Public letter: The reason for rejecting a research initiative doesn’t correspond to the initiative’s content and laws, neither


The leaders of the collective appeal “Investigating the Feasibility and Impact of Unconditional Basic Income (Civic Salary) in Estonia” are undoubtedly pleased to read in the media that although the Social Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu (Estonian parliament) announced the rejection of public access, its members have not taken an unequivocal exclusionary stance on Basic Income as a future solution.

However, the reasons given to the public, by which the Social Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu decided to reject the initiative, are contradictory as they contradict both the content of the initiative and the law. Here we assume that the press release of the Riigikogu and the media reports based on it fully reflect the content and reasoning of the decision, so far (26.09.2019 13:45) neither a protocol nor an explanatory letter to the initiators has been signed.

First, based on the information available, it does not appear that the Commission’s decision is in any way consistent with § 15214 of the Riigikogu’s Internal and Working Rules Act, which states that a collective appeal is rejected if it coincides with the submission less than two years earlier or obviously violates constitutional principles of Estonia and international agreements.

Secondly, reasoning the decision by stating that such a system does not currently seem reasonable, does not correspond to the content of the appeal and does not explain why a feasibility and impact study cannot be carried out. Such a reasoning would have been understandable if the initiative had requested the introduction of a Basic Income. However, no imposition was sought, far from immediate implementation. There was proposed exactly what the title of the initiative contained – the study.

The fact that the signatories do not apply for an implementation of Basic Income in their application is also expressed in black and white in the text of the application and it cannot be understandable in many ways. Also, an experiment in the context of a study, which is, moreover, only considered possible in the text of the referral, cannot be called an implementation, even if the term “experimental implementation” is used. .

“At present, however, such a system does not seem reasonable in Estonia because of the lack of financial analysis and conviction that the current social system could be replaced by something more efficient,” media quoted the chairman of the committee. .

That means – it was decided to reject the initiative because the feasibility and impact study requested by the initiative had not been carried out in advance.

All this gives the impression that the Social Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu did not base its decision on the content of the collective appeal, but on the imagination of what ​its content could be. The initiator’s representatives present at the hearing, who based their statements on the assumption that the members of the committee had at least partially read the collective appeal, had to admit that none of the questions raised by the members of the committee was based on the content or explanatory part of the appeal. We argue that this collective appeal was never discussed.

We do not know in advance what the consequences of the Commission decision of 17 September will be. At worst, we will discover at some point in the near future that we will have to introduce Basic Income or some better alternative tomorrow, because there is no other way. And we should figuratively do preparatory work of two or more years within two months.

It is also not known whether or not the European Union will develop a common basic income system, and if so then when. However, Estonia has the opportunity to gain experience and expertise in this matter beforehand, which would give it more power to influence pan-European perceptions of a good model that would also meet our national interests, including the preamble to the Constitution. It remains to be hoped that the Social Affairs Committee did not miss this opportunity.

The initiators want the Commission to withdraw from its decision of 17 September and to discuss the issue raised by the People’s Initiative at a forthcoming meeting. We acknowledge that the concept of Basic Income (no matter how we call it) is very voluminous and, without careful exaamination, also very complex, but we hope that the names of Nobel Laureates (Sir Angus Stewart Deaton (2015), Sir Christopher Antoniou Pissarides and Peter Arthur Diamond (2010), Milton Friedman (1976)), the names related to the so-called “emerging economies” (Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee, Elon Reeve Musk, Mark Elliot Zuckerberg, Jack Patrick Dorsey, etc.), hundreds of businessmen, politicians and scholars, encourage the Commission to take a positive decision.

Authors and spokespersons for the initiative

  • Jaanus Nurmoja
  • Aleksander Laane
  • Marek Strandberg
  • Toomas Trapido
  • Kaarel Veskis
  • Martin Aidnik
  • Kaspar Kurve
  • Joonas Laks
  • Eero Pihlas

Estonian