Finnish Elections – Immigrants, Taxes, Old Folk & Defence

Politicians in the whole wide world like making misleading promises to fool voters into thinking that voting for them will bring everything that you have been dreaming about. Finnish politicians are no exception both in government and in opposition…

The opposition, the right-wing neoliberals, the Conservatives (in Finnish “Kokoomus”), the bankers’ party, are hoping to lure voters with more and fewer immigrants, tax cuts and cuts to public spending, more and less care of older folk, and more money on defence. They spent most of the 12 years before the present the government increasing government debt, cutting the education budget, keeping out immigrants, and increasing taxes. They also did little to increase the employment rate. The baby boomers (those borne after 1944) are now rapidly becoming pensioners in increasingly large numbers resulting in drastically higher care costs.

The Conservatives have supported the privatisation of large parts of healthcare and care of the elderly. Large companies have moved in owned by private equity funds with a relatively free hand to gobble up large segments of the formerly public services with minimal amounts of equity and large amounts of debt. Naturally, profits have not been restricted nor the high salaries capped. The result has been a major shift in healthcare resources from the public sector to the private sector, leading to longer queues for public services and higher costs. It is a fallacy that the private sector has a monopoly on efficiency, and when private companies fail to deliver the basic services, the public sector has to step in.

Now the Conservatives are promising income tax cuts, and while decreasing government debt. They can do this by making “adjustments” in unemployment benefits and improving the efficiency of the public sector, something they failed to do when in power beforehand…

They also appear to be welcoming the True Finns into their government if they win the largest share of votes.

The True Finns, the other big opposition party, keep changing their name, their leaders, and their manifesto for every election to suit the mood of the country. They are basically the same bunch of opportunistic politicians who have never sacked members who have expressed strongly racist comments or otherwise been on the fringes of the extreme right. But now they once more appear to lust after black ministerial cars and salaries with the Conservatives, a combination that we will probably remember after four years where smiling harder in front of the cameras will trump solutions that will benefit the Finnish economy. It is easier to stay in opposition if you have little to offer when you should be fighting hard to keep the population healthy and educated, to reduce greenhouse emissions, to maintain a strong economy, and to care for those in need.

Up until recently most people and the media (Alma Media and Sanoma Group control the largest media outlets here) have viewed the True Finns to be openly anti-EU, nationalistic populists, who want to cut back on immigration and international aid. Now their lot has improved because they have been able to convince many voters that the government is to blame for Covid, high food and energy prices, as well as sharp increases in interest rates. Naturally immigrants must blamed for causing unemployment and job losses. Voters do not always understand that unemployment has fallen to the lowest level for decades, and that the employment rate is at one of its highest levels! The True Finns have also claimed that we need to cut public spending on refugees and on international aid. They want to spend more on the care of the elderly, even though care of the elderly has been dreadful for decades and getting worse as the numbers pensioners blooms with the baby boomers coming of age! This same party had their chance to improve matters for elderly care a few years ago but did nothing.

The Social Democrats, the party currently running the country, have had a rough 4 years because of the attacks from Covid and Putin’s war. Both crises have contributed to staggering price inflation and increased levels of public debt. None of that was the government’s fault and to their credit Finland has done relatively well. We had fewer deaths from Covid, and the economy has remained relatively stable with improvements in employment. Public spending needs to be reduced and much work needs to be done to improve cost efficiency in both the private and public sectors. Healthcare is one area where preventive medicine and care of the elderly require more attention. The first phase of the healthcare reform has been completed during their tenure and that is some achievement. However, more work is needed to balance the public sector’s budget. Unemployment benefits still need to be adjusted to get more people back to work faster because we need tax revenues to pay for the needed basic services. The present government has done a reasonable job in an incredibly difficult period. The Prime Minister has criticised the Conservatives and the True Finns for promising to cut income taxes, both of whom claim that lower taxes will revitalise the economy. Paul Krugman, and many other eminent economists, have described these Trumpian claims as rubbish. There is no empirical evidence that tax reductions can stimulate economies. To be balanced, our Prime Minister has shown some indiscretions by partying with people who leaked frivolous and damaging videos to the media. Younger women who are both thorough and focused like her are often held up to ridicule by older men – she is no exception to this situation. Older male voters are particularly rankled by the fact that she was responsible with our president in getting Finland to apply for NATO membership!

The other members in the coalition government are the Greens along with the Center Party and the Left Party. They are smaller political partners who actively pursue their own agendas. The Greens have a solid grip on Climate Change, whereas the Center Party is supporting the big forestry industrial giants and two retail giants who enjoy Green Washing and do not take Climate Change that seriously, especially when they are asked to pay for the damage they cause to the atmosphere. The Left Party along with the Social Democrats understand and support workers’ rights, the importance of education for all, and universal and fair health- and social-care.

Voters are not stupid here, but the two big right-wing private media companies need to be balanced by our excellent public broadcasting company called “YLE. That is quite a challenge for YLE!

Site Footer