The cost of living in Finland is rising, and this Thursday Helsingin Sanomat (siirryt toiseen palveluun) runs an interview with Finance Minister Annika Saarikko (Cen) about the difficult decisions facing the government in this exceptional situation.
The country’s consumer prices rose seven percent year-over-year in May, as inflation in the eurozone reached new highs.
"The months ahead will be difficult," the minister warned, but noted that forecasts suggest price hikes should ease next year.
"The increase in prices has largely been energy-related, and we must ensure that they will not continue for other reasons," said Saarikko, adding that the sharp rise in prices will require "guts and resilience" from people in Finland throughout the rest of this year.
The minister assured readers that the government was ready to support those struggling to make ends meet. Nevertheless, she urged wage earners to exercise restraint, as high wage demands in the autumn could result in further price rises and economic stagnation.
"The biggest concern is not losing our wage restraint and competitiveness. The consequences could be long-term," Saarikko told the paper. "That is why I am now making an exceptionally strong call for wage restraint."
Despite Saarikko emphasising the pragmatism of tax cuts to boost purchasing power, not all experts agree with her assessment of their practicality to alleviate rising consumer prices.
A number of economists, the Bank of Finland, and officials from the Finance Ministry have expressed concerns that income tax cuts could result in price increases and hurt the economy. Saarikko acknowledged that critics' views are valid.
"However, I am not among those who can simply say what is unacceptable. I don’t have that right," Saarikko observed. "When 26 other EU member states are taking care of their citizens, and our citizens are losing purchasing power, [Finland’s]politicians have a responsibility to react. Economists can tell you about the downside of each option, but it is my responsibility to choose one."
Midsummer bonfire ban
Residents should check for forest fire warnings in their area before lighting a fire or bonfire to celebrate Midsummer, Ilta-Sanomat (siirryt toiseen palveluun) advises ahead of this weekend’s holiday.
"Bonfires are usually lit between Friday and Saturday night, but in southern Finland you’ll have to find something else to do this time," Tuukka Keränen, a meteorologist with the Finnish Meteorological Institute said.
"Forest fire warnings are widespread since the forecast for Midsummer calls for high temperatures and little rain," Keränen said.
Forest fire warnings have been issued for Åland, Southwest Finland, Satakunta, Uusimaa and Kymenlaakso on Thursday.
Those warnings will be extended slightly farther north on Friday to include Pirkanmaa, Päijät-Häme, Kanta-Häme, Ostrobothnia and parts of Lapland.
On Saturday, the warnings will be extended even further, and on Sunday warnings will be issued throughout nearly the whole country.
Banned from Parliament?
Tabloid Iltalehti (siirryt toiseen palveluun) reports an interview with Speaker of Parliament Matti Vanhanen (Cen) on the possible repercussions facing Jarno Vähäkainu, the second vice-chair of Power Belongs to the People (VKK), a small opposition party. Last week he posted a photo of Green Party MP Iiris Suomela on social media, taken without Suomela’s knowledge or permission.
The photo showed Suomela, Finland's youngest MP, sitting in Parliament's cafeteria wearing a short dress and was accompanied by a sarcastic comment about sexual harassment. The matter was reported to Parliament before Suomela herself had even seen the photo.
Vanhanen told IL that the matter was investigated by Parliament on Tuesday morning. Vanhanen added possible repercussions could include Vähäkainu being issued a ban from entering Parliament.
A ban of this nature would be a very rare, but not entirely exceptional, solution. According to Vanhanen, the threshold for it is high.
"A total ban on entering the sanctuary of open democracy is not the simplest thing to do," Vanhanen remarked.
"The real question under consideration is whether an individual can be deprived of the right to move around the Parliament without an escort," Vanhanen said.
Vanhanen explained that there are clear rules in place when it comes to taking photos or video in Parliament. The cafeteria, which is not open to the public, also has its own rules. Taking panorama photos before and after plenary sessions is acceptable, but otherwise permission is required.
The rules have generally been respected, Vanhanen said, adding that even the media may not film in the cafeteria and MPs must ask permission if they want to do so.
"The rules and instructions have been clear for years," Vanhanen said, adding that it is problematic if the same rules do not apply to everyone.