Estonia’s labor costs among the lowest in EU

Average labor costs in Estonia were 9 euros per person per hour in 2013, up from 8.4 euros in 2012, according to Statistics Estonia.

In member states of the European Union a more than tenfold difference was recorded in hourly labor costs last year, from 3.7 euros in Bulgaria to 40.1 euros in Sweden.

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Estonia launches OpenData application for municipalities

The financial activities and overall financial situation of Estonia’s local governments can now be easily monitored via Riigiraha (State Finances). The goal of the service is to increase the transparency, accessibility and openness of local governments.

All accounting data retrieved from local governments from 2008-2013 is made public. Everyone has unlimited access to view, download, compare and analyse data using the business intelligence software platform. This is an important step towards making public sector finances transparent and understandable to all.

“New users should start by accessing the User Guide and then looking up the interactive report ‘Where does your money go‘ to get an overview of local government spending of revenue received from chosen tax payers,” explained Andrus Jõgi from the Local Government Financial Management Department of the Ministry of Finance.

The application was developed based on the success of and experience obtained during a 2012 pilot project known as ‘Riigipilv’. More than 200,000 enquiries were made during the project – 0.15 enquiries per citizen. The new application, at ‘‘, has increased usability, more data and analysing tools, and is available in English.

Source: Estonian Ministry of Finance

Estonia’s government deficit among lowest in EU

The general government deficit of Estonia in 2013, measuring 2 percent of GDP, was lower than in any other EU member state save for Luxembourg and Germany, which boasted a surplus of 0.1 and 0 percent of GDP.

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Kazakhstan to divert fuel oil exports away from Estonia

Kazakhstan plans to start fuel oil exports from Georgia’s Batumi terminal in May, diverting some 700,000 tonnes from Baltic Sea ports, mainly in Estonia, by the year-end as it seeks to cut its costs and transit risks, Äripäev reported with reference to Reuters.

Kazakhstan has faced increasing competition from Russian oil product suppliers in the Baltic Sea ports, including Ust-Luga and Novorossiisk in the Black Sea.

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Banks earned 79 million euros in net profit in Q1

In the first quarter, 35% more was taken out in housing loans than a year earlier. However, the number of new loan contracts rose by 14% over the same period, meaning the increase in the lending volume was partly due to the strong growth in real estate prices. Although borrowing for housing has grown as the market has recovered, the growth in loan portfolio has remained relatively low due to repayments of earlier loans. At the end of March the housing loan portfolio was 1.5% larger than a year earlier at 5.9 billion euros.

In the first quarter, companies took out 1% more loans than a year earlier. Companies in manufacturing and agriculture took around one fifth more loans in the first quarter than a year before and in recent months there has been somewhat faster growth in loans to the real estate sector. Companies in transport and trade borrowed less in the first quarter than a year earlier. Although the loan and lease portfolio has grown in volume in some sectors through long-term investment loans, the total stock of loans and leases has not changed in the past six months and has remained at 7.6 billion euros.

Annual growth in the portfolio of Estonian household and corporate loans and leases slowed to 0.6% as the volume of corporate loans grew only a little. The total stock of loans and leases increased in March by 26 million euros to 14.9 billion euros.

Interest rates on loans remained the same in March as in the previous month. The average interest rate for housing loans granted in March was 2.6%, and that for long-term corporate loans was 3.2%. The stability of margins and EURIBOR has meant that interest rates have stayed at around the same level for more than a year.

The share of loans overdue by more than 60 days in the loan portfolio remained at 1.9% in March. The slowdown in economic growth in Estonia in 2013 has not resulted in an increase in problem loans. The fall in overdue loans has slowed however, as the total value of such loans has remained unchanged at 250 million euros since November 2013.

Growth in household deposits has remained rapid thanks to rising incomes. Annual growth in household deposits picked up to 8% but deposits by companies declined in March, meaning that total deposits shrank during the month by 112 million euros to 9.2 billion euros.

Banks earned 79 million euros in net profit in the first quarter. Net profit was 2% smaller than a year ago and return on assets was down from 1.7% to 1.6%. Profitability mainly fell because income from the trading portfolio was smaller and changes in the market value of financial assets created losses. Net interest income, which is the main component of bank profits, increased by around 8% during the year, principally because funding costs were low. Profitability was further boosted as some earlier write-downs were recorded as profit, supplying 7% of the net profit for the quarter.

Source: Bank of Estonia

Author:  Jana Kask, Deputy Head of the Financial Stability Department of Eesti Pank

Third of Estonia’s alcohol sales attributed to Finns

A study by TNS Emor showed that 34 percent of all alcohol sold in Estonia is transported by Finnish tourists across the border, with that figure increasing as Estonians themselves are drinking less.

Four out of five Finns visiting Estonia bring alcohol back to Finland, spending on average 122 euros each, Emor said today.

A second recent study, this time by the Institute of Economic Research, found that Estonians drank 10 liters of absolute alcohol last year, 0.3 liters less than in 2012.

Read more from ERR


Russian helicopters offering private air tourism

A group of five Russian private helicopters toured Estonia over the weekend as the small private aircraft season begins.

The group, consisting of two Robinson R66 and three Robinson R44 helicopters begin from Moscow, traveled to Pihkva, then onto Riga, Kuressaare and Tallinn over the weekend, Meie Maa reported today.

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