Finnish Politics – Opposition Sour Grapes´ Gripes


The last three years has been challenging for the present Finnish coalition government since it was faced with high unemployment, low growth rates, increased debt, an incomplete massive reform of healthcare – all leftovers from the last government. Then Covid come along followed by Putin’s depraved war against Ukraine.

The new government has done an impressive job. It seen one of the highest employment rates of the last twenty years, managed improved growth rates, modest increases in debt, and the completion of the healthcare reform that past governments have tangled with for over 10 years!

Now this same government, with the active assistance from the Finnish President, has broken with a 60 year history of neutrality by laying the foundations for joining NATO after the start of Putin’s war. They had lobbied hard with all the members of the NATO alliance as well as with Sweden, a country that was far more doubtful about joining NATO. 

Unlike Sweden, Finland has always maintained a strong defence force with heavy spending on soldiers and equipment including a strong and modern military organisation on land, sea, and air. 

They are well-integrated with NATO as a result of deliberate planning, well before the consensus to join NATO was achieved. Finland and the Finns want to live in peace and have no desire to attack Russia, who now is seen as an existential threat to world peace. The Finns are ready to defend the borders, and becoming a member of NATO is seen as the best possible defensive strategy.

The consensus is strong in all the main political parties with very little dissent.

You would think that there would be a good buzz in politics here, but the head of the largest opposition party, the Conservative party (Kokoomus), cannot sit still. He appears to see sour grapes everywhere, a common ailment when in opposition, especially when those in government are recognized as being highly efficient. But sour grapes gripes rumble in the skies…

The reason is rather clear – the Conservatives were in power for some 12 years before and failed to agree on this healthcare reform. They oversaw big falls in employment, they increased public debt, and did very little to stimulate the economy. This party along with other right-wing parties openly preached austerity for ordinary folk, while saying that government handouts to support big companies are necessary, under the pretext of innovations… and these companies got generous handouts too. These are the same companies that paid their bosses 40 to 100 times more than their workers, earned from big continuous profits.

The party also pushed the private sector into public healthcare with the result that doctors and nurses moved to private sector jobs for fatter pay checks! This resulted in less resources for the public sector, higher costs for taxpayers and longer queues for patients. The doctor’s lobby still wants to restrict the training of new doctors because having more doctors means less pressure to increase salaries! 

Now the same man, Mr. Orpo, is crying out again for austerity to reign in government debt. However, when asked about the cuts that must be put in place he offers nothing but small adjustments in unemployment benefits, and changes the subject to talk about what they will be doing with NATO when he becomes Prime Minister! The next elections are one year away…

When pressed again about budget cuts, he explains that the present unemployment benefits must start with higher initial payments that then taper off over the following months. He never talks about absolute reductions in unemployment benefits because that would be political suicide, but prefers to give the impression that the absolute amount will fall, somehow…

He also talks about the need for austerity in public healthcare, and talks about a larger role for the private sector, which means higher costs. He also said that we need to increase healthcare services with 200 000 extra healthcare professionals. He gives the impressions that they must come for free by failing to mention the cost! Given the average monthly wage is around €3500 for these people, it does not take a genius to see that the annual cost for the government would be around €8 billion… and where does that come from?

It appears that he favours tax cuts, another favourite topic from Mr. Orpo’s mouth! Somehow as if by magic, cutting taxes will raise more cash to cover this huge €8 billion gap! You do not need a PhD in economics to see that the plus and minus signs have got mixed up…

On the other hand, perhaps all this talk about sour grapes conceals a great idea that he can produce wine from all these sour grapes which will generate enough cash to cover these extra costs…

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