Entrepreneurs demand reforms

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Photo: Jarek Jõepera

Yesterday saw 28 entrepreneurs establish the State Reform Foundation to thoroughly renew the recent structure of the Estonian state. One of the authors of the idea, Jüri Käo, said that while the founders are not starry-eyed idealists, it is simply impossible to idly stand by any longer.

The foundation is an apolitical private initiative to form a state reform concept and theses necessary for its execution over a period of one year. The results of the foundation’s work will be a present for Estonia’s 100th anniversary.

Käo said that entrepreneurs have often discussed how to finally launch an effective state reform. “Different groups have different ideas; it would be good to have a foundation to coordinate these efforts,” the businessman explained.

According to Käo, the state needs modernization and entrepreneurs are motivated to contribute. Every founder will donate €10,000 a year to the foundation, mainly to fund legislative drafting.

“We are not naive enough to believe we will be the ones to change the world; however, it was no longer possible not to act,” Käo found. The businessman added that politicians have been very open to the idea so far. Asked whether upcoming Riigikogu elections that entrepreneurs could help finance will provide a better platform for promoting state reform ideas, Käo said that politicians aren’t selling things for money these days.

“Those times are long gone. Parties are generously funded from the state budget,” Käo said. Tiit Pruuli said the foundation does not plan to lean on anyone to realize its ideas. The businessman said he simply wants to do his part to create an active and competent debate on vital issues that the current political discourse tries to avoid. “All that is needed is for politicians and the rest of society to see there is a group of people who are sincerely worried and willing to contribute their ideas, time, and money for the common good. There will be joiners,” Pruuli said.

Minister of State Administration Janek Mäggi welcomes the initiative. “The more people want to participate in politics and shape it, the better,” he said. The minister added that leading entrepreneurs and public figures surely have ideas worth realizing.

“It is even better when they go about it with passion,” Mäggi said. The state administration minister described the foundation as an initiative by dignified people. “I commend the initiative as we can only make Estonia better for the entire society together,” he said.

Founder Olari Taal said it is time to renew Estonian statehood. “The Estonian state is not broken, but it needs a serious overhaul to be able to face the future. There are a number of facts we must not ignore,” the businessman said. Taal added that Estonia’s public spending has come dangerously close to the critical level.

“Estonia is overregulated, sports a growing bureaucratic apparatus, and is becoming increasingly state-centered. We will make very specific proposals to change this situation,” Taal said in reference to the aim of the foundation.

Member of the State Reform Foundation’s council Jüri Raidla said that founders will not create a new political party or movement and that the initiative is strictly apolitical when it comes to parties. “We have been having a fiery debate on state reform and updating the state for nine years,” he explained. Raidla said that the 28 founders of the initiative have finally created the necessary tools and plan to realize the idea. “It is not our aim to criticize what has been done so far or to pick a fight with anyone; it is to contribute to the renewal of the Estonian state together,” Raidla said. The work of the foundation will be curated by former Supreme Court justice, former member of the European Court of Human Rights Rait Maruste and jurist, sworn lawyer, and one of the authors of the Estonian Constitution Jüri Raidla.

The state reform will not yield immediate saving. Expenses might even grow temporarily due to layoffs and cost of reorganization. The effect will manifest over a longer period of time as economic reforms begin to bear fruit. The foundation wants to deliver a state reform concept to the chairman of the Riigikogu, the government, and all parliament parties on November 26. The foundation will hunt for ideas and make cooperation proposals to experts in May. The summer will be spent working on the state reform concept base and consulting with experts.

The second version of the concept project will be put together in fall, with the positions of founders, the council and board as well as feedback from experts considered, and the final version drawn up after that. Preparations for the execution of the state reform concept will be made in December-April. The foundation is set to conclude its activities by May 14 next year.