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Friday’s papers: Gov PR junkets under fire, drugged driving and millions paid to home-owners claiming housing benefit

Politicos come under fire for a 600,000-euro summer junket, drugged driving surpasses drunk driving and home-owners may profit from housing benefits.

Suomi Areena -viiri.
Image: Taija Turkia /

National daily Helsingin Sanomat dives into the 600,000-euro tab picked up by taxpayers for Suomi Areena, an annual summer event drawing political top brass and business leaders to the south-western city of Pori.

Public records show that hotel accommodation alone cost government organisations some 140,000 euros, with state-owned gambling monopoly Veikkaus and the Defence Forces spending the most on the multi-day networking extravaganza.

HS found that some keynote speakers were paid thousands of euros per hour while a battle simulation show carried a 70,000-euro price tag. Participants defended their spending to HS, saying the exposure gained at Suomi Areena outweighed the costs.

Drugged driving surpasses drunk driving

An increasing number of motorists caught driving under the influence are testing positive for narcotics, reports Swedish-language daily Hufvudstadsbladet.

In 2018, police in Helsinki caught 1,076 drug-impaired motorists and 857 drunk drivers, marking a 20 percent year-on-year increase in drugged driving. A police spokesman told the paper that the uptick is partly due to young people’s increasingly relaxed attitudes towards drugs.

At the moment laws pertaining to drug-impaired driving are ambiguous, hindering prosecution in some cases, according to police.

Housing benefits aid home-owners

While most housing benefit recipients in Finland live in rented accommodation, home owners in 2017 drew on the benefit to the tune of 41 million euros to cover living expenses, according to Kela.

Business magazine Talouselämä writes that in the past few years an increasing number of residents have qualified for Kela’s low-income housing benefits, and fresh figures from the social insurer indicate that the state’s spending on the grant will continue to grow.

The social insurer doesn’t cover mortgage payments, but it may reimburse property maintenance fees to owners. These fees often cover building repairs by the housing company that significantly contribute to an apartment’s value.

Property bubble?

In other real estate news, business daily Kauppalehti asks whether a real estate bubble is forming in the capital area, with one in seven listed apartments in the downtown area fetching more than their asking price in the past two years. To illustrate the point the paper highlights a 67m2 apartment in Helsinki’s traditionally blue-collar Kallio neighbourhood on the market for 12,000 euros per square metre, which if realized, would break the area's price records.

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