Enterprise Estonia again faced with reshuffle

Kadri Hansalu
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Photo: Mihkel Maripuu

Caught in the whirlwind of promises uttered by fresh governmental coalition, the foundation Enterprise Estonia (EAS) is rearranging both structure of organisation and administration. Starting June 1st, 16 posts will be cut – five percent of staff thus thinned out. On top of that, many a minister has set his sight on the very EAS to cover costs or fulfil personal ambitions. As we remember, it was as recently as last November that EAS confirmed the principles of granting benefits.

The government is tight with money and several ministers have said they would be coming to talk with you to alleviate the effects of tax rises. To our knowledge, these include both enterprise minister Urve Palo and finance minister Sven Sester. What do you have to offer them?

EAS has had more conversations with the enterprise minister. Well we do not have much new options outside the EU support. Estonia has entered a partnership agreement regarding the measures for the new period, and these lay main emphasis on entrepreneurs developing innovation, new solutions and products. In this period, we are no longer investing as much in purchasing production equipment or support to starting business. Increasingly, EAS wants to direct its benefits towards development of export capacity and for the exporting enterprises to rise in value chain. Without that, Estonian economy will not rise to the level desired by the state.

In the very first days, enterprise minister begun to speak about changing EAS, like bringing back the equipment benefits. She said she already had your agreement. Is that true?

We see opportunities to continue these activities, to a degree, within the new measures, but we do not have an agreement by now. We are only talking, as the support measures have not yet been finalised. Like the entrepreneur development plan measure which is a central support instrument for growing enterprises. Within that, we are indeed still able to review eligible activities. All these measures will need to be preliminarily discussed with economy ministry and finance ministry. 

Finance minister has also promised to meet with you and ask for help to alleviate the effects of tax rise to accommodation services. Also, Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas has said that the state should find a million euros to advertise Estonian tourism. How about that?

We met with finance and enterprise ministers last week and introduced the means that EAS has. We arrived at the conclusion that with €1m tourism would not be boosted significantly. We will need to think about several varying measures which would interact to yield long-term results. First and foremost, we were able to suggest possible marketing activities to open direct flights into Estonia, which would be most effective to increase the numbers of tourists.

Will the EAS priorities and directions announced at end of last year now change?

It has been our goal – and it will continually be – to develop production and services with exporting capacity. At the moment, we need to work very actively towards recovering Estonia’s competitive edge among the Baltics. In productivity of enterprises, Lithuania has passed us by and even Latvia is biting at our heels. Enterprises will need to think about increasing productivity i.e. through that export volumes can be increased also.

But the regional entrepreneurship theme which is so close to the new enterprise minister’s heart?

EAS administrates and applies EU support that comes through economy ministry and interior ministry. The measures towards boosting competitiveness of the regions, now under the domain of public administration minister, are continuing during this budget framework. How to better regulate these measures and to fulfil the coalition agreement promises, this will have to be discussed between enterprise minister and public administration ministers. At the end of last year, we clearly stated that we would like to support such regional development as creates jobs and makes establishing enterprises attractive even outside Tallinn and Tartu.

We hear structural changes are underway at EAS, with five percent of jobs cut. That true?

We have discussed with the council and let our entire collective know that on June 1st structural change will take place in the organisation. Several current units will be merged and the posts will be thinned 5 percent i.e. by 16 persons.

The changes are meant to improve communication with clients, so that our decisions would reach them faster. At the moment, our work processes are rather long, we want to adjust them and make them more effective. Also, we have noticed at the board that there is no need for all the support structures that we currently possess. The aim is becoming more of a competence centre, and do more things with content, not just be handing out the benefits.

In order to save and cooperate, is EAS willing to incorporate Development Fund? 

We have not discussed that with EAS.