The outcome of Monday’s government budget talks is being hotly debated by opposition politicians, experts, pundits and the media alike.
The government says it’s delivering on the promises of its programme; critics – and there are many – say they’re spending money that just puts Finland more in debt, and it creates a ‘financial time bomb’ for future administrations to deal with.
The main objective of the five-party coalition discussions had been to agree on a budget for next year that sustains job creation.
The government says the draft budget builds a socially, economically and ecologically sustainable society, which increases inclusion and opportunities with significant investments in education, employment, growth, well-being and security.
Here are some of the stand-out areas where the government plans to spend more money:
The government says it’s investing in education and skills to the tune of €350 million, to help across all stages of education. The goal is to improve the quality of education and equality and strengthen the well-being of children and young people.
From this total, €60 million is going immediately to universities and colleges; while an additional grant of €80 million is proposed to hire teachers and supervisors in vocational education.
This is an area where there’s a win for areas which fall under the remit of the Interior Ministry.
Police numbers will be increase to 7500 by 2022, with an extra €7.5 million in 2020. New resources are being focused on preventive crime activities and daily law enforcement taks.
“We must anticipate the threats posed by urbanization, aging, climate change, digitization and inequality” says Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo (Green).
“Police services must be available and the police must be present where the need is greatest, whether it is in the suburbs or cyber crime” she says.
The government also wants to develop police response times, prevent sex crimes against children and strengthen prevention and combating environmental crimes.
There’s an extra €13 million next year for processing asylum applications and residence permits. The money will in theory shorten the processing times which have already exceeded the statutory limits.
The Border Guard also gets a budget increase to develop technical supervision of the country’s borders, and for meeting EU obligations. There will eventually be an increase in staff numbers at border crossing points.
Social and welfare
The government is allocating an extra €40 million for basic social welfare. It means there will be a raise in the minimum amount sof rehabilitation allowance, sickness and parental allowances, basic daily unemployment allowance and labour market support which will all increase by €20.
There’s an increase too for pensioners. The full national pension is going up by €34 per month and the guaranteed pension increases by €50 per month.
And the government continues to dismantle the activation model imposed by the previous government in a bid to get more people back to the work place.
“The activation model lowered unemployment benefits even though there were no jobs, and it was felt this was unfair” says Minister of Social Affairs and Health Aino-Kaisa Pekonen (Left).
“Instead of the failed activation model we need effective employment measures such as investment in skills and employment services” she says.