Top Finnish civil servants outline tough choices for next government

By on 07/02/2019
Helskinki - Finland needs to increase employment rate to sustain welfare system (Image courtesy: Jonathan Barsook/Flickr).

The next Finnish government faces making tough decisions to correct the country’s structural deficit, according to the country’s permanent secretaries.

The Opportunities for Finland document has been drawn up by officials in advance of the country’s forthcoming general election, scheduled for April. Department chiefs said that the incoming government will need to undertake major reform to maintain Finland’s advanced welfare system.

A statement about the document released by the government said: “…if the structural imbalance of revenue and expenditure is not corrected, public debt may grow into something that cannot be controlled in future.”

The country needs to set its employment rate at 80%, up from the 75% it is on track to reach by 2023 in order to continue funding its advanced welfare system. However, officials warned that boosting the rate to the 80% level – closer to other Nordic countries – would require “actions that we can’t imagine yet” and “a consistent policy from all sectors of government”.

Increasing the employment rate would involve creating more jobs through immigration, the document said, as well as improving the employment of immigrants already in the country.

This will require social cohesion and open debate between different population groups, according to the permanent secretaries.

“Utilising the expertise of all segments of the population and attracting new people to the country, settling down and staying here requires seamless, long-term cooperation between the state, cities, educational institutions, businesses and other actors,” the document said.

Technological transformation will provide the greatest opportunities for sustainable growth, it added.

Election debate

The outlook document contains 12 main themes that the permanent secretaries hope will provide a basis for election discussions and negotiations around the formation of the next government.

“The next government of Finland must be provided with good conditions for making difficult decisions, and we must have uniform, forward-looking ministries to implement these,” it states.

Climate change is highlighted as a major threat, and the document says that current strategies to tackle global warming are insufficient. New tax measures could be used to promote zero-emission energy production, it suggests.

“Mitigating climate change means social systemic change in a new way of acting. A wide-ranging debate and a common will to control and adapt is very important. 

“The necessary actions may require major changes in the energy and emission-intensive industries or significant constraints and charges…” it states.

The government said that it had published the document to enable a broad understanding of complex and interlinked issues.

“This document helps to grasp the large-scale development trends and build decision-making with a long-term perspective,” it stated.

In a separate report released this week, Finland’s Ministry of Finance called for structural reforms to strengthen public finances by approximately €5 billion by the end of the 2020s.

About Colin Marrs

Colin Marrs is a journalist specialising in local and national government, as well as architecture and the built environment. Colin previously worked as digital content editor at Campaign, the advertising industry "bible".

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