Four kidnappers are in custody

According to information received by the Foreign Ministry, the organisation that carried out the abduction of seven Estonian citizens has been identified through co-operation with the Lebanese internal security forces. Foreign Minister Urmas Paet has stated that there are seven people in the group and currently four of them are in custody. “The interrogation of those who have been arrested and the gathering of information continue, so that we may uncover the location of the Estonian citizens,” said the foreign minister.

Paet said that a statement reached the Lebanese news portal Lebabon Files early this morning from an organisation called the Renaissance and Reform Movement. In its statement, the group declared that they have the abducted Estonian citizens and that demands would be issued later. The foreign minister said that as of right now the demands have not yet been stated.

Within the past few days Foreign Minister Urmas Paet has been in contact with many nations in the region in order to discuss co-operation in locating the Estonian citizens. “I have spoken to the foreign ministers of Turkey, Palestine, and the United Arab Emirates on this subject. Late last night I had a phone conversation with the deputy foreign minister of Syria,” said Paet.

The foreign minister stated that the work of the Lebanese authorities, including the Lebanese Ministry of the Interior, internal security forces, and army, in finding and freeing the Estonian citizens deserves to be recognised.

Estonia, Lebanon and our international partners will continue working together to free the Estonian citizens.

Source: Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Estonia one of the safest countries

A survey of EM-DAT, a global database of disasters, says that Estonia is among the five countries in the world that registered no major natural disasters between 1900 and 2009 which allegedly makes Estonia one of the safest countries in the world in terms of natural disasters.

The other four countries listed by EM-DAT as the world’s safest were Qatar, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Andorra.

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Oil shale processing company may have to lay off 625 people

A large shale oil processing industry in Northeast Estonia, Kiviõli Keemiatööstus, announced yesterday that it may have to close down operations and lay off 625 employees for dispute with land owners who oppose oil shale mining operations, writes Äripäev. A court ruled last week that because of the dispute with Nikolai Reismann, a local businessman who has been acquiring private land in which the oil-processing company extracts oil shale, the company must stop its mining operations in Põhja-Kiviõli sector.

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Rapid growth of industrial production continues

According to Statistics Estonia, in February 2011 the production of industrial enterprises grew 31% compared to February of the previous year.

The situation in the manufacturing did not change during February – the rapid growth of industrial production which had begun at the end of 2010 continued. The growth of production has been mainly influenced by the increase in external demand as previously, but the domestic demand also increased compared to February of the previous year.

In February 2011, the production of manufacturing increased 42% compared to February 2010. Export sales of the manufacturing production grew significantly (71%). About three quarters (73%) of the whole production of manufacturing was sold on the external market. The demand on the domestic market was continually lower – the domestic sales increased 14% compared to February of the previous year.

In February, the production exceeded the volume of the previous year in most branches of industry. The manufacturing of electronic products where the production increased by more than four times compared to February of the previous year, obtained the biggest share in manufacturing (almost a quarter) over the year. The next branches holding bigger shares were the manufacturing of wood and metal products where the production grew 18% and 49%, respectively. With respect to the branches of manufacturing holding smaller shares, the production increased considerably in the manufacturing of chemicals, motor vehicles, machinery and equipment mainly due to the increase in exports.

In February 2011 compared to January, the seasonally adjusted industrial production remained on the same level; the production of manufacturing grew 1%.

In February 2011 compared to February 2010, the production of electricity did not change and the production of heat increased 4%.

The volume index and trend of production in manufacturing, January 2002 – February 2011 (2005 = 100)

Diagram: The volume index and trend of production in manufacturing, January 2002 – February 2011

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The ratio of labour taxes in GDP decreased last year

According to Statistics Estonia, in 2010 the ratio of labour taxes in gross domestic product (GDP) was 18.3% and it decreased by a half percentage points compared to the previous year.

