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Friday's papers: Failed reform, asylum policy pondering and a puddle warning for motorists

Friday's papers carry news of a failed attempt to cut business subsidies, criticism of Finland's asylum policy and a spring warning for motorists.

Lätäkkö, josta heijastuu pyörää taluttava mies.
Drivers should take care not to splash others when driving through puddles. Image: Heikki Haapalainen / Yle

Finland spends more than four billion euros each year on subsidies for companies, and civil servants say the payments are inefficient. The government had planned to cut that spending, but resistance from recipients is strong, so the task of mapping out possible cuts to this spending was farmed out to a parliamentary working group including representatives from all parties in the Finnish parliament.

That group announced on Thursday that it would not be recommending any cuts. The group's actions are now under the microscope, with liberal Green MP Antero Vartia, who served as a deputy member of the committee and remains a strong critic of the payments, leading the inquest.

He announced on Twitter that he was not allowed to join the committee's final meeting, but industry lobbyists representing industrial sectors and trade unions were. He told Helsingin Sanomat that even individual companies were represented, with forest products firm UPM and steel company Outokumpu both allowed to present their case.

"If UPM's representative came in and said that we don't need this free money, then he should be fired because he isn't representing the interests of UPM shareholders," said Vartia. "They have to represent shareholders' interests. They don't consider the national economy. That's why it's not fruitful to hear their views."

In another column, Helsingin Sanomat recalled a quote from the committee's chair, Centre MP Mauri Pekkarinen, that he didn't know why the government had launched the working group in the first place--or why he'd agreed to chair it.

Asylum policy clarifications

HS carries an editorial on asylum policy in Finland, arguing that political leadership needs to take responsibility for the change in the line taken by immigration authorities on asylum applications. In early 2015, before the bulk of around 32,000 asylum seekers arrived later that summer, about 86 percent of all asylum claims received a positive decision.

Two years later some 79 percent of decisions are negative. That shift isn't explained by a change in the profile of the applicants, according to HS--it's down to political decisions and direction.

Citing an Yle report of an asylum seeker being killed after he was deported to Baghdad, the paper urges the government to clarify its asylum line and strengthen the right to protection under international law.

Puddle problems

Temperatures are rising as spring slowly makes its way towards Finland, and that means melting snow and some giant puddles on the nation's roads. Those bodies of water can make a tempting target for motorists looking to make a (literal) splash, and pedestrians sometimes get a soaking.

Iltalehti reports that Eastern Finland police are taking a stand against this inconsiderate driving, warning motorists via Facebook that they could be fined for driving too fast through puddles if they're likely to spray anyone on the pavement. Those fines could even be 'day fines', Finland's famed income-based punishments.

The police department also warn considerate drivers that they should take extra care if they attempt to drive round a puddle by straying into the next lane.

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