When it took office in April 2011, the now-outgoing government coalition laid down a program of 539 pledges. Uudised.err.ee asked a team of NGOs – the same “government watchdogs” who reviewed performance going into last October’s local elections and found 61of the pledges had been fulfilled – to analyze the key actions and omissions in 11 fields.
+/- Implementation of a number of pledges has started, but they could be called the first steps to alleviate the problem, not a solution.
+/- The support paid through Development Fund, Enterprise Estonia, Kredex and Ministry of Agriculture can now be aimed mainly at exporters and start-ups. But this will only see effects during the new EU structural fund implementation period.
+/- Also postponed to the new period: a plan to transition from use of loans and guarantees and focus on measures that stimulate cooperation and product development. Likewise, the plan to start alleviating market snags in IPOs.
+/- The Asia program, which was launched to draw Asian capital and tourists to Estonia, was developed and is being piloted. But here as well, core actions will also be deferred.
+ Implementation of entrepreneurship studies is a field in which progress has been made.
Integration (Kristina Kallas, Institute of Baltic Studies)
+/- Public comment on the new integration plan being drafted has been more inclusive than ever before. The government has set the goal of promoting overall tolerance and openness. Still, activities have been few and far between, they have gone unnoticed and their impact has been low.
– Diversity values considered common in Europe are not widespread in Estonia and this may end up working against aims of drawing non-EU talent here. Even highly qualified foreigners have remarked on the xenophobic attitudes, even if the attitudes are not aimed at them personally.
– The pledge that people will all have an equal opportunity to prosper in Estonia has not been fulfilled — the high unemployment among the Russophone population points to this. No labor market measures other than Estonian language learning programs have been developed for this segment.
Transport (Mari Jüssi and Valdur Lahtvee, SEI Tallinn)
+ The government should be credited with increasing the frequency of train travel and raising the topic of restricting VAT exemptions on company cars.
+/- Traffic safety has improved on roads, but the government has not paid enough attention to pedestrian and cyclist safety. The number of accidents continues to be high.
– The government does not have an appreciation for the role of quality bicycle paths in diversifying mobility.
Energy and the environment (Mari Jüssi and Valdur Lahtvee, SEI Tallinn)
+ Estonia joined the IEA, the International Energy Agency. However, one of the first and most important recommendations for the Estonian government was to launch a national energy agency, something that was recently abolished.
+ Thorough preparations and public comment on the new energy sector development plan 2030+ and the decision for investment support for local biomethane production
– The topic of oil shale royalties has not been thoroughly discussed. The government promised to consider whether the royalty principle could be applied in oil shale production.
– Environmental charges were raised without warning and without proper background studies.
– Changes in the Electricity Market Act are also regrettable. It was decided to link renewable energy support to wattage and reduce the support level. As a result, future projects for establishing renewable energy capacity are frozen in Estonia and investors may look to the other Baltic countries instead.
Regional policy (Rivo Noorkõiv)
+ The release of a new population forecast up to 2040 is a key milestone, although the forecast itself is sobering (The population should decrease by 125,000. The gap between the number of males and females should close due to increased male life expectancy and active emigration by women).
– Regional development disparity continues to be high, including in comparison to other industrialized countries. Low capacity for investment among local governments and the proportionally lower growth of local government revenue have led to more centralization. Local governments can’t reduce regional disparity by themselves and thus state regional policy has to be made significantly stronger.
– The regional development strategy 2014-2020 is stalled on the Cabinet level. Thus the state lacks an official regional development strategy, which is needed to implement territorial measures funded from the Cohesion Fund.
– Local government umbrella organizations and some ministries are against the administrative reform as set forth in the Regional Affairs Minister bill. They resent the coercive nature of municipal mergers, and as a result an essential reform is stalled.
+ Progress has been made in reorganizing the school network. There are more operational state upper secondary schools.
Agriculture (Roomet Sõrmus, Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture)
+ The government fulfilled the goal of paying additional agricultural subsidies from the state budget in the amount permitted by the EU.
+ The government received permission in 2013 to pay top-ups, or equalization subsidies, as well.
+ The government also made good on its pledge to continue paying other domestic agricultural subsidies in the permitted extent.
– Despite promising talks, the government was unable to ensure that effective in 2014, farmers will be on an equal footing with counterparts from other EU countries. The goal was 90 percent, but direct subsidies will reach 75 percent of the EU average only in 2019.
+/- Rural development fund resources allocated to Estonia were maintained at the level of the current budget period. However the total amount of funding could decrease compared to the last period if the proposal of the Ministry of Finance to reduce co-financing of the development fund from 25 percent to 15 percent goes through. The new government will decide the level of co-financing.
Health policy (Praxis Center for Policy Studies)
+ The government fulfilled several more specific promises — such as starting grants for young doctors, improving care, reorganizing emergency care.
– The specific changes, however, do nothing to tackle the long-term problems plaguing the health system — the unsustainable health insurance and hospital network system, labor shortages and the uneven availability of services. The strike of health workers in October 2012 was an important indicator; salary raises eased some tensions but failed to get to the bottom of the problem.
– A development plan for healthcare is apparently in the works but it has not been made public yet. The ministry is probably too busy with the EU directive on cross-border healthcare, however; the directive probably will not concern the majority of residents of Estonia in the nearest future.
Social issues (Praxis Center for Policy Studies)
+ The most important promises that were fulfilled by the government include parental pensions (a pension supplement for bringing up a child), and the implementation of a needs-based family allowance, but the small amount does not move low-income families to use the opportunity in reality.
– Still to be fulfilled are promises on insurances for work-related accidents and occupational diseases, the reform of special pensions and pension benefits has also stalled. The government has started on the reform of the insurance against disablement, which was not on the list of promises but concerns several aims linked to engaging the disabled in the labor market.
Public administration (Praxis Center for Policy Studies)
+ The coalition made headway in reforming public service and centralizing support services, the passing of the new law on public service being one of the bigger achievements. It is too early to pass a verdict on its effectiveness a year after it came into force, but it is still a step forward.
– Unfortunately, this experience was not taken further to make updates in the fields of governing and administration. The field of governance faced the same problems plaguing the administrative reform — those that want, can’t. Those that can, won’t.
Information society (Liia Hänni, e-Governance Academy)
+ The government of Andrus Ansip bolstered ICT-related administrative management, which has improved co-operation between agencies and helped to introduce Estonian e-State solutions in the world.
+ A new development plan until 2020 and a green paper on developing public services were drawn up, and are being implemented with support from the EU structural funds.
– The deadline for plans related to Open Data was not met and much needs to be done in terms of the e-Citizen and e-Official partnership.
Education (Praxis Center for Policy Studies)
+/- Extensive reforms have taken place in this field, most notably the reform in funding higher education, ushering in free higher education, the switch to a needs-based education allowances, creating scholarships and allowing PhD students to work as junior researchers. Most of these reforms have been controversial and their results can be assessed in a few years.
+/- In the field of general education, the ministry has been concerned with the salaries of teachers and organizing the school network. The salary raise was not in the coalition agreement — the issue emerged due to the March 2012 teachers’ strike.
+ The opening of the Tallinn European School for children of foreigners and the strategy for lifelong learning are important steps.
– The continued deficit of kindergarten places is a significant failure.