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Wednesday's papers: Effects of gov't cuts and index freezes, bold wolves and cruise ship security

The print press look at the effects of government's austerity, 400 wolf sightings in one southwest town, and an MP proposal to introduce port security checks.

Susi lumisessa maisemassa.
Image: Martijn Smit / AOP

This Wednesday, Helsingin Sanomat reports on the effects of government cuts and index freezes to certain basic provisions such as basic unemployment security and pensions, student financial aid, and family and housing benefits. The paper says the cuts have hit young families, the jobless and students the hardest.

HS takes its data from a study on key social benefits and taxation from 2012 to 2019 by the Finnish Federation for Social Affairs and Health (Soste), an umbrella organization of over 200 social and health NGOs. Soste says that from 2012 to 2015, policy changes made life easier for Finland's low-income residents, but that changed in 2015, when the new centre-right government was elected to power.

Finland's state benefits are tied to indexes, to guarantee that they will rise in tandem with inflation. Finland's current centre-right government cut or froze these indexes, which means that several benefits are no longer increasing in line with consumer prices. Taxation on the benefits has also gone up.

Soste calculates that the index freezes will keep the basic unemployment allowance at 700 euros per month in 2019, instead of increasing to 725 euros. In the same way, child benefits will be 17 euros smaller and student financial aid will be 59 euros less per month as of next year. Pensions for people living alone will be 630 euros per month in 2019, instead of rising to 655 with the index increase.

HS reports that Soste estimates that it would cost the state 100 million euros to offset the cuts and index freezes, and recommends that taxation could also be changed to extend the municipal tax deduction to benefit earnings, which would increase the public finance price tag to 200 million euros, or roughly equivalent to the 2018 tax breaks.

Wolves are growing closer

The tabloid Iltalehti looks into a problem with bold wolves in southwest Finland, with over 130 sighting of the canines in people's gardens in the last year in the municipality of Laitila alone. This means that the wolves in the area are becoming less fearful of humans, coming very close to their homes.

At least 20 wolves are known to live in the area and it is likely that more are coming. Total sighting have surpassed 400. Some of Laitila's residents say they no longer let their small children play outside, but officials have brushed off their growing concern.

At a meeting of the regional game management association on Monday, all 15 of the local hunting groups had joined together to request that a permit be granted to kill four wolves, but none was granted.

"We've tried to do something about the problem, but for some reason, we are not being taken seriously," the game management association's chair Miika Yli-Karro tells IS.

Security checks for cruise boats?

And the Joensuu newspaper Karjalainen has a story this Wednesday on Finns Party parliamentary group deputy Ville Tavio's proposal to introduce the same kind of security checks found in airports to cruise boat terminals in Finland.

Elected to the Finnish Parliament as an MP from Turku, Tavio presented his idea during Tuesday's parliamentary session. He said the current security situation on Finland's passenger ships is inadequate, and called on the fresh new Interior Minister Kai Mykkänen to do something about it.

Tavio argued that cruise boats running between Sweden and Estonia are far too vulnerable, as it is easy to smuggle weapons onto them. The current practice allows passengers and cars to enter the boat without any kind of systematic security checks. The MP says there is no way the police can get to a boat quickly once it is at sea, so the risks must be recognized already at port, before the ship sets sail.

Sources: Yle News, Karjalainen, Iltalehti, Helsingin Sanomat

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