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Friday's papers: Budget balancing, Swedish airspace violations, Ahtisaari day

Friday's papers include scepticism about opposition alternative budgets, a Swedish violation of Finnish airspace, and Martti Ahtisaari's trip to a school in Tampere.

Valtakunnanrajan kyltit.
The Swedish air force accidentally strayed across the border into Finland. Image: Paula Hiljanen / Yle

This week opposition parties presented their alternative budget plans in parliament. It's an opportunity for them to say what's wrong with the government's plans and--more importantly--what they'd do differently. The parties have different approaches, but one theme is consistent: without the responsibility of actually having to implement their proposals, there is a strong temptation to over-promise and leave a big deficit caused by unfunded spending.

Finnish parties often fill that gap with the magic ingredient of a "crackdown on the grey economy". The idea is that more efficient tax collection will uncover skullduggery and uncollected revenue that can then pay for all the nice things a government (or potential government) wants to do.

On Friday a Helsingin Sanomat editorial takes a pop at that way of thinking. The SDP announced in its alternative budget that 200 million euros of grey economy crackdown revenue would be found to help fund its spending, and HS is sceptical. For one thing, this isn't free money: extra tax collectors are an expense that must be booked before any potential gains to the state budget.

For another, this is not a zero-sum game as parties often claim. Money made in the grey economy is mostly spent in the real economy--"laundered", as HS puts it--and so removing that cash has a negative effect on GDP and state revenue. It's much more complicated than politicians sometimes like to admit, and the editorial writers at HS are fed up with that deception.

Swedes over Finland

Airspace violations have been in the news recently, with Russia repeatedly testing Finnish responses and entering Finnish territory. Ilta-Sanomat was among the outlets to report on Thursday that a Swedish plane had apparently done similar, just south of Åland.

It was a small Gulfstream jet owned by the Swedish government, typically used for business travel and much less dramatic than the interception of two Russian fighter jets near Porvoo last month.

Unlike many recent violations, this was conducted with incredible politeness. The plane was in contact with Finnish air traffic controllers the whole time, and Sweden has already apologised for the incident.

Ahtisaari goes Hervanta

Thursday marked the annual Ahtisaari Day, named in honour of former President Martti Ahtisaari. The day sees events geared towards raising awareness of conflict resolution techniques in schools across the country. It's a way for Ahtisaari to promote peacebuilding efforts, which he has performed for real in Kosovo, Namibia and Northern Ireland.

This year Ahtisaari himself visited South Hervanta school in a suburb of Tampere, and the local paper Aamulehti was there to record the occasion for posterity. The school is diverse, with some 32 languages and 21 nationalities represented among the 800-strong student body, and AL is straight in there with a tough question for the two school council representatives (aged 13 and 14) put up to answer questions: is there a great need for conflict resolution at the school?

Not at all, say both students, who state that "we're all a pretty tight group". Other media preferred to focus on other stories around the Ahtisaari day (like Donald Trump's election, or the possibility that Kofi Annan might come to Finland next year), but for Aamulehti the girls' joy that an ex-president would come to a "backwoods school" like theirs was front and centre.

Sources: Yle News, Aamulehti, Ilta-Sanomat, Helsingin Sanomat

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