Roivas: Keep your focus on services
Small countries like Estonia and Cyprus need to focus on services in order to be wealthy and prosperous, the Baltic state’s visiting Prime Minister, Taavi Roivas, said during a lecture at the University of Cyprus.
In his lecture on “A road ahead: The secure and digital future for Europe,” Roivas said the five pillars on which a country’s economic growth should be based are national security, international integration, public finances (fiscal prudence), the business climate and egovernment.
He said that the web-based free-call company Skype was created in Estonia and has created hundreds of jobs in the country.
“In the European Union if you want to grow faster than the EU average, you have to do something different and you need to be clever and be attractive to investors. So, in order to do so you have to work hard to make the business climate as favourable as possible for investors,” he pointed out.
In Estonia, he added, “the income tax rate is a flat one, with very few exemptions”, noting that “there is no greater good for an economy than fair competition and by taxing companies equally you make the competition situation fairer.”
As he said, “the unique thing about the Estonian system is that if you reinvest the company’s profit, you don’t pay any corporate income tax”.
He noted that “today, if you want to start a company in Estonia it will take you a few hours. The record that we have is 18 minutes”, adding that “visiting state offices or all kinds of tax authorities physically should be yesterday’s business”.
“If you have a very good digital system, you do not need to interact with the government physically, you can do it digitally”.
He also said that “in order to declare your annual income tax you do not need weeks or months. In Estonia it takes just five minutes to declare your income tax through your iPad or laptop or any other computer device.
“The secret behind that is that the government should not ask you what they already know”.
During his speech, the Prime Minister referred to electronic voting and digital IDs as well as the use of digital technology in other areas of everyday life such as the health sector.
He concluded said that during his visit here he had witnessed a clear political will and commitment on behalf of his interlocutors to adopt e-government in Cyprus, noting that digital technology is the solution for many challenges ahead.