Governor of Eesti Pank praises Swedbank’s new cash service

Governor of Eesti Pank Ardo Hansson said that the decision by Swedbank to provide a permanent cash withdrawal facility in rural areas will improve access to cash in the smallest places in Estonia.

“Access to cash has been a major sore point for people in rural areas, and the new service that has been set up by Swedbank with local authorities and companies is a welcome relief to that. This multilateral cooperation that has allowed this new service to be set up must be acknowledged, and it is an example of a flexible solution that will improve access to cash”, he said.

He added that the new Swedbank service is an example of the bank adapting to circumstances where clients no longer need to deal with a member of bank staff to use the majority of bank services, but they still need the simplest possible permanent access to cash.

“I am very pleased that solutions like this, which have already been successfully employed in other countries, are now reaching the people of Estonia too,” said Mr Hansson. “I hope that in the future we will see cash services being supplied even more through local businesses, and that these services will reach as many people as possible in rural areas”.

In September last year Mr Hansson answered an interpellation by members of the Riigikogu about the accessibility of banking services in Estonia, in which he raised the point that flexible solutions have been used in other countries to supply cash to rural areas. One example he gave was the cashback system in shops, where people paying for their food in shops by card can add some extra to the total amount paid and then get that in cash from the shop. For this to work, the commercial banks need to allow shopkeepers to offer this service without charging them any percentage of the cash that is withdrawn. The banks would gain by having a more efficient cash network, shopkeepers would gain additional clients in their shops, and those clients would benefit by being able to withdraw cash more conveniently and securely.

Other solutions Mr Hansson named at the time included state service points; state tenders for service providers; requirements, or best practice guidelines that are generally adhered to, for the closure of bank branches, especially in rural areas; joint work by local governments and banks to train people; and joint work by local governments and banks to provide cash. The full text of Ardo Hansson’s answers can be found on the Eesti Pank website.

Source: Bank of Estonia

Estonian companies have increased their competitiveness

At the Äriplaan 2016 conference on Wednesday, Sept.30 2015, Governor of Eesti Pank Ardo Hansson spoke of how Estonian companies have succeeded in increasing their non-price competitiveness. The need to improve competitiveness has become ever more important in coming years as higher labour costs have made production more expensive.

Despite the strong growth in wage costs, companies find that their competitiveness in the European Union market has improved. “The opinion of companies suggests that non-price competitiveness has improved and Estonia’s advantage as a producer lies in more than cheap labour resources,” explained Governor Hansson.

Non-price competitiveness shows whether companies are able to increase exports despite higher prices and labour costs by concentrating on something other than prices. Non-price factors can include innovation, product variety, recognition and quality, position in global production chains, and integration in international production networks.

However, Mr Hansson underlined that in the near future Estonian companies will have to work on developing non-price competitiveness even more than they have so far as the working age population in Estonia starts to shrink. “The number of workers has not fallen yet, but Estonia is entering a demographic autumn and the labour market will lose 30,000 people over the next five years. The decline in the working age population means that it will soon become harder for companies to find employees and wage pressures will increase. Estonian companies have done well at improving their competitiveness and this gives us the chance to become gradually more successful”, he explained.

He noted that inflation is likely to move from its level of around zero this year to 2.5-3% in the coming years. “The biggest beneficiaries so far have been companies focused on the domestic market, as cheaper energy has boosted the real purchasing power of households. If prices start to rise in the years ahead, people will find their purchasing power no longer rises so fast”.

Mr Hansson said that the Estonian economy is capable of faster growth than the current 2%, but to grow faster than 4% would need assistance from structural reforms.

He considered that another risk to economic growth alongside excessive rises in labour costs is that corporate profits may continue to decline. This would limit the ability of companies to make the investments that will provide growth in the future. He also noted the risk from the Nordic real estate markets, because if prices start to fall sharply there, the Nordic bank groups operating in Estonia could face difficulties that could mean they may not be able to continue providing loans to Estonian companies on favourable terms.

Source: Bank of Estonia

Businesses need to be ready for the new 20-euro banknotes

On 25 November, the central banks of the euro area, including Eesti Pank, will release a new €20 banknote into circulation with a new design and security features. So that the new note can enter smoothly into circulation, it is important for companies to update their cash handling equipment in good time, and to know about the new features of the notes.

The most eye-catching change to the twenty-euro notes of the new series is a completely new security feature, a transparent portrait window on the right of the note on the hologrammic strip. Looking at the note against the light reveals a portrait of Europa in the window. The other security features – the watermark portrait of Europa and the hologrammic strip, the emerald green number, and the short raised lines on the edge of the note – are like those on the five and ten-euro notes of the new series.

Paying with the new banknotes will be simple and straightforward a long as merchants update their cash-handling equipment and authentication devices. To do this they will need to contact their equipment suppliers.