In 2010, the general government’s revenue from taxes and social security contributions decreased by 112.8 million euros (1.7 billion kroons) compared to the previous year, bringing in to the state 4.8 billion euros (75.7 billion kroons). Receipts from the labour taxes were 2.6 billion euros (41.6 billion kroons), which represents more than a half of the state tax revenues. A higher share of labour taxes falls on the employer, including pension contributions, health insurance and unemployment insurance. Employees carry the obligation of income tax and part of the unemployment insurance.

In the European Union (EU 27) the ratio of labour taxes in GDP was 23% in 2009. The similar ratio of labour tax as in Estonia was in Luxembourg and United Kingdom (18.9% and 18.3%, respectively). The most highly was the workforce taxed in Sweden, Denmark and Austria and the lowest in Romania, Malta and Bulgaria. Latvia and Lithuania belong to the ten EU Member States with the lowest labour taxation. In 2009, in Latvia the ratio of labour taxes in GDP was 13.9% and in Lithuania 15.8%.

However, it should be taken into account that in the European Union the implementation of direct taxes belongs to the competence of each Member State and they can develop their own tax system. The share of income tax and social contribution among labour taxes varies in different countries. An important role is played by both the tax rates as well as differences in financing of the social system. Thus, the real burden of labour taxes may in some countries be higher due to the additional contributions to the private pension funds and private health insurance. Sweden, where labour taxes accounted for 29.4% of GDP in 2009, receives the majority of taxes on labour from income tax. Germany, which is also one of the countries with higher labour taxes than the EU average, receives the major part of labour taxes from social contributions. In Estonia the share of social contributions exceeds the receipts from the income tax more than twice, but in Finland the share of income tax and social security contributions are more or less equal.

The ratio of labour taxes in the European Union Member States, 2009

Diagram: The ratio of labour taxes in the European Union Member States, 2009

Source: Statistics Estonia

Sales increased in most economic activities

According to Statistics Estonia, in February 2011 compared to February of the previous year, the retail sales of goods of retail trade enterprises increased 2% at constant prices.

Compared to the same month of the previous year, the retail sales of retail trade enterprises started to increase in September 2010, the growth continued in October, November and December. In January this year the retail sales slightly fell but in February it turned to a rise again.

In February, the retail sales of goods of retail trade enterprises were 260 million euros (4.1 billion kroons). The increase in retail sales of goods was most influenced by the stores selling manufactured goods, where the retail sales decreased 10% compared to February 2010. The sales increased in most economic activities. Only the retail sales in stores selling textiles, clothing, footwear and leather goods and the retail sales of pharmaceutical goods and cosmetics were smaller than in February of the previous year. The retail sales were the highest in stores selling household goods and appliances, hardware and building materials and in non-specialized stores with industrial goods predominating. In these stores the retail sales increased 26% and 24%, respectively.

Compared to February of the previous year, the retail sales in grocery stores decreased 3%, mainly influenced by the price increase of food products that had still accelerated in February.

Compared to the previous month, the retail sales in retail trade enterprises decreased 2% at constant prices. According to the seasonally and working-day adjusted data the retail sales increased 2% compared to the previous month.

In February 2011, the revenues from sales of retail trade enterprises were 317 million euros (nearly 5 billion kroons), out of which the retail sales of goods accounted for 82%. Compared to February 2010, the revenues from sales increased 8% at current prices. Compared to the previous month, this indicator decreased 1%.

Retail sales volume index of retail trade enterprises and its trend, January 2002 – February 2011 (2005 = 100)

Diagram: Retail sales volume index of retail trade enterprises and its trend

Source: Statistics Estonia

City dump becomes fuel source for buses

As part of the closure of a landfill in Tartu, a company is developing a biogas system that could fuel the city’s fleet of municipal buses.

A study by the company, Doranova, found that Aardlapalu dump had six times the initially estimated amount of biogas reserves – big enough to consider them a potential source of fuel for public transport.

The municipality plans to introduce five biogas-fueled buses this year.

The study determined that it would be possible to produce 533 cubic meters of biogas per hour, enough to supply 20 buses a year with biogas.

Read more from ERR News

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