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Monday's papers: Easing car sales, gambling problems, work permit delays, and not even close to spring yet

Many of the morning papers reported on a blog post by Minister of Transport Anne Berner suggesting that the government provide a boost to car dealers by offering buyers 100 million euros to subsidize the purchase of new low-emission cars this year.

Autoliike Timosella Joensuussa.
Image: Ismo Pekkarinen / AOP

The announcement last week by Minister of Transport Anne Berner of a plan to privatize state-owned roads and railways, impose user fees for road usage, and eliminate the tax on new cars starting next year brought car sales to a near halt. Buyers have taken a wait-and-see approach, uncertain if it is wise to buy now or hold off until a final decision on the tax proposal is finalized.

Helsingin Sanomat reports that in a blog post Sunday, the transport minister suggested that the problems faced by car dealers could be alleviated by offering a 100 million euro package of subsidies to consumers who buy low-emission vehicles this year.

The transport sector reforms Berner has proposed revolve around setting up a state-owned company that would take over ownership and administration of the nation's roads and highways. On Sunday she wrote that an alternative to government subsidies to car buyers would be a discount on user fees by the road-owning company given to anyone who buys a new car this year.

Berner argued that in the long run anyone now buying a new car will benefit from the elimination of the purchase tax because in future both new and used cars will be less expensive.

Gambling problems

Gambling is a problem for hundreds of thousands of people in Finland, according to a feature report in Monday's Savon Sanomat.

Based on data from 2015, 124,000 people in the country are problem gamblers. According to this paper, when one considers the impact that their problem has on their spouses, children, parents and work communities, a good 800,000 people suffer directly or indirectly from the effects of problem gambling.

Mari Pajula, who represents Peluuri, an organizing providing help to problem gamblers, told Savon Sanomat that these older figures probably don't accurately reflect the scale of the problem today. About half of all the calls for help received by her organization are related to online gambling.

Finland has the highest rate of gambling in Europe and the more gambling there is, the more people there are who develop a problem.

According to Savon Sanomat, while gambling does not become a problem for most people, the number of