We are happy to introduce the next yearbook of the Estonian Competition Authority, which summarises our activities in 2021. We saw that the pandemic that began in early 2020 really marked the end of a period of calm – this year was not smooth sailing, either. We have been living under the influence of the pandemic for two years but hopefully, we will see the end of it in the coming autumn. We all know that predicting the future is very difficult, but looking at history, one can hope that the virus will become a common seasonal flu and that vaccination will prevent a larger outbreak. At the time of writing this, no one talks much about COVID-19 anymore – it has been overshadowed by other events. However, the pandemic has left a strong mark on our economy, especially in the form of very high inflation, fuelled in particular by high energy and commodity prices. It is no wonder that when the world is essentially locked up for a few months, factories are shut down, supply chains are disrupted, and central banks ease the economy with unprecedented stimuli, the release of the dam will cause a real storm. Imagine a springtime high water – when the water is released from the dam, there is a storm and a flood at the beginning. However, at some point, the situation calms down and the water levels gradually go back down to normal.
I am convinced that this will be the case with us as well. The market economy and the democratic world are still there, and in light of the war in Ukraine, I am more and more confident in saying that a democratic world with free market economy is the best option. Let us be happy that we belong to that world. After all, in a free market economy, things are bound to go back to normal. Shocks come and go and economic development is cyclical. During the financial crisis of 2008, it also seemed like the world was ending, the recession was terrible, and we could not overcome the situation. But we did. We have been members of the euro area for more than a decade, enjoying stable economic and welfare growth and becoming more prosperous. It is difficult to predict what it will take to get out of the crisis this time, but I am quite sure that the foreword to the 2022 or 2023 yearbook will say that the crisis is over, Ukraine has won the war, and we are welcoming a new member to the European Union.
We are proud that Estonia has been one of the biggest helpers of Ukraine. It is not easy to make it to these tops, but it is a real pleasure to be there. We want to continue to contribute to the reconstruction of Ukraine in the future and to help them build a well-functioning market economy with the help of our experience, where both competition supervision and economic regulation are crucial. If competition supervision or economic regulation does not work, nothing will happen in a year or two, but in the long run, it will have painful consequences – activities that sometimes seem insignificant will have a huge impact on the economy.