Businessman Joakim Helenius, who has left Eesti 200 and been highly critical of the party’s leadership, says he has no plans to join another party. However, Helenius promises to remain active in Estonian politics, with the primary aim of explaining the basic principles of economics to decision makers.
Commenting on his departure from Eesti 200 on radio show “Vikerhommik,” Helenius, who has been one of the party’s major donors, said that the final straw was when new party chair Margus Tsahkna referred to him as an oligarch.
Helenius said that thanks to his money and that of other donors, the party bought itself a good election result and a ministerial position for Tsahkna. “Now, all of a sudden, that money is no good! Then Tsahkna can pay the money back and I’ll gladly accept,” Helenius said.
According to the businessman, prior to the Riigikogu elections, Eesti 200 was a really exciting new party that was supposed to bring new ideas into Estonian politics. The fact that it was a party of experts appealed greatly to Helenius, as did the talk of having a long-term plan, because changes to society and the economy take time.
“In part, the elections went well thanks to the generosity of donors. That same money is no longer good for the party. After the elections, however, Tsahkna, went into the coalition talks as the party’s powerbroker, and all the party’s principles were thrown out. Tsahkna’s ministerial chair and some other good posts were left, but nothing remained of the economic and fiscal program in the coalition agreement,” said Helenius, who was one of the authors of Eesti 200’s election program.
According to Helenius, Tsahkna is a bad leader, who should also take responsibility for the radical drop in support for Eesti 200, adding that Tsahkna was something of a gray cardinal behind outgoing party chair Lauri Hussar.
“He should therefore take responsibility for the problems, but he doesn’t want to do that. He wanted to become leader instead,” said Helenius, who was also perturbed by the rush to elect a new leader as it did not provide other potential candidates sufficient chance to emerge.
After resigning from Eesti 200, Helenius said he has no plans to join any other political party. However, he promises to remain active in politics, with the aim of improving Estonia’s approach to economic policy. “Politicians are smart people on average. However, they don’t really understand economic theory, entrepreneurship and so on. I’d like to contribute by better selling to them the ideas I have. I’m sure some of them are willing to listen.”
Putting money directly into the hands of politicians no longer makes sense to Helenius. “In the future, when political parties come to ask for money, we will make public agreements in a way that everyone knows exactly what they are. That we support you for doing something specific. If the party agrees to do that, they will get the money.”
Helenius believes that the biggest problem facing Estonia’s economy today is the long-term decline competitiveness, particularly as relates to the export sector. Estonia hopes that when other countries recover, it will too. “However, the problem is that if competitiveness has fallen too much, then we will not regain the market shares we had before the crisis, so our recovery will be slower than in neighboring countries. The government has not understood this,” Helenius said.
According to Helenius, as a small country, Estonia can only count on smart people, when it comes to economic policy. He also believes that Estonia’s state apparatus, where the number of civil servants and their average salaries have increased more than in the private sector over recent years, needs to be reformed.