The Riigikogu discussed the governance reform as a matter of significant national importance. The idea, the possible content and the implementation of the governance reform were discussed in the reports and comments.
Reports were by the Chairman of the Constitutional Committee Kalle Laanet, Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas, sworn advocate Jüri Raidla and the Chairman of the State Reform Support Group of the Riigikogu Tanel Talve.
“Although the Estonian state generally functions well, the people are expecting their life to improve in the future, and the number of the services provided by the state to increase, and the quality and availability of the services to improve. The people are also expecting to be involved more in the making of important decisions that concern them,” Kalle Laanet said in his report. “Thus the aim of the reform of state administration could be in the most general terms a wish to bring the Estonian governance system into conformity with the changed circumstances, to make it more uniform, flexible and efficient.”
Laanet said that, when carrying out the governance reform, it must definitely be taken into account that the more serious problems of Estonia are connected with the decrease of the population. He also noted that the governance reform is related to the issue of peripherisation.
“The Government must have effective levers to develop policies, and to implement them effectively and quickly. For that, the necessary competences must be developed,” Laanet said. “To improve the quality and availability of public services, cooperation with the private sector must be enhanced. First of all, it must be agreed which public services, to what extent and at which level of government need to be offered, and how to make the necessary cooperation function better. Important decisions of the state must be reasoned and negotiated with the participants.”
Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas said that the governance reform has three main objectives: availability of high-quality public services all over Estonia, reduction of the administrative burden of undertakings in communicating with the state, and increasing of the efficiency and flexibility of the public sector.
“We have to be clever to do the current tasks significantly more effectively. We must be capable of achieving the same, better result with the existing and, possibly, also with a reduced staff,” Rõivas noted. “Every minister and every state official must constantly seek possibilities to organise work even more efficiently, to use taxpayers’ money more effectively, and to make the services offered by the state to citizens as well as to enterprises save time and money, and reduce the administrative burden in communicating with the state.”
Rõivas said that, for example, the reforms in the Tax and Customs Board and the Road Administration could be taken as models. “As a result of the implementation of state-of-the-art e-solutions, for example, the number of public servants has decreased by 21% in the Tax and Customs Board starting from 2011,” he added. “You will probably agree with me that services have become faster and more convenient for citizens as well as for undertakings. More efficient tax collection has also allowed to increase the salary of the people doing this work by 40% in five years.”
In his report, sworn advocate Jüri Raidla said that the Estonian state is not broken. “Our Constitution has served us well, and therefore to my mind the state is in no need of repair or major repairs,” he said. “The Estonian state needs development and updating, it needs modernisation in order to serve us as well in the future as it has served us up to now.”
Raidla said that the aim of the state reform, the concept and content of the state reform and the scale of the state reform in time and space would need to be negotiated. In his report, he pointed out the need to reduce the number of the members of the Riigikogu, to involve the people more through referendums, to curb the legislative drafting hampering the state and the society, and to make the office of the Prime Minister an independent institution and to make the Prime Minister the head strategist of the Republic of Estonia.
“To go on with reflections regarding the time schedule of the state reform, it would be in every way appropriate if, during the first months of 2017, the Riigikogu would reach the decision of making a proposal to the Government of the Republic to draft the Bill on the bases for the state reform,” Raidla noted. . This Resolution would obviously also contain the concept of the state reform and the political guidelines from the parliament regarding the content of the state reform. The Government could and should then work hard on this matter for about a year. It would be in every way symbolic if the Government of the Republic would submit the bases for the state reform to the Riigikogu for discussion by the beginning of 2018. It is hard to conceive of a better present to the Republic of Estonia for its 100th anniversary.”
The Chairman of the State Reform Support Group Tanel Talve called on the parliament to be the leader in carrying out the governance reform. “A cause for concern is the lack of an integral action plan: the surfacing of single ideas is not a reform strategy after all, although it may be a very good input in the drafting of a reform plan,” he said. “Therefore it is paramount to set up the terms of reference of the state reform, the time schedule, and the regularity of the monitoring. The existence of the terms of reference of the state reform, clearly defined by the Riigikogu, and a reform programme is particularly important because the state reform responsibility is divided between several ministries.”
Talve said that the support group had also made its proposals for drafting the grounds for the state reform to the Constitutional Committee of the Riigikogu.
“First, to have regular discussions of the issue of the state reform in the Riigikogu in the form of a matter of significant national importance. Second, the Constitutional Committee should assume the leading role in defining the essence and terms of reference of the state reform, as well as in the drafting of a Resolution of the Riigikogu that would give clear guidelines to the executive power for vigorous, targeted and systematic activity in carrying out the state reform as a whole,” Talve said. “The State Reform Support Group, which includes members from different political parties and involves also external experts, promises its all-round help in this process, and hopes that the Constitutional Committee will assume the task of preparing and submitting a draft Resolution “The Grounds for the State Reform” to the Board of the Riigikogu during this year’s autumn session.”
Toomas Kivimägi, Andres Herkel, Tarmo Tamm, Urve Palo, Helir-Valdor Seeder, Jüri Adams and Peeter Ernits took the floor during the debate.
Verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian): http://stenogrammid.riigikogu.ee/et/201604141000
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.)
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