Government’s work cannot be rated

Valitsuse pressikonverents. Toomas Tõniste, Jüri Ratas ja Jaak Aab.

PHOTO: Tairo Lutter

The State Reform Radar initiative of the Estonian Employers Confederation and the Praxis think tank criticizes the government for lack of strategic management and cooperation, which is why it finds it impossible to grade the government for the previous quarter – no progress has been made on reforming the state as there have been no decisions or actions.

Head of Praxis Tarmo Jüristo said that Radar is having serious trouble assessing state reform progress. “Looking back at the marks we gave the government in 2017, they were 3, 2, 1 in that order. We only gave the government a single point last time, while no progress has been made since then. Rather it is the opposite,” Jüristo said. That is why the Radar decided not to grade work that simply hasn’t been done.

The government is criticized for lack of strategic management, cooperation, and vision.

“The government is declaring open governance that should stand for evidence-based and transparent decision-making, weighing of alternatives, and clarity of choices. In truth, a lot of political processes have lacked sufficient analysis,” Jüristo explained.

For example, the government failed to assess or explain the effects of the rental buildings program, taking state jobs out of Tallinn, free county couches, and tax changes.

Poor quality of policymaking and meager communication is another problem.

“The government’s attention is on processes – laying off another ten people, taking one thousand jobs out of the capital; however, there is no clarity as to why that is done, what is the effect of the initiatives, and whether they will help solve problems Estonia is soon to face. The responsibility should lie with the entire government, not just individual ministers,” the head of Praxis finds.

Director of the Estonian Employers Confederation Toomas Tamsar found that the government is taking a project-based attitude to reforms.

“The government has done well on one major project – local government mergers. However, state reform requires new effective initiatives,” he said.

Tamsar went on to say that the reform needs to be an undertaking with a beginning and an end that fixes the main bottlenecks of state administration in a carefully considered manner.

Decisively curbing the volume of legislative drafting and red tape is an undertaking of immense potential that has unfortunately remained on the level of lofty statements.

“We should try and avoid a situation where every abrogated bureaucratic requirement is replaced with two new ones,” Tamsar said.

While the government was expected to make progress on the state reform after the culmination of Estonia’s EU presidency, according to Tamsar the Radar is forced to keep repeating the same criticism: individual activities and routine maintenance of administration are dominating in the absence of a vision.

“It seems that weakly associated initiatives lack a strong glue and promotor, and value-based management is quickly discarded following political motivations,” Tamsar said.