Bertelsmann Transformation Index and Estonian parliamentary reform
Archived Articles 14 Apr 2008 Estonian Central Council in CanadaEWR
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Obscure topic? Perhaps. But it does provide some insight into Estonia’s level of good governance.

The 2008 Bertelsmann Transformation Index (BTI) was released in March. It is a worldwide ranking resulting from analyses and evaluation of the development and transformation processes in 125 countries. The BTI provides an indication from a strictly neutral source of how each country is progressing towards democracy and a market economy, as well as the quality of their political management.

Comprehensive reports are compiled for each country. They evaluate a country’s political and economic performance as well as the quality of its political management according to a detailed set of criteria that undergoes extensive qualitative analysis.

Consider specifically the Result Management Performance category, measuring “Political leadership towards democracy and a market economy”, where Estonia ranked second, next to Chile. South Korea was 6th, Latvia 10th, Slovenia 12th, Lithuania 15th, Ukraine 55th, Russia 98th, Somalia 125th. Fully developed democracies like Germany, USA, Canada, and France etc. were not ranked.

In commenting, the Bertelsmann Foundation at Munich University notes that Estonia has totally consolidated its democratic governance has a stable political party system but suffers from political ennui in society.

There’s still plenty of room for democratic development and improvement. At least that’s the position of the Pro Patria and Res Publica party, part of a three party government coalition. Just recently Pro Patria and Res Publica proposed a ten-point plan to improve the effectiveness and ethical integrity of parliament. It includes:

1. In co-operation with the state ombudsman, the formation of a parliamentary monitoring body that ensures that governmental spending is purposeful.
2. The ability to question ministers in parliament not be limited to three separate ministers per week, and to expect prompt answers to written inquiries. The prime minister to be questioned once a week.
3. The resignation of all members of parliament from boards of state firms.
4. The parliamentary opposition to have the privilege of forming parliamentary commissions of enquiry in investigating governmental wrongdoing etc.
5. Permanent committees or commissions of enquiry to have the right to give specialized investigation and research to politically unbiased experts.
6. That the initiative for new legislation should not only originate from the government, but also from parliament.
7. The use of more flexibility in determining the scheduling of legislative debate. High priority issues should be tabled irrespective of formal schedules.
8. Increasing the role of parliamentary committees, with the creation of sub-committees. 9. Special committee on corruption and ethics to develop directives on parliamentary good governance and be given the right to make judgments on ethics of individual members of parliament.
10. Important legislative proposals to have public input. The parliamentary majority is to lose the right to kill legislation before first amendments are proposed.

Even though the opposition criticized the proposals as politically opportunistic, the ten points do not favour government parties. In fact they legislatively weaken the position of government parties’ roles. Compared to Canada’s parliamentary culture the proposals contain some radically progressive ideas. It’s difficult to recall the last time a private member’s or opposition bill passed into legislation in Ottawa.
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