Former MEP calls African refugees a “threat to white race”

Kristiina Ojuland, a former Foreign Minister of Estonia and former member of the European Parliament, voiced her disapproval of the European Commission’s migrant quota plan on her official Facebook page, by calling for a pan-European campaign against admitting any refugees in the EU.

In a post that was more reminiscent of a far-right extremist, than a former Vice President of the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party (ALDE), Ojuland said that the “white race is threatened” by dark-skinned immigrants (Ojuland actually used an Estonian word “neeger” which is not officially considered offensive in Estonia, but nevertheless becoming socially unacceptable).

“Today yet again I see a fully able young Negro begging for money in Italy, from people who have worked hard to earn a lunch. I think that we should start a pan-European campaign to collect signatures to ensure that not a single so-called refugee gets across the Mediterranean. Enough of this nonsense!” Ojuland, the former high-ranking politician who for years campaigned Estonia to join the EU.

Read more from ERR News

Cinema attendance reached an all-time record

According to Statistics Estonia there were 2.6 million cinema visits in 2014, which is an all-time record since the restoration of independence. In the last nine years, cinema attendance has increased each year.

In 2014, there were 353 films screened in Estonian cinemas, 28 of these films were Estonian productions, 157 films of the USA, 148 European films and 20 films of other countries. The average price of a cinema ticket was 4.9 euros and the total box office of cinemas was 12.8 million euros.

The most popular Estonian films in 2014 were “Nullpunkt” by Mihkel Ulk (43,000 visits), “Kirsitubakas” by Andres and Katrin Maimik (20,000 visits) and “Risttuules” by Martti Helde (18,000 visits). In 2014, Estonian films were watched in cinemas by a total of 123,000 persons, which is nearly 5% of all cinema visitors.

The most popular foreign films were “Frozen” (88,000 visits), “Rio 2” (74,000 visits) and “How to Train Your Dragon 2” (68,000 visits). All three were a production of the USA.

During one cinema visit, a visitor spends an average of 10.9 euros, nearly 8 euros of which are spent at the cinema and 2.9 euros on transport and other expenses outside the cinema. The total annual expenditure of cinema visitors amounts to 67.4 million euros, 49 million euros of which are spent at the cinema and 18.4 million euros outside the cinema. The expenditures of cinema visitors account for 27% of all the expenditures of the visitors of sports and cultural events.

There were 8 full-length feature films and 12 full-length documentaries produced in Estonia in 2014. In total, there were 20 full-length films produced in Estonia in 2014. Besides the full-length films meant for screening in cinemas, 44 short feature films, 85 short documentaries and 10 short animations were also produced. In total, 159 short or full-length films were produced in Estonia.Diagram: Cinema attendance, 1994–2014

Full-length film – a film of a duration of at least 60 minutes or 52 minutes in the case of TV formats.

Source: Statistics Estonia

Estonian economy grew in the 1st quarter

According to the flash estimates of Statistics Estonia, the gross domestic product (GDP) of Estonia increased 1.2% in the 1st quarter of 2015 compared to the 1st quarter of 2014.

In the 1st quarter of 2015, the seasonally and working-day adjusted GDP decreased by 0.3% compared to the previous quarter and increased by 1.8% compared to the 1st quarter of 2014.

According to the preliminary calculations, manufacturing was the main contributor to the GDP growth in the 1st quarter of 2015, mainly due to the increase in the manufacture of electronic equipment, mineral products and wood products. The value added of manufacturing depends substantially on exports. The real growth of the export of goods of the total economy was 3% in the 1st quarter, mainly due to the increase in the export of electronic equipment and mineral products. At the same time, the real import of goods grew 1%.

In addition, the GDP growth in the 1st quarter was positively influenced by the net taxes of products. There were increased receipts at current prices of value added tax and excise taxes on fuel and tobacco. However, receipts of alcohol excise decreased compared to the 1st quarter of 2014. Payments of subsidies decreased as well.

In the 1st quarter of 2015, the Estonian economy was inhibited the most by the decrease in value added in transport.Diagram: Real growth of GDP, export and import of goods compared to the corresponding quarter of the previous year

The flash estimate is calculated only by production method using the information from the Estonian Tax and Customs Board and data derived from monthly statistical surveys. Therefore, the flash estimate may differ from the revised estimates of the GDP, which are calculated by expenditure, production and income method using quarterly data. The revised estimates for the 1st quarter of 2015 will be published by Statistics Estonia on 9 June 2015.

Source: Statistics Estonia

Emigration from Estonia decreased in 2014

According to Statistics Estonia, 4,637 persons emigrated from Estonia and 3,904 persons immigrated to Estonia in 2014. The volume of emigration was 30% smaller than in the previous three years.

53% of the emigrants and 44% of the immigrants were females. In 2014, the net migration of males was positive – 14 more men came to live in Estonia than moved abroad from Estonia. The previous time that the net migration of males was positive was in 2009.

