Estonia’s regional and local development in the framework of global processes
The aim of the article is to survey the changes over the last few decades in Estonia’s regional economic development and future trends in the wider context of industrialised Western democracies. The article details the main factors that influenced Estonia’s regional development and outlines the potential development of the first part of this century.
Estonia’s regional development in the 20th century was quite unusual in the world context: it was influenced by globalisation, Estonia’s location has resulted in geopolitical and historico-specific cultural factors. During the century of industry, Estonians migrated in search of jobs. The result was urbanisation and three waves of regional development, starting in agrarian southern Estonia and moving into industry-centred northern Estonia and tourism-centred western Estonia. The concentration of business and population into large cities and transit corridors in today’s ultraliberal capitalist environment is quite similar to the postwar period.
Technical and community services infrastructure is deteriorating in declining rural areas, making them even less attractive to entrepreneurs and potential residents. There is a danger that socially excluded microcultures will become wider. We need to avoid the economic desertification of rural areas, since the environment there is a resource for the vacation economy. Since the level of local government is mostly small and feeble, the state should strengthen provincial development structures in order to use resources offered by the EU for rural and infrastructure development.
The new social and economic processes that kicked in during transition also launched intensive suburbanisation, which has escaped the control of the public sector in the Tallinn region, with development threatening to destroy natural (beaches) and cultural resources and causing increasing traffic congestion. There is a need for comprehensive planning of land use in larger urban areas and infrastructure to avoid bottlenecks and sprawl, problems that have existed in the West for half a century but which are only now perceptible here.