Mõis stays in office
Tallinn Mayor Jüri Mõis came out of a Tallinn meeting of his party, Pro Patria Union, on 12 May with his mayoralty intact.
Earlier in the week, Reform Party and the Moderates, in national and Tallinn coalitions with the Pro Patria Union of Prime Minister Mart Laar, said either Tallinn Mayor Jüri Mõis must resign or they would dissolve their alliance or, at best, force a motion of no confidence. As it turned out, Mõis survived a vote (109-81) on his resignation at the 12 May session.
Some Pro Patria Union MPs, who back the move to oust Mõis, said that while Mõis has been a fine leader in municipal government, some of his ways are troubling to public perception. He has been under criticism for the past month for allegedly improperly interfering in the privatization of Eesti Raudtee (Estonian Railroad), his friendship with businessman Meelis Lao and involvement in a scandal centering on a hydroplane port in Tallinn.
Four Pro Patria Union ministers, Transport and Communications Minister Toivo Jurgenson, Defense Minister Juri Luik, Education Minister Tonis Lukas and Interior Minister Tarmo Loodus, backed party MPs in their demand that Mõis step down. On 11 May, Mõis, a member of the governing board of Pro Patria Union, said he would wait to see the outcome a meeting of the Tallinn chapter slated for the next day before making a decision.
Privatizer needs OK on business plan
A 300-page business plan drawn up by Baltic Rail Services (BRS) needs to be looked over by the privatization supervisory panel, Eesti Raudtee (Estonian Railway) spokesman Andrus Kuusman said on 11 May.
BRS is positioned to buy a majority of shares in Eesti Raudtee after contracts connected with the privatization have been studied.
Managers of Eesti Raudtee have until late June to accept the deal.
Election bill sent back
The government has refused to support a Center Party draft law to amend the Constitution to allow Estonians to directly elect the president, saying the initiative is not ready for consideration.
The Center Party bill is a half-baked solution whose adoption would trigger a chain of problems, Justice Minister Mart Rask told reporters on 8 May. Opponents say the draft does not cover a situation in which two candidates tie for second place, for example.
Currently, the president is elected in Parliament. The new law, if passed, would allow candidates to be nominated by 10,000 voters, with the candidate receiving more than half of the votes cast winning the election. Should no candidate receive a majority, the two top candidates would face a run-off election two months later. A single candidate would have to receive more than half of the votes cast, or a new election would be called with another candidate registry.
Rural regions urged to act
Rural people have to pull up their socks and overcome learned helplessness, Prime Minister Mart Laar said last week. To advance local initiative, the government is ready to hand over to small governments the distribution of employment benefits and other responsibilities.
"The government's vocational education reform must create the preconditions for skilled labor corresponding to the present needs to take root in rural areas," Laar said.
Local governments have to become more involved in the development of infrastructure, as small enterprise has been hindered by need of organizers, local initiative and drive. Laar said the government is going to help to speed up development, especially rural roads.
Laar was speaking at a rural enterprise fair in Koeru cultural center in Jarva County.
Estonia progresses in e-readiness
A report endorsed by the United Nations and the World Bank has surveyed 53 economies and found that Estonia and Korea are the farthest along in getting their societies onto the Internet to shrink the digital divide between rich and poor countries in increased commerce and learning online.
The report used five standards for the ratings: affordable access to reliable networks at all levels of society; partnerships involving government, business and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to promote Internet access for all citizens; protection of intellectual property rights and privacy, and existence of legal framework to prosecute computer crimes and authorize digital signatures; enough people with the right skills to build a knowledge-based society; and national policies and financial systems supporting e-business.
Moderates push social programs
A recent report by sociologists saying that two-thirds of Estonian children are living in poverty has spurred Moderates to propose more money go into the national budget for 2002 for children's benefits and reduction of the jobless rate.
Social Affairs Minister Eiki Nestor is asking for EEK (Estonian kroons) 600 million (USD 34.19 million) to help cut unemployment, while Population Minister Katrin Saks of the Moderates will ask for EEK 403 million (about USD 22.7 million) to raise benefits for children. According to the Estonian daily Eesti Päevaleht, the child welfare proposal would double the current monthly allowance of EEK 150 for first-born children and also raise the current EEK 225 for second children to EEK 300 (USD 70) per month.
And in other news...
- On 11 May, a Tallinn court sentenced a Danish citizen to three years in prison for exposing his woman friend to the HIV virus. Samir Dawadrousi, 51, pleaded innocent, according to published reports, saying that he did not know he had AIDS. Dawadrousi, born in Cairo, was arrested in December at Tallinn airport in connection with a theft. Police learned of his health condition when he became ill and tested positive for HIV while in custody.
- Baltic beer sales are up with major companies reporting sales increased by as much as 33 percent in the first quarter year on year. Estonian brewery AS Tartu Olletehasled topped beer sales in the country with an increase of 22 percent, while Latvia's AS Cesu Alus increased sales from 0.28 million euros to 0.47 million euros. Lithuania's AB Ragutis sold 33 percent more beer in first quarter.
Sandra L Medearis, 11 May 2001
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