Kaja Kallas, the chairman of the Estonian opposition Reform Party, said the composition of the scientific council, which is advising the government on the coronavirus crisis, could be expanded to include people of different professions not just medical professionals.
Speaking on ETV’s “Esimene stuudio” in early April, Kallas said: “If we look at the course of the disease and the data we are getting about the disease, the first thing I would do is make the research council broader. There are doctors, immunologists and virologists out there right now. They all have a very similar background. People with the same background tend to think in the same way.”
She noted that economists and data technologists, as well as psychologists, could be added to the Scientific Council. Adding she would also focus on protecting groups at risk and try and open up normal life to everyone else.
Kallas said she considers the measures taken by the government to curb the spread of the coronavirus to be sensible, but emphasized that a very clear plan is now needed to emerge from the crisis. “This guide, this plan, is very much needed now. So where do we start? What can we open?”.
She does not support the reduction of excise duties on electricity and fuel with the supplementary state budget.
“In the current situation, where the state’s tax revenues are falling drastically because there is simply no activity, no tax will be received,” she said.
“This money is needed for the health care sector, this money is needed to help the employees of companies…This revenue, which does not come to the state budget, is significant and is needed in other places, “said Kallas.
Kallas said the money could be taken from the Rural Development Foundation instead.
“EUR 200 million has been allocated while the agricultural sector will not be hit by this crisis in the first phase. And we know that the agricultural sector has different concerns,” Kallas said.
“There are many things in this supplementary budget that we support, but the crisis situation is such that the crisis must not be abused. Experts should be heard,” she added.
Presenter Johannes Tralla asked whether the fact that the government of Prime Minister Andrus Ansip (Reform) suspended the payments of the second pillar in 2009 was a mistake. The current coalition has also done so during this crisis.
Kallas said the situation was completely different then.
“In 2009, we were a kroon country. Our currency was the kroon. There was no such currency in the rest of the world, and that meant that there was always the possibility that our currency would be devalued. This currency was not trusted as much as the euro.
Secondly, the opportunity to take out a loan was completely different for us in 2009 than it is for us today. Now that our governments have built up reserves and our debt burden has been lowered, we also have the opportunity to borrow on better terms.”
Kallas also talked about the fact that the state should reduce its operating expenses.
“It cannot be the case that the private and public sectors live in two different worlds,” she stated.
“There are definitely places where you can shrink [the budget], because the need for certain services in the public sector is also smaller,” Kallas noted.
She stressed she did not mean cutting investment.
When asked whether the state should support ride-hailing and food delivery service startup Bolt with EUR 50 million, Kallas did not give a clear answer. She said the state should listen to Bolt’s concerns and find a way to help them.
The article was originally published at: https://news.err.ee/1077511/kaja-kallas-psychologists-economists-should-be-on-scientific-council
Edited Helen Wright