Timo Soini, leader of the largest opposition group, the Finns Party, accused the cabinet of ducking its responsibility in regard to care for the elderly. He said the government watered down the eldercare law and put off decisions until 2015, after the current legislative term.
The Finns Party also criticised the planned hike in value-added tax and what it called insufficient funding for the police. These moves will weaken the position of the disadvantaged and undermine public safety, they warned.
The newly-elected leader of the other main opposition party, Centre chair Juha Sipilä, said that the government’s eldercare reforms had turned into a farce. Sipilä also rapped the government for taking on more state debt.
Will emissions law hurt exports?
The director of the Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK), Mikko Pukkinen, said the government’s plan delivers a blow to export industries regarding compensation for implementation of the EU’s directive on the sulphur content of liquid fuels. Pukkinen says that companies are being forced to operate in a state of uncertainty because the cabinet did not make sufficiently clear decisions on how much firms will be recompensed for the costs of following the law.
The directive limits the sulphur content in gas oil, heavy fuel oil and marine fuels, in an attempt to reduce sulphur dioxide emissions, which can create acid rain. The government decided to only subsidise investments in desulphurisation equipment for ships for now.
Meanwhile the Paperworkers’ Union warned that the enforcement of the sulphur directive could lead to a loss of thousands of jobs in Finland. Union president Petri Vanhala predicted that forest industry production and investments will shift to countries with less restrictive environmental laws. In that case, he said, there won’t be tax revenues to cover eldercare or other social costs.
Less money in our pockets
The Finnish Confederation of Professionals (STTK) predicts that the budget will stimulate the economy but will also spur inflation and eat away at purchasing power.
Meanwhile, Pasi Holm, managing director of the Pellervo Economic Research Institute (PTT), does not believe that the budget plan will be able to fend off the looming economic downturn. He notes that it includes certain tax incentives for industry aimed at accelerating research, product development and investments.
The deputy chair of the Federation of Finnish Enterprises, Timo Lindholm, said he had hoped for VAT relief for small businesses and a return to the previous level of tax deductibility for household services, which he argues would have also helped small businesspeople.
And, not surprisingly, the head of the Taxpayers’ Union, Teemu Lehtinen, complained that the budget calls for too much new taxation. He says that it should instead have concentrated on spending cuts. The organisation estimates that the plan will weaken the average citizen’s spending power by about half a percent.
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