and thereby to create new jobs also in Ida-Virumaa. The Foundation Ida-Virumaa Industrial Areas Development is expanding its activities vigorously. In addition to the extension of Narva industrial park, industrial parks are developed at an advanced pace also in Jõhvi, Kohtla-Järve and Kiviõli. Several private investors have wished to create jobs specifically in Ida-Virumaa. Rõivas said that action had been taken to improve employment in Ida-Virumaa. The Government’s decision to allow wood of low value to be burned in Auvere Power Plant of Eesti Energia within the framework of trade in statistics has a potential impact of creating hundreds of jobs in the region.
Rõivas also replied to the interpellation of concerning the apartment buildings that have been left without heating (No. 130) and the interpellation concerning emigration in a situation of war (No. 159).
The Minister of the Interior Hanno Pevkur replied to the interpellation concerning the border control capacity in Estonian ports (No. 161).
The Minister of Finance Sven Sester replied to the interpellation concerning the Estonian tax environment in the shipping sector (No. 145) and the interpellation concerning the state budget deficit (No. 155).
During the open microphone, Jüri Adams took the floor.
The sitting ended at 8.44 p.m.
Video recordings of the sittings of the Riigikogu can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/riigikogu
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