Stenbock House, 21 December 2017 – at today’s meeting, the Government were given an overview of the annual plan of their action programme. Of the 249 tasks in the plan, 207 (83%) are completed. The Government still wishes to discuss several items on the action programme before the end of the year.
“The Government has had a very busy year. We have made good progress towards fulfilling the goals of the coalition – a happier, more equal, and more cohesive Estonian society. We have also made large contributions towards increasing national security and achieving a sustainable, inclusive economic growth,” said Prime Minister Jüri Ratas.
The government coalition increased the allowance for families with many children to 300 euros for families with 3–6 children and to 400 euros for families with 7 or more children to support population growth in Estonia. As of 1 July 2017, families with three children receive a total of 500 euros of family allowance per month. The system of parental leaves and benefits was also made more flexible. The revenue base of the Estonian Health Insurance Fund was increased to shorten waiting lists and ensure the sustainability of the healthcare system.
“The healthcare funding reform was long-awaited, but postponed for several years. I am glad that this government took the first real step towards improving accessibility to healthcare,” said Jevgeni Ossinovski, leader of the Social Democratic Party and Minister of Health and Labour. Restrictions on the sale and advertising of alcohol were tightened to promote public health and protect children and young people.
Urmas Reinsalu, leader of the government delegation of the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union, said in his summary of the year that the Government is held together by the will to do real things. “This government has focused more intensely than before on constructing broad-based national defence in Estonia to avert any threats. The process of doing real things has been the guiding line of forming this government. The prerequisite for the nation state of Estonia is that in today’s open world, Estonians should be economically viable while working in Estonia. The tax reform and many other measures that support economic viability address that,” said Urmas Reinsalu, Minister of Justice.
The income tax reform was implemented to increase societal well-being and cohesion. The reform will increase the income of more than 80 per cent of Estonians. Most among them will gain an additional 64 euros per month. In 2018, the minimum wage will increase to 500 euros, which will help to improve the living standards of people with low income.
The Government increased the state’s investments into research and development to ensure sustainable economic growth in Estonia. A three-year development programme of the information and communication technology sector was approved, which will alleviate labour shortages in the ICT sector and help Estonian industry enter the digital revolution. The Government also allocated additional resources to improve the growth of the competitiveness of Estonia. The Government called off the value added tax increase for establishments providing accommodation, which was due to take place in 2017, and the excise duty increase on diesel fuel, which was planned for 2018; both of those increases were established by the previous government coalition. The VAT rate for establishments providing accommodation remained at 9 per cent, which supports the tourism sector.
It was decided that 524 million euros would be allocated for defence costs in 2018 to maintain and ensure national security. This is the largest defence budget share in Estonian history, amounting to 2.14 per cent of the estimated GDP. This spring, a 1,200-member battle group of the NATO international battalion arrived in Estonia for the purposes of collective defence. The principles of the national defence investment programme have also been agreed upon.
The Government completed the administrative reform, which had made very little progress in over 20 years. As a result, the former 213 local governments were joined into 79, which are potentially more capable. There are now 15 cities and 64 rural municipalities in Estonia. The Government also increased the revenue base of local governments and renewed the distribution principles of the Equalisation Fund. A total of an additional 185 million euros has been allocated for this in the state budget strategy for 2018–2020.
The Government’s report is now available on the subpage of the action programme: https://www.valitsus.ee/et/eesmargid-tegevused/valitsuse-tegevusprogramm-0
See the Government’s summary of the year and videos from the prime minister and other ministers from 2017: https://www.valitsus.ee/et/aasta2017