The Berner Effect… Center Party Burnt to a Cinder…

SDP = Social Democrats, Kesk = Center Party, Kok = Conservatives, Vihr = Greens, Ps = True Finns, Vas = Left, Rkp = Swedish Folk, Kd = Christian Democrats, Muut = the rest…

Few Finns can ever forget how terrible a few ministers can be for the collapse of the fortune of a political party…

The Center Party is currently facing its worst measurement in the polls for decades… their support has been burnt to a cinder, and the Conservative Party is not doing much better even though they have the wealthiest supporters who willing pump cash into the party.

After the Financial Crisis of 2008, there was a commonly held belief that Finland needed a strong right-wing government to impose austerity on the ailing economy, to execute reforms by privatizing large parts of healthcare and public transport, and to shatter the power of the trade unions.

The results were so bad that only this year is the Finnish GDP reaching the 2008 levels again!

The voters chose two young Conservative Party leaders who became Prime Ministers with the Center Party in hot pursuit. Not only did those two Prime Ministers end up leaving Finland, leaving the country to lick its wounds, but they managed to get nice jobs paid for by taxpayers!

The Center Party also got a PM who was a “entrepreneur” who not only failed to revive the economy but also employed another small-time entrepreneur as Transport Minister. He could have employed one of my rich aunties who was a right-wing extremist flag-waving Thatcherite and got the job done better. At least my rich auntie would not have wanted her picture to be in every newspaper every time she introduced a new failed proposal… Her name was Berner and hence the pun…

The result of all their policies since 2008 was a major hash to reform the social and healthcare system which can best be described as a rush job. They wanted huge cost savings through cost efficient digital solutions (an estimate €3 billion in savings) with a centralized budget controlled by the Ministry of Finance, and yet, 12 years later, there is not much to show, except a booming privatization of basic healthcare with much higher operating costs (doctors’ salaries), a lack of healthcare professionals in public sector, and many private care homes for elderly where skimping on healthcare resources is common. The main reform is still to be implemented… Private healthcare for workers and others is about selling doctor’s services, operations, and laboratory services. Preventative care is far from their thoughts…

The same parties have cut the budgets for education – just at the time when countries like Finland must compete with a highly educated work force for high value-added products in demanding global supply chains. It is clear that poorly educated folk with little understanding of STEM or of IT solutions are not able to find work in Finland with a living wage. But even these people can be trained to rejoin the workforce for useful work. During this last decade some 23% of manufacturing jobs have disappeared from Finland and according to a recent OECD/Finnish Statistic’s study many more jobs have been lost in the manufacturing export sector, only to be replaced with jobs in the information and communications sector. Cutting the education budget was a stroke of Trumpian genius!

Privatization of public transport by the Transport Minister was attempted but that was thwarted by peaceful protest. Finland has an excellent railway system – it is clean, not crowded, operates almost always on time and covers large parts of the country with reasonable ticket prices. Selling the most profitable parts to other government-owned foreign railway companies is not that smart! No more needs to be said…

A quick glance at the latest polls says it all – the Soc Dems are roaring ahead with a smart and careful PM who listens to experts and scientists. We have reasonably good situation with the pandemic, even though the opposition is screaming blue murder. Our economy is no worse off than the rest of the EU, including Sweden, and we can only hope that an effective vaccine will be introduced in the not too distant future.

For now, we should put on a mask and exercise social distancing.

Gallup image: Yle

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