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At the Riigikogu sitting today, on Wednesday, the focus was on the second reading of the State Budget of 2014 Bill (490 SE), initiated by the Government.

First, the Chairman of the Finance Committee Sven Sester gave an overview of the discussions that had been held in the Committee sittings. He said that 403 motions to amend the Bill had been submitted by the deadline, 30 October, and two of them had been withdrawn later. The Finance Committee had prepared one motion. To a large part, it consisted of technical amendments within the areas of government of several ministries, specification of the text, and amendment of the text by adding § 17 which provided a change of the rent expense volumes planned for State Real Estate Ltd in the state budget.

Sester noted that if a proposed amendment has the effect of decreasing the estimated revenue, or increasing the expenditure or reallocating the expenditure provided for in the budget, then the proponent of the amendment must append financial calculations to the proposed amendment. They have to demonstrate the sources of revenue necessary to cover the expenditure. “As these requirements were not met, the Committee did not accept the motions to amend submitted by the factions and members of the Riigikogu. One motion was supported in part, though,” Sester said. He gave an overview of the content of the motions to amend and answered to questions during more than four hours.

Sester underlined that the next year’s budget is oriented towards social issues. The salary funds of the areas of government will increase by 5.1 per cent and the average pension will increase by 5.8 per cent. The growth social expenditure will be significant. Notably, social and other benefits to natural persons account for 27.7 per cent of the total volume of the coming year’s state budget, that is, 2.28 billion euro. Next year, the planned total investment volume of the state budget is 832 million euro, that is, ca 18 per cent of all investments in Estonia. According to the Bill, the debt burden of government sector will grow to 10 per cent of the gross domestic product by the end of the next year.

The Bill proposes the revenues of the coming year’s budget to amount to 8 million euro which will exceed the amount planned for this year by 349.1 million euro, that is, by 4.6 per cent. The state budget expenditures will increase by 377 million euro, that is, by 4.9 per cent, amounting to 8.06 billion euro.

The members of the Riigikogu who took the floor in the debate analysed the draft budget and presented their positions. The speeches of the members of opposition parties were critical of the draft. The discussion focus was on the request to significantly increase child benefits. The Chairman of the Finance Committee explained that the amounts of child benefits had in fact been changed and the needs-based child allowance had been additionally introduced. “The increasing of child benefits by multiple times cannot be an efficient model in the sense that we allocate universally to everybody and all the time. In view of the limits of the resources at the disposal of the society, it is important to look at individual needs,” Sester said. He believed that such a system would work.

After the debate, voting on the motions to amend began. 60 motions to amend had been voted on when Wednesday’s sitting ended at 9.44 on Thursday morning. The motion initiated by the Finance Committee was supported. The remaining motions have not been supported. The Social Democratic Party Faction has been taking a ten-minute recess before each voting which is keeping the pace slow. The voting will continue at Thursday’s sitting at 10 a.m.

The verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian)

The Riigikogu Press Service