How to survive and become richer
In “Riigikogu Toimetised” conversation circle on 21 April, the representatives of the factions of the Riigikogu discussed the vision or the big plan of Estonia. Should Estonia have it and what should it be like? What are our important development goals? Martin Helme (Estonian Conservative People’s Party), Jaanus Marrandi (Socialist Party), Mart Nutt (Pro Patria and Res Publica Union), Erki Savisaar (Centre Party), Artur Talvik (Free Party), and Urve Tiidus (Reform Party) were the participants of that comprehensive and sometimes even heated discussion.
Mart Nutt: The advantage of Estonia lies in the fact that Estonia is not a part of some other country, but a state that at the same time also carries the nature of a smaller, compact unit. I consider this to be the advantage of Estonia. Perhaps the negative side of Estonia is that we are not rich enough in comparison to some other countries. When we think how many countries there are that have become rich thanks to their natural resources, then we can name only some Arabian oil monarchies. The wealth of most rich countries is actually not based on natural resources, but on work. So that, in principle, the source of wealth is work. Education has a very important role in preserving our national culture, preserving the education in our language enables us to reproduce our identity.
Urve Tiidus: Certainly the strength of Estonia is its beautiful nature, much of free land and forests – clean environment. I share the opinion of all who say that education is important. If we can do something for our future, for the next century, then it is certainly school education and university education! In connection with robotisation, we have to prepare our children for specialisations that are completely different from ours. An important task of education is to develop the creativity hidden in absolutely every person, every child. It is vital that people cooperate in that context, regardless of their political views.
Artur Talvik: The courage to be different, the courage to do things unlike the global market trends demand that could be our chance. Like the idea of Organic Estonia, that is, to declare the whole country organic and start selling the idea of living in harmony with nature, and to do it purposefully, by giving it added value. Scenario is what we need at the moment! A long-term vision that naturally covers demography, education and natural environment. But what we do with them, and how we can use that in the emerging new world – that is the point.
Jaanus Marrandi: One of the great advantages of Estonia is the educated people. Nature and our geographical location are also our advantages – we have lots of space, we have much land. So that clean nature is our advantage. At the same time it is also a problem. We are geographically too far in the north for doing certain things. Our location also causes geopolitical problems that have made us a real battleground several times in history. In my opinion, it is also important that Estonia is such a small country that we should be able to ensure uniform regional development here comparatively easily.
Martin Helme: Estonia should acknowledge more than it has done so far that actually we are a country that is rich by natural resources. One part of the wealth of Estonia is unquestionably oil shale. Actually there is much more here that could be used rationally and reasonably to make us rich.
Our demographic situation is a great disadvantage: first the emigration of people, second the ageing and decreasing of population, and third that our population is not homogenous. Regarding the problems of demography, the public authority has certain levers or impact mechanisms that can be used to direct the behaviour of the people. I would also like to add that our goal is that in a hundred years from now, the people of Estonia should be safe, self-assured and wealthy.
Erki Savisaar: In today’s information society economy, we should dedicate more attention to natural sciences or real sciences, so that we had more engineers, architects and mechanics who would be able to design and create systems, and keep them working, and we also need programmers. When we think how to create wealth, then one possibility is naturally to increase export, but another possibility is to reduce import. We do not have to bring everything here from all over the world, we can also make something ourselves. And when it is good to live in this country, emigration will start to slow down, people will return and the demographic problems will change.