“All retailers have to accept circulating banknotes that are legal tender. If the cash authentication device is broken or needs updating, it is still possible to check the authenticity of notes using the feel, look, tilt method”, said Rait Roosve, Head of the Cash and Infrastructure Department at Eesti Pank.

Eesti Pank is organising training events about the new banknotes for cash handlers in Tallinn, Tartu, Pärnu and Narva in October and November. Details of the training events and registration information can be found in Estonian on the Eesti Pank website.

More detailed materials on the security features of the banknotes, with pictures and videos can be found on the website

In addition to this, the European Central Bank will send all cash handlers in Estonia a booklet on the new twenty-euro note in October. The booklet can also be ordered from Eesti Pank (, 6680 719).

The European Central Bank has published a list of devices that can authenticate the banknotes of the new series, including the twenty-euro note, on its website (

Source: Bank of Estonia

Refugees find it tough to start a business in Estonia

Äripäev writes that a case of an Armenian family who moved to Estonia three years ago and has been planning to open a national restaurant in Estonia shows that it’s tough for refugees to start their own business in Estonia.

The main problem that is that banks are unwilling to grant loans to a family that does not have citizenship. They also don’t comply with the requirements to the grants offered by Enterprise Estonia.

Read more from BBN

Estonia rocked by corruption scandal

The Internal Security Service KAPO on Sept.22, 2015 detained Tallinn Mayor Edgar Savisaar as a suspect for repeatedly accepting bribes.

The Center Party chairman is suspected of repeatedly accepting bribes in 2014 and 2015 in assets and favors for himself as well as for a third party with a total value of several hundred thousand euros.

Read more from BBN

Asset purchases by central banks will make borrowing cheaper

Responding to questions in the Riigikogu on Sept.21, 2015 about the asset purchase programme of the euro-area central banks, Governor of Eesti Pank Ardo Hansson said that the asset purchases will make borrowing cheaper for Estonian companies and households too.

Mr Hansson explained to the Riigikogu that the central banks of the euro area are buying bonds from the market to encourage the investors selling the bonds to invest their money elsewhere. The revival in the economy provoked by this will lead inflation to climb gradually towards the common target of the euro-area central banks of keeping inflation rates below, but close to, 2% over the medium term.

At the decision of the Governing Council of the European Central Bank, the central banks of the euro area are buying some 50 billion euros of private-sector bonds each month, of which Eesti Pank’s share is around 120 million euros. They are only buying from the secondary market and generally buy sovereign bonds from their own country. As the Estonian government has not issued any bonds, Eesti Pank has decided to buy bonds of European institutions like the European Financial Stability Fund and the European Investment Bank from the secondary market.

Eesti Pank requested exceptional permission from the European Central Bank to buy bonds from Elering, a state-owned company, and has bought a total of 30 million euros of such bonds since June. Mr Hansson also noted that Elering is not getting any direct benefit from the purchases by Eesti Pank as the central bank is only allowed to buy the bonds from the secondary market.

Mr Hansson stressed in his answer that central banks can only use monetary policy to offer short-term easing to the economy, and that it cannot create long-term economic growth. “Monetary policy is no substitute for the structural reforms needed to boost competitiveness and keep state finances in order.”

He said that there is no need to issue additional bonds to fund the state budget, given the cyclical position of the Estonian economy. “The Estonian economy is currently in a position where the government should be looking to start making savings rather than to borrow to cover additional costs.”

In the longer-term, said Mr Hansson, Estonia will need to face up to various problems. “In planning our finances, we should remember that the Estonian population is ageing quite quickly, which means that there will be fewer workers and more people needing care. The subsidies from the European Union will also start to decline as the income level of the state rises. One of Estonia’s advantages has been the low level of government debt and it would not be sensible to increase that debt when financial pressures may be just around the corner,” he added.

Source: Bank of Estonia

Estonia has one of the most open economies in EU

Adjusted data show that the current account of the Estonian balance of payments had a surplus of 205 million euros in 2014. Goods exports were smaller than imports, but the opposite applied for services, and in total the surplus of goods and services increased to 681 million euros. Revenues from European Union Structural Funds for infrastructure development were significantly lower in 2014. The outflow of capital from the financial account was 191 million euros larger than the inflow and the main channel for the outflow was portfolio investments.

Estonian exports and imports of goods and services stood at 167% of GDP in 2014. This is double the European Union average and shows that the national economy depends to a large extent on the external environment. The index of openness is usually higher for small countries than for large ones.

For more, see The Estonian Balance of Payments Yearbook 2014. The English version of the balance of payments yearbook for 2014 will be published on the Eesti Pank website on 30 September.



Source: Bank of Estonia (See better graph )


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