TALLINN – Estonian Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Kadri Simson said that 2018 was a busy and successful year, highlighting the implementation of free public transport across counties and the listing of port company Tallinna Sadam.
Free public transport was launched on county bus lines from July, which according to Simson is the first remarkable regional policy step in many long years. Free bus rides increased the popularity of public transport and increased the number of journeys made by bus by approximately a third compared with the previous year, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications said.
This year, the state also listed the shares of port company Tallinna Sadam. The aim of the listing was to offer Estonian people and pension funds the opportunity to invest in the development of a well-functioning company. Approximately 14,000 retail investors purchased the shares of the port company, thus, one could be satisfied with the result, Simson said.
A bill was also initiated this year that aims to bring cargo vessels to sail under the Estonian flag in the future. The plan is to establish a more favorable tax system and registers that would help bring back the vessels of Estonian shipowners and, through that, enliven the Estonian economy even further.
Among achievements, Simson also highlighted preparations for the restoration of the Riisipere-Turba railway section. The restoration of the railway section is the first stage for the completion of the Tallinn-Haapsalu railway in its entirety in the future.
The government also approved a road management plan for state roads, which foresees an increase in road investments by 113 million euros. The completion of large road construction projects, like the Tallinn-Parnu and Tallinn-Tartu roads, will continue.
In order to improve the international competitiveness of energy-intensive companies and encourage investments, the excise duty rate on electricity was reduced and a specification regarding the excise duty on gas for large consumers was imposed. According to the minister, the specification, which is to enter into force from 2019, will help entice new production to Estonia, create jobs, and in conclusion, products and services will thus become cheaper for the end consumer.
Simson said that more attention was also paid to improving the transport possibilities of remote areas. The Rukki channel on the ship route between the port of Rohukula on the mainland and the main sea port of Hiiumaa was dredged this year and dredging work will continue in the future as well. In 2019, the reconstruction of the Parnu airport will be started.
Finally, the minister also highlighted the zero-bureacracy program, which reduced the red tape that emerges in the communication between entrepreneurs and the state, based on the 280 proposals submitted by companies and entrepreneurship organizations, added to which were approximately 1,000 proposals for reducing the bureaucracy within the public sector.