* In the opinion of ministers from Estonia’s ruling coalition parties, the outgoing year was successful and also cooperation within the government was smooth.
Economic growth has created opportunities to solve significantly better the social problems facing the society, Prime Minister and leader of the Reform Party Andrus Ansip said at the government’s end-of-year press conference on Dec. 21. He expressed delight that the corporate and personal income tax rate had come down and tax-exempt income risen, and praised growing pensions and family benefits.
According to the prime minister, year 2006 was successful for Estonia also in foreign policy terms. “All the high-level visits to Estonia - British queen, US president - confirm that Estonia has become an equal partner to all our friends,” Ansip said.
Estonia has succeeded in being thrifty and not spending all the funds that could be used, and also the next year’s state budget is planned with a billion-kroon surplus, the premier added.
Chairman of the Center Party and Minister of Economy and Communications Edgar Savisaar underlined the spirit of cooperation in the government.
“I’ve noted that we have as if started reading one another’s minds. When I’ve had to substitute for the prime minister I always think how Ansip would decide one or another matter, and I’m convinced that when I’m away on business and my colleagues consider some question relating to the Ministry of Economy and Communications they too think the same way,” Savisaar said.
As highlights of the year in his area of governance, Savisaar named the establishment of the Development Fund, acceleration of road construction, renationalization of Eesti Raudtee (Estonian Railway) and the fact that Internet is now accessible in 90 percent of the Estonian territory.
The economy minister considered vital also police officers’ 30 percent and teachers’ 18 percent pay rises, appropriation of additional funds for the pension fund, raising of unemployment benefits, subsistence minimum and children’s benefits, and the school lunch program.
Environment Minister Rein Randver from the People’s Union said the coalition has fulfilled most pledges contained in the coalition agreement and the rest too can be fulfilled in the remaining time.
In the domain of the Agriculture Ministry, Randver underscored the farming and fishing development programs, the Estonian food project, and European Union direct subsidies to farmers.