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Monday's papers: Tough times for small businesses, Nato and nukes, dark day

According to morning press reports, 41 percent of small and medium-sized businesses in Finland are preparing for layoffs next year.

More snow is in the forecast and driving conditions will be hazardous in many parts of Finland this week. Image: Lehtikuva
Yle News

The prospects for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) next year look almost as gloomy as at the end of 2020, the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a Uutissuomalainen news group report (siirryt toiseen palveluun) in Jyväskylä's Keskisuomalainen.

The article reviews a fresh survey by the Finnish Confederation of Industries (EK) showing that 41 percent of SMEs are preparing for layoffs next year. Ten percent said that they may have to close down in 2023.

"The outlook is bleak in many respects. The biggest challenges are related to the rise in the prices of raw materials and energy due to Russia's war of aggression. At the same time, there is a shortage of skilled labour," said EK Chief Policy Advisor Jari Huovinen.

Other major challenges are a decline in domestic sales and weakening liquidity.

According to Huovinen, the outlook is particularly bleak for the smallest employers.

"They have gone from crisis to crisis. Many have pretty much used up their financial buffers," noted Huovinen.

According to the report, only 23 percent of small and medium-sized companies believe that demand will increase during the coming year. Just over one third anticipate a decline in demand.

The outlook is pessimistic all around the country – gloomiest in northern regions and somewhat more optimistic in Uusimaa and Pirkanmaa.

A company with at least two, but fewer than 250 employees is considered an SME. There are approximately 84,500 such firms in Finland.

Nato and nukes

Helsingin Sanomat reports (siirryt toiseen palveluun) on an interview Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Green) gave to the Japanese news agency Kyodo News in which he said that Russia's nuclear weapons programme was one of the key factors influencing Finland's application for Nato membership.

HS notes that the interview, published on Sunday morning, was quickly picked up by the Russian state-owned news agency Tass which misreported Haavisto as saying that "Russia's alleged nuclear threats were the main reason for Finland's desire to join Nato."

According to Helsingin Sanomat, Haavisto spoke more broadly about Finland's Nato decision and mentioned Russia's nuclear weapons as one of several reasons behind the application.

The paper points out that this was nothing new.

For example, the Finnish government's report on changes in the security environment, published last spring, stated that Russia has "repeatedly expressed its readiness to use nuclear weapons". That report was one of the key documents considered when Finland's foreign policy leadership decided to apply for Nato membership last May.

Not gas dependent

The farmers' union paper Maaseudun Tulevaisuus (siirryt toiseen palveluun) looks at some of the historic reasons that Finland is buffered from the impact of natural gas shortages which now threaten much of central Europe.

In Finland, district and electric heating are overwhelmingly the most common forms of heating services.

Riku Huttunen, who heads the Energy Department at Finland's Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, pointed out to the paper that one key reason for this is that unlike central Europe, Finland does not have natural gas deposits.

According to Huttunen, when district heating networks started to be built in the 1950s, natural gas was not even an option. The Soviet Union started exporting gas in the mid-1970s, and by that time, district heating networks in Finland had already been practically completed.

Finland's wood processing industry started co-production of electricity and heat before the Second World War. Later, the lessons learned from the wood processing sector were adopted by cities, which started building plants that produce both electricity and heat.

Wood, oil and nuclear power are the main sources of heating and electricity production in Finland.

Even more snow

The Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI) is forecasting over 10 centimetres of fresh snowfall around most of the country over the next few days, and 20cm to 30cm in some areas, according to Helsingin Sanomat (siirryt toiseen palveluun).

FMI has issued warnings of hazardous driving conditions in the north on Monday, and the same in southern, central and eastern parts of the country on Tuesday.

Temperatures over the next few weeks will remain a few degrees below the average.

In the dark

It's the time of year that we here in Finland spend much of our time in the dark.

In an item that might bring readers some comfort, Hufvudstadsbladet reports (siirryt toiseen palveluun) that Tuesday, at least for a brief time, almost all of humanity will be in the dark.

On 6 December, at 9:56 PM local time, the most populated areas in the world will simultaneously be on the night side of the earth - nearly 9 out of 10 people worldwide will experience darkness at the same time.

Although the sun will be up in the Americas, New Zealand and most of Australia, the earth is much more densely populated around Asia, Africa and Europe, meaning that a full 86 percent of humanity will have the sun at least 18 degrees below the horizon, and so some darkness, all at the same time on Tuesday.

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