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Monday's papers: Defense tax, Finns wary of Trump, cheaper motoring, fake lawyer

The daily Helsingin Sanomat was the source of what is probably the most widely reported domestic item in Monday's Finnish newspaper press. The paper says that political party leaders had a closed-door meeting in late December to discuss plans for financing new naval vessels and a fleet of new fighter aircraft that could include a special, temporary defense tax.

Daily newspapers.
Image: E.D.Hawkins / Yle

According to Helsingin Sanomat, Prime Minister Juha Sipilä called a meeting just a few days before Christmas bringing together the heads of all eight of nation's political parties, including the opposition, to discuss upcoming defense spending. All were in attendance, with the exception of Finns Party chair Timo Soini who was represented by the party's parliamentary group leader Sampo Terho.

The Finnish Navy has been making initial preparations to acquire four new warships with a price tag of 1.2 billion euros. The base cost estimate for replacing Finland's aging F-18 fighters is between 7 and 10 billion.

A decision in principle on these purchases is expected soon. A final decision will be up to the next cabinet, but the present government is likely to make decisions on financing these projects as a part of this spring's public spending plan.

According to Helsingin Sanomat, party leaders agree on the need for the new military equipment, but not on how much is needed or how much should be spent. One other thing is that party leaders want to keep funding for these military acquisitions separate from the regular state budget in order to avoid any more austerity measures.

The EU's Stability and Growth Pact sets limits on how much debt the state can take on. The paper says that the Ministry of Finance is looking at three ways to work around this. One is to seek an exception from the EU rules. Another would be to classify the spending as non-budgetary, regardless of what the EU says. The third would be to take on debt outside normal budget channels and schedule repayment over several decades.

Rather than borrowing, one alternative reportedly put forth would supplement loans with revenues from a "defense tax" which could bring in 500 million euros a year over a ten year period. Defense bonds could also be used to raise money.

Although the discussions were confidential, Left Alliance chair Li Andersson confirmed that the meeting discussed military acquisitions and that there was agreement among party leaders financing should not be allowed to decrease spending on basic social security or education.

Trump fears

Tampere's Aamulehti was among the papers carrying a Lännen Media poll which shows that one out of three Finns believes that the Donald Trump's presidency will bring more wars and crises to the world stage.

Carried out by the pollster Taloustutkimus, the survey found that only 6% of those interviewed expect a reduction in international conflicts once Trump is in the White House.

Half believe that the number of conflicts will remain unchanged. 60% of women and 34% of men said that they fear Trump's rise to power.

Donald Trump's announced intention to cooperate with Russia and Vladimir Putin received a mixed response in the Lännen Media poll: 45% considered this a positive development while 40% considered it worrying.

Less expensive motoring?

The Kuopio-based Savon Sanomat picked up on a weekend interview in the business publication Kauppalehti with Transport and Communications Minister Anne Berner in which she indicated that costs for motorists will fall next year.

At present, motorists pay a bundle of taxes including taxes on fuel, vehicle purchases and engine ratings. Next year, says Berner, some of those revenues will be replaced by road taxes imposed on commercial transport.

In addition, as of next year it will be possible for Finland to acquire financing for road infrastructure from the EU's Nordic Investment Bank and the European Investment Bank.

Berner stated that the issue is well advanced and that details will be forthcoming later this month. In any cases, she said, in general  the cost of  motoring will be coming down.

Day in court

The newsstand tabloid Ilta-Sanomat devoted most of its front page of its early edition to a rare case of fraud.

A 59 year-old man in southern Finland will possibly be facing up to three years in prison for practicing law without the proper credentials.

According to prosecutors, the man represented clients in court in both civil and criminal cases between 2011 and 2014, claiming to be a lawyer, even though he was not. He appeared in court as a lawyer in Helsinki, Vantaa, Turku and Kotka.

According to Ilta-Sanomat, the accused claims that he didn't know he was doing anything wrong.

When questioned by police, the man said that he had a law degree from Russia that he believed was recognized in Finland. "I never even considered that I was in the wrong," he told the authorities.

The accused is also attempting to shift some of the blame onto the internet service that created a website for his business, saying that he never claimed to be a lawyer, but that the page creator just put the title there without asking.

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