Everyone is anticipating the parliamentary elections in Estonia that are scheduled for March 3, 2019, says Kuldar-Jaan Torokoff, Partner at Fort Legal in Tallinn, who notes that it is an interesting time to observe the changes proposed by the parties currently in charge, “in order to get attention and votes.”
The prime example of a change that Torokoff describes as “populistic” is the government’s pre-election decision to implement free bus transportation passes across the country. Torokoff explains that free public bus transport services were introduced in the nation’s capital five years ago, and as of July 1, 2018, every county in Estonia is required to follow suit – with the cost picked up by taxpayers.
“I don’t know any other country in the world that has implemented such a luxurious decision,” Torokoff says, though he notes that “from a populist perspective, it is nice to make certain services free, and it is quite an experience to enter a bus without paying for a ticket.”
And as a majority of counties in Estonia have already complied with the requirement, the effect in the transportation sector is already visible, Torokoff reports – and some transportation companies are already facing imminent bankruptcy. In addition, the government’s action has resulted in a number of disputes between the state and transportation companies, who he says “are just fighting for their lives in order to avoid killing their business.”
Generally, however, Torokoff says he sees the overall economic situation in Estonia as positive, which is, “a pleasant environment for a lawyer, with plenty of work for everyone.” Still, a quickly growing economy requires good professionals in the legal sphere, and Torokoff claims there is a lack of them in the Estonian market. “Of course, there has been some consolidation in the market, where firms try to grow larger and strengthen their position,” he says, “but because the economy grows in cycles it takes time to prepare people.”