Diagram: External migration by sex, 2005–2014

In all age groups, the number of emigrants in 2014 was smaller than in the previous years. The majority of the people emigrating from Estonia are persons aged 20–34 and the people immigrating to Estonia are mainly aged 25–39. Compared with the previous years, there were more immigrants aged 30 and over. There were fewer 15–29-year-olds among immigrants than in 2013. Net migration was positive (there were more people taking up residence in Estonia than those leaving Estonia) in two age groups: among children aged 0–4 and persons aged over 60. Population loss was the greatest among 5–14-year-olds and 20–29-year-olds, while in other age groups characterised by active migration there has been a considerable decrease in the number of emigrants. Among persons aged 30–34, net migration is more or less in balance. The net migration of persons aged 35–59 was negative; however, the population of this age group decreased significantly less than in the previous years.

By country, migration is the most active between Estonia and Finland. 3,051 persons emigrated from Estonia to Finland and 1,290 persons immigrated to Estonia from Finland. Net migration was two times smaller than in 2013. Popular destination countries, in the case of which our net migration is negative, are also Germany and Sweden. Among countries with which our net migration was positive, the greatest number of immigrants came from Russia, Ukraine and the United States.

By citizenship, 65% of the immigrants were citizens of Estonia, 11% citizens of Russia, and 24% were citizens of other countries. Compared with the previous years, the share of Estonian citizens among immigrants has increased and the share of Russian citizens has decreased. The share of Estonian citizens among emigrants was 93%.

53% of the immigrants take up residence in Harju county; of them, over 80% move to Tallinn. Among other counties, the ones gaining the greatest number of inhabitants through immigration from abroad are Ida-Viru (10%), Tartu (10%) and Pärnu (6%) counties. People emigrating from Estonia mostly originate from Harju county (45% of the emigrants), but a significant number of emigrants also come from Tartu county (14%). Net migration is positive in Harju county and the city of Tallinn (with people moving to the county from abroad outnumbering those moving abroad from the county), but only by fewer than 100 people. Among counties, net migration is the most negative in Tartu county (–254). Emigrants outnumber immigrants also in Pärnu and Viljandi counties.

Read more from Statistics Estonia

Steady growth in the loan and lease portfolio

The total volume of loans and leases issued to Estonian companies and households by banks operating in Estonia was 3% larger in April than a year earlier. The financing portfolio increased by 71 million euros during the month to 15.4 billion euros, with around half of the monthly growth in the stock of loans and leases coming from corporate debt liabilities.

Companies took out about the same amount in loans and leases during the month as they did in the previous year. Some 769 million euros in new loans and leases were given to companies in April. The amount issued in long-term loans was smaller in April than it had been in the preceding months. As in earlier months, the majority of long-term loans issued in April went to real estate companies. Agriculture companies have also taken somewhat more  in long-term loans in the past two months.

Annual growth in the volume of housing loans increased in April to 3.4%. Around 82 million euros of new housing loans were issued, which is about the same amount as in autumn last year. The volume of other household loans and leases has also been growing faster in recent months. New sales of car leases to households have been around 40% higher in the last two months than the average for last year, which has partly been because of changes that were introduced last year to the taxation of company cars. Fewer car leases have been issued to companies this year than last year.

The interest rates on loans issued by banks have remained the same for several months. The average interest rate for long-term loans taken by companies was 2.6% in April, and the average rate for housing loans was 2.2%.

The share of loans overdue by more than 60 days in the loan portfolio stood at 1.5% in April, the same level as in the previous month. There was no change in the coverage of loans overdue by more than 60 days  by provisions, and coverage was 80% at the end of April.

The deposits of Estonian companies and households grew by 7.8% over the year to April. Total deposits increased by 51 million euros during the month to 10 billion euros. The growth came mainly from household deposits, which were up 8.1% over the year in April, while corporate deposits grew only a little during the month, adding 3 million euros.

Source: Bank of Estonia

Household electricity prices in the EU rose by 2.9 pct in 2014

In the European Union (EU), household electricity prices rose by 2.9% on average between the second half of 2013 and the second half of 2014 to reach €20.8 per 100 kWh. Since 2008, electricity prices in the EU have increased by more than 30%. Across the EU Member States, household electricity prices in the second half of 2014 ranged from €9 per 100 kWh in Bulgaria to more than €30 per 100 kWh in Denmark. It cost €13.3 per 100 kWh in Estonia.

Household gas prices2 increased by 2.0% on average in the EU between the second halves of 2013 and 2014 to hit €7.2 per 100 kWh. Since 2008, gas prices in the EU have risen by 35%. Among Member States, household gas prices in the second half of 2014 ranged from just over €3 per 100 kWh in Romania to above €11 per 100 kWh in Sweden. It cost €4,9 per 100 kWh in Estonia.

Taxes and levies made up on average in the EU 32% of the electricity price charged to households in the second half of 2014, and 23% of the gas price.

When expressed in purchasing power standards (PPS), an artificial common reference currency that eliminates general price level differences between countries, it can be seen that, relative to the cost of other goods and services, the lowest household electricity prices were found in Finland (12.4 PPS per 100 kWh) and Latvia (13.7).

