In mid-August, the Experts’ Forum – created in June alongside the Economic Development Committee of the Government – provided strategic goals and priorities which should be taken as a point of reference in exiting the crisis. These are primarily safeguarding jobs and creating new jobs, and accelerating structural changes in the economy through innovation, digitalisation and environmental sustainability. It was emphasised that a stable business environment and boosting the efficiency of the public sector would support overcoming the crisis. The experts also recommended not to compensate decreased state budget revenues with cuts, but to take out a loan to cover deficiencies, and only then go back to the state budget rules coordinated in the European Union. Ensuring the free movement of people and goods, maintaining critical infrastructure and services, and considering regional development needs in shaping economic measures were considered important.
‘A large portion of the offered measures found application in next year’s state budget, and will also be taken into account in planning the allocation of European Union funds’, said Prime Minister Jüri Ratas. ‘We have accelerated investments that support the recovery of the economy. This way, the volume of government sector investments will grow by 28% to about EUR 1.9 billion next year. Substantial investments have been planned in the field of healthcare, but also in improving the living conditions of people in every corner of Estonia, including sparsely populated areas, and in road construction’, he noted, providing some examples about the decisions made within the budget.
‘Financing of research activities will increase next year to the long-awaited 1% of GDP. Growth in the volume of research and development, digital development and the green revolution of companies are the priorities in planning investments’, Ratas underscored. The addition of a new generation of young scientists and their heading to work in entrepreneurship and the public sector, in addition to the academic sector, are important.
The current situation, in which the spread of the coronavirus continues to grow, was also discussed. The Prime Minister introduced future plans related to vaccination to the Experts’ Forum, and emphasised that it remains very important to strive towards striking a balance that allows us to avoid overburdening the healthcare system without damaging the economy and people’s livelihoods too severely. Participants in the discussion emphasised that even though uncertainty is still high, and there is no uniform estimate regarding the extent of the effectiveness of the vaccine, the State, companies, and society must prepare to continue to live life as normally as possible in the long-term under the new circumstances. The importance of Internet connections and flexible retraining opportunities, the need for adopting user-friendly digital solutions in the education system, as well as increasing the reliability of Estonia as a tourist destination and the need for the fast implementation of already decided measures were all emphasised. The parties also found that the cooperation of the Government and the Experts’ Forum on anti-crisis measures must continue. The next meeting is planned to be held in February 2021.