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Friday's papers: Sipilä's recollections, Metro announcement, and food spending divide

Friday's newspapers continue coverage of the controversy over the Finns Party's split, a possible start date for the western extension of the Helsinki Metro system, and a look at how spending on food differs between households.

Pääministeri Juha Sipilä.
Juha Sipilä has been quizzed about exactly what he knew when this summer. Image: Mikko Stig / Lehtikuva

Finland's political journalists have been greatly enjoying car boot gate this week. That, in case you haven't been paying attention, is the furore over the senior advisor to Foreign Minister Timo Soini leaving the Prime Minister's residence in the boot (trunk to Americans) of a car, so as to avoid media attention during the acrimonious implosion of the Finns Party in June.

It is not simply the mode of transport used by Samuli Virtanen, the advisor, at issue here. The scandal is that Prime Minister Juha Sipilä may have misled the public and even parliament in claiming that he did not know in advance that 20 Finns Party MPs would leave, set up their own group and continue to support the government. His story has been that he found out on the Tuesday, but Thursday's Aamulehti story reported that he actually met Virtanen on Sunday.

On Friday Ilta-Sanomat covers the debate in parliament over the scandal, with Leftist leader Li Andersson asking Sipilä why Virtanen had left in the boot of the car if there was nothing untoward about the meeting.

Sipilä replied that Virtanen walked out of the meeting on his own two feet and he didn't know anything about the unusual car journey. Both IS and Iltalehti carry a Facebook photo by Virtanen in which he has climbed into the boot of a car.

IL also mentioned that Sipilä said he had previously spoken of the Sunday meeting with Virtanen--but the paper could find no trace of this statement, and Sipilä himself couldn't recall exactly when it was made.

Metro news?

Helsingin Sanomat has followed the long-running Helsinki Metro extension saga in great detail, and for fans of the narrative Friday could be a bad day: HS says the Helsinki Regional Transport Authority has called a press conference for 9am, and could announce a start date.

The paper reported on Wednesday that the fateful day might be Saturday 18 November. There was at that point no confirmation, but an official did admit that Saturday is a strong candidate for the first day's operation (but wouldn't say which Saturday) of the extended network's Espoo spur.

"Saturday would be a really good day, because then there are fewer commuters and people aren't necessarily in such a hurry," said HSL CEO Suvi Rihtniemi.

Food poverty

Helsingin Sanomat looks at the issue of food poverty, with an extensive feature on the widening divide in Finnish household food budgets. A longitudinal study of the amounts spent on food since 1990, and shows that the gap between the poorest households and the richest has grown to the point where nowadays the biggest spenders splash out twice as much as the poorest.

The paper also has a calculator where readers can work out how their own household food budget differs from the norm. For reference, a two-adult, two-child family spends an average of 140.70 euros per week on food and (alcohol-free) drink.

The paper notes that the consumer research centre has calculated that a single, 45-year-old man living alone needs a food budget of 310 euros a month to eat a healthy and varied diet. The current food budget in the income support payment is 238 euros out of a total basic payment of 486 euros.

According to the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), pensioners are the only demographic group in which even the poorest get enough money to eat a balanced and nutritious diet. For everyone else, the basic benefit payments cover about 70 percent of what they need to eat healthily.

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