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Wednesday's papers: Student aid cuts, Lockheed late fees, new tobacco laws

Finland's newspapers on Wednesday took a look at reactions to new government proposals to cut student aid, the Finnish military is waiting for delivery of intelligence gear from US defence firm Lockheed Martin which should have arrived three years ago, and among other things, MPs discussed the banning of smoking in cars with children in them.

Daily newspapers.
Image: E.D.Hawkins / Yle

Many papers wrote about the news that the government is expected to decide whether post secondary student aid should be cut. Supporters of the idea say that students should be taking out more loans rather than receiving "free money," the daily Hufvudstadsbladet reports.

Currently, the aid university students receive is either 303 or 337 euros per month, depending on when they enrolled. The proposed cuts would bring that sum down to some 250 euros per month.

Rather than students receiving the funds directly from the state, proponents of the cuts say that the government would instead increase the total level of backing student loans and support to 1,100 euros per month, the paper explained.

The amount of time that students can receive the lowered student aid would be limited to 45 months and 54 months for medical students. Also students would be required to be taking a minimum of six-credit coursework per month in order to be eligible to receive the student aid. These measures, the paper explained, are designed to speed up the time people spend studying.

Education minister Sanni Grahn-Laasonen said the cuts are "difficult and unappealing," but that putting a stop to government debt is crucial to the younger generation.

Economics professor Roope Uusitalo, who was charged with coming up with a solution to save the state 70 million euros in education costs by 2019, came up with the idea to cut student aid by a quarter and to increase the amount of government-backed student loans.

"This is the best way to solve this difficult equation," Uusitalo is quoted in the paper.

Opposition MPs disagree with the solution. Greens party chair Ville Niinistö noted that employment in Finland has become less stable and that many university graduates only earn some 2,000 euros per month.

"You can't force them to take loans, it would weaken younger people's equality, the educational community and people's ability to go into many important fields," Niinistö said.

Late fees from Lockheed Martin

In 2010 the Finnish Defence Forces ordered surveillance equipment to be installed in Casa patrol aircraft from six international vendors, including US defence contractor Lockheed Martin.

The surveillance equipment, which include unspecified antennas and sensor technologies worth an estimated 85 million euros, should have been delivered in 2013, but they still haven't arrived.

The daily Helsingin Sanomat writes that the reason for the delay is technical – assembling a single system out of many different components from different vendors is evidently more difficult than anticipated.

The paper writes that Lockheed Martin would be subject to paying Finland late fees for the multi-year delay - however the amount of the fine was not disclosed.

If and when the unarmed aircraft surveillance system project does reach completion, the Finnish Defence Forces plan to use it to monitor communications and radar signals of neighbouring countries, the paper writes.

Government mulls new tobacco laws

Another article in Wednesday's Helsingin Sanomat, as well as Aamulehti, concerns planned tightened tobacco laws in Finland.

Among other things, on Tuesday MPs discussed broadening laws concerning where people should be permitted to smoke. A new law proposal aims to cut smoking down to five percent of the population by the year 2030, which was reportedly welcomed by everyone who discussed the matter.

An earlier ruling by the Supreme Court that bans on smoking on balconies of private apartments were not enforceable if even a single member of a building cooperative was opposed to the idea, the paper explained.

There was also discussion about whether it would be possible to ban smoking inside private apartments would be possible in cases where ventilation was inadequate.

National Coalition party MP Sari Sarkomaa suggested adding legislation that would ban smoking inside of vehicles if children were riding in them.

"Several European countries have done this," HS quoted Sarkomaa saying.

Every year some 4,400 people in Finland die prematurely due to tobacco. In the year 2000 27 percent of men and 20 percent of women smoked. Two years ago those figures dropped to 17 and 14 percent, respectively.

Smoking among teenagers is also down significantly, from about 25 percent in 2001 to about ten percent last year. However the use of snus and e-cigarettes are on the rise by those aged between 14 and 18 years, according to the paper.

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