Read more from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union

Higher wages support consumption

In Estonia, monthly gross wages amounted to 1,010 euros, up by 4.5% in Q1, yoy.
Net wages jumped by 7% in Q1 because of lower labour taxes and deflation.

The growth of gross wages decelerated from 5.5% in 2014 to 4.5% in Q1 2015. Irregular bonuses and premiums decreased by 15.6% per employee in Q1 of 2015, yoy. Without irregular bonuses and premiums, the average monthly gross wages grew by 5.3%.

Wages increased less due to worse economic situation in some sectors. Another possible reason behind the deceleration in the growth of wages was the introduction of the labour registration obligation from July 1st 2014, which increased the official number of employees in sectors, where wages are smaller (tourism, domestic trade, construction, etc.).

Gross wages increased the most in the real estate sector, followed by the public sector (education, health care). Average gross wages decreased in the construction and mining, and did not change in the energy and logistics sectors, compared with the same period last year. Households’ real purchasing power will grow markedly this year. Although the growth of gross wages will slow a bit, smaller labour taxes and very low inflation will result in a remarkable surge in the households’ purchasing power. Net wages were up by 7% in the first quarter, year on year.

Average wages were pushed higher by a 10%-increase in minimum wages in January. A rise in pensions and other social benefits will further support private consumption, which will be the biggest contributor to GDP growth in 2015. Retail trade volumes rose by as much as 8%, year on year, in the first quarter.

SOurce: Swedbank

Continuing wage pressures ahead

Annual growth in employment accelerated to 2.9% in the first quarter of 2015, while unemployment stood at 6.6%. The low comparison base from the first quarter of 2014 played a part in the rapid annual growth in employment. Seasonally adjusted employment was unchanged from the previous quarter.

Data from the Tax and Customs Board also showed that the number receiving taxed wage income increased in the first quarter, and official data put the rise at 1.8%. The number employed by the general government continued to fall, having started to do so in the second half of 2012, and the number of businesses registered in the commercial register rose. The number receiving wages from private companies was boosted by the employment register that was launched in July 2014.

Although unemployment was a little higher than in the previous quarter at 6.6%, seasonal factors can explain the difference, and if they are taken into account, then unemployment actually fell. Employment contracts are often changed and ended at the turn of the calendar year, and many seasonal workers in construction or agriculture for example are without work during the winter months. A little over 60% of the unemployed in Estonia are registered with Töötukassa, the unemployment insurance fund, and the data show that the number registered as unemployed is now falling at a slower rate after falling rapidly for a long time. Seasonally adjusted registered unemployment has been generally stable for half a year.

The main source of risks in the quarters ahead is continuing wage pressures, which can be seen in the notably faster growth in wages than in productivity. If this continues it could lead to a rise in unemployment. The disappearance of less productive jobs is a part of the development of the economy, but if rapid wage growth leads more jobs to lose profitability than are created, structural unemployment rises.

In the short term, employment will be boosted by the increase in economic growth resulting from the strengthening of the European economy, which will allow labour resources to be used more efficiently than earlier. In the long term, shrinking labour resources make it important to create the conditions for growth in productivity and to engage as much as possible of the working age population in the labour market. In this context the high labour force participation rate of the first quarter was particularly welcome.

Source: Bank of Estonia

Author: Orsolya Soosaar, Economist at Eesti Pank

There were 10 pct fewer visits to Estonia in 1st Q

There were 10% fewer visits to Estonia by non-residents in the first quarter than in the first quarter of 2014. The biggest change was in the number of tourists coming from Russia to Estonia, which was 140,000 lower than a year before. There was also a fall in the number of visits from Finland, but the numbers coming from Germany, the USA and China increased.

There were 3% fewer visits by Estonian residents to foreign countries than in the same quarter of the previous year. The number of multi-day trips was the same, but there were one tenth fewer single-day trips. The main reason for both falls was that there were 20,000 fewer visits to Finland than a year ago. There were also slightly fewer trips to other neighbouring countries than in the first quarter of last year.

Source: Bank of Estonia

The current account was in deficit in March

The flash estimate1 put the Estonian current account at 62 million euros in deficit in March 2015. Exports of both goods and services were higher than in March last year and imports of goods were also higher, though imports of services were smaller than a year ago. Foreign investment dividends paid and received dominated in incomes.

The current and capital accounts were also negative in March. This means that the Estonian economy was a net borrower from the rest of the world, so the country as a whole received more resources from abroad than it invested there.

Eesti Pank publishes the flash estimate of the balance of payments monthly for the last month but one. From January 2015 Eesti Pank accompanies the publication of the flash estimate with a short comment. The statistics on the first quarter of 2015 will be published with a comment on 9 June.

1 The quarterly balance of payments is compiled from a combined system of representative primary data sources, including surveys of companies, while the monthly balance of payments draws from a considerably smaller database. Although the monthly report uses as much data available for the month reported as possible, including administrative data sources and reports on international payments, it is subjective to a certain degree, which is why it is called an estimate. Once the quarterly balance of payments is released, the monthly balances of payments are adjusted accordingly.

See graph here: Bank of Estonia