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Estonia: Ministers Propose Government Reforms

Tallinn, 22 January 1997 (RFE/RL) - Three Estonian cabinet ministers have proposed a plan, according to which Estonia would -- in two-and-a-half years -- have five times fewer rural municipalities and counties than now, and the number of members of Parliament would be reduced to 71 from the current 101.

Economics Minister Jaak Leimann, Finance Minister Mart Opmann and Transport Minister Raivo Vare have made the proposal to the government. Our Tallinn correspondent reports the main aim of moving to a more radical version of administrative reform would be to reduce governing costs by about 500-million Estonian Crowns (about $40 million) yearly. The reforms outlined by the ministers were also said to raise Estonia's prospects joining the European Union.

Leimann, Opmann and Vare say the reform could be carried out in the two-and-a-half-year time frame. And, after that, Estonia would have about 50 rural municipalities instead of 253 now. The number of counties would be cut to four -- with centers in Tallinn, Tatru, Parnu and Kohtla-Jarve. The authors of the proposal wish to start reducing county governments' staff right now to save money for regional investments. The plan would mean sacking about one- third of government officials.

Ministers say they also wish to cut the number of government ministries. The proposal includes joining the Economics, Agriculture and Transport Ministries, and eliminating the posts of ministers-without-portfolios.

The ministers also propose to cut the number of state-provided cars to four. According to their proposal, only the President, Chairman of Parliament, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister would have state cars.