Speech of Mr Toomas Luman at the 94th Anniversary of the Chamber of Commerce on 06.11.2019
Honourable Chairman of the Parliament, Ministers, Excellencies, entrepreneurs, dear guests!
The Chamber of Commerce is celebrating its 94th anniversary this year. Today, the Chamber has exactly 3,394 members. The contribution of the members of the Chamber to the state treasury is still approximately 40% of the tax revenue and the share of our members in Estonian economy is also approximately 40%. This shows that our members are very active in the economy and form the most important part of Estonian business. Stable growth of the number of members is a sign of the fact that our activities, be it helping our members through relevant services or contribution to entrepreneurship policies, is still highly regarded. I would like to thank all our members for that trust!
One of the main duties of the Chamber of Commerce is to influence the business environment, related policies and legislative drafting so that entrepreneurship in Estonia would develop. In relation to that I would like to set out some keywords that make us happy or worried.
First, about the problems:
- Labour shortage. We see it more and more on all levels and in all areas. It has brought along salary growth that increases the potential of the economy as well as worsening of access to services and quality. This includes decrease in the quality of public services. Most probably, the situation will continue to deteriorate because the solutions are politically unpopular.
- Secondly, the relatively low level of investments into research and development activities. While investments are still made in machinery and equipment, because the price of money is still acceptable and it is used to compensate the labour shortages, things are not as positive with research and development activities. Neither from the point of view of the private sector nor from the public sector. Undoubtedly, another negative is the fact that the promises made unanimously by the politicians before the elections, remained just that - promises.
- Risks related to the quality of basic and vocational education. I am glad that the PISA tests show our young people in a very positive light and we are slightly entering into the plans of exporting the educational model as the Finns did a few decades ago, but what is the future? The general education schools have 20% of teachers that are older than 60, but only 9% of teachers who are younger than 30. In comparison between the states, it is a very poor result. The situation in vocational education is even worse. The most critical is the situation with the teachers of sciences. Each fourth physics teacher and each fifth chemistry, geography, biology and mathematics teacher is older than 60, i.e. about to retire. If we lack educated specialists already today, how should the situation in the future be better, if soon there will be no teachers?
- Pensions and the reform of the second pillar. I do not think that changing the pensions system, as it is planned, would be the right way. In this form, the planned reform is not necessary, and its real purpose is also unclear. In reality, there are very few people who would have means as well as sufficient knowledge to make informed investments to ensure income during their pension years. They are already investing voluntarily if they have means for it and most probably, withdrawing the collected funds from the second pillar is not important for them. However, for everyone else, creating the option to withdraw money means increased risks – for the pensions and tax system as well as for the persons themselves. The only positive aspect of the entire reform plan is probably the fact that people have never discussed pensions as much as they are doing now. Awareness has definitely improved and maybe it would be appropriate to be content with his positive impact.
And now about the joys:
- It is good that the tax peace has generally kept and the battle related to tax increases that we have almost always had to fight in relation to the new year’s budget, has not been necessary this year. Although the budget has not yet been passed, we hope for the best. Those people who wish to hold tax debates should keep in mind the good old saying – first phrase the problem, then find solutions. And of course, it would be nice if the solutions would be more innovative than the highlighted problems.
- Next. Investments into developing the main roads inside Estonia have become more realistic. Since ancient times it has been known that easy and safe movement of goods is essential to ensuring the development of the state. Until we have village roads compared to Central Europe between our cities, we have a lot of room for improvement.
- Strengthening the role of business diplomacy as a part of foreign policy. We must recognise the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for their bigger role and taking responsibility for helping Estonian entrepreneurs in the world. It has been visible and praised by entrepreneurs. However, ambition should be set even higher here – the position of the Minister of Foreign Trade together with the resources should be taken under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The same should be done with foreign representatives who represent Estonia and help entrepreneurs in other countries of the world. This way we will ensure clearer and more uniform goals and a more understandable and efficient organisation of work as we have wanted to do in many other areas through the state reform plans.
- And lastly, I would like to mention our young entrepreneurs. The Chamber together with Swedbank has been electing and recognising the young entrepreneur of the year for already five years. We see that young people have enthusiasm and ambition to succeed anywhere in the world. As enterprising young people and entrepreneurship are the ones that will help us succeed in the future and ensure payment of pensions, we will certainly continue encouraging the future generations and recommend that all entrepreneurs do that.
And with this I would like to end the short overview of our worries and joys. I wish everyone here and all Estonian entrepreneurs luck and perseverance in contributing to the success of Estonia!
As tradition goes, we would like to recognise the companies and organisations that have been members of the Chamber for a long time. Today is no different. We are happy to award the certificates of gratitude to three organisations who can celebrate a jubilee of their membership in Chamber this year.
- Baltplast AS, member of the Chamber for 40 years
- ABT AS, member of the Chamber for 65 years
- Tallinna Sadam AS, member of the Chamber for 65 years