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Friday’s papers: Pulp problems, pension payments and small town retailers

The press on Friday looks at a court ruling against the powerful paper pulp industry.

Havainnekuva Kuopioon suunnitellusta sellutehtaasta.
Finnpulp wanted to build a plant in Kuopio. Image: Finnpulp Oy

On Thursday Finland’s Supreme Administrative Court ruled that a paper pulp plant in Kuopio would be denied an environmental permit.

The court was concerned that the plant’s waste water would discharge into the Kallavesi lake, and the company had not prepared impact reports on what would happen 40 to 50 years down the line.

Helsingin Sanomat chews over the case in an editorial, reminding readers that the pulp industry has been in the doldrums but is now providing a range of plastic alternatives as well as meeting demand from Asia for soft tissues as consumers there increase spending.

Indeed the Kuopio plant would have been part-owned by Chinese firm Hengan International.

Minister for Economic Affairs Mika Lintilä told HS that he regretted but respected the decision, while in Kauppalehti the chair of the forest owners association suggested in anger that the plant might even be built over the border in Petrozavodsk, Russian Karelia.

The paper also carries a piece where Finnpulp CEO Martti Fredriksson worries that other big pulp plant projects might now fall like dominoes thanks to the precedent, because foreign investors could pull out.

Pensions becoming less affordable

Iltalehti has a deep dive on the affordability of Finland’s current pension system. Handling baby boomers as they leave the workforce is a global challenge, and in Finland it has long been on the agenda.

According to a previous estimate, based on higher birth rates, there would be no need to increase pension contributions until 2070 and the increase in contributions then would be one percent of salaries split between employers and employees.

But since that estimate was made in 2014, birth rates have fallen dramatically. Now the Finnish Centre for Pensions estimates that the need to raise contributions will strike in the 2050s, and will require a 6 percent increase — three percent for workers to pay, three percent for employers.

The alternative is to increase birth rates to 2012 levels, meaning an extra 12,000 babies born each year compared to the 47,577 born in 2018, or an extra net migration of 30,000 people from abroad.

The story interviews Ilkka Oksala of the Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK), who says the unions and employers organisations have difficult decisions ahead of them if they want to resolve the problem.

Retail revolt

The town of Seinäjoki in Ostrobothnia saw a new shopping centre open in November, and it has had a predictable impact on retailers in the town centre.

Ilta-Sanomat went to ask how they’re doing and found that some of them are struggling as customers head to the big shiny mall to do their shopping.

Some say there’s not much to worry about, however, as the town centre still has enough footfall and they haven’t noticed a difference.

One advantage, according to Sari Nisula of Boutique S, is that the town centre offers her better chances to personalise her store than a mall would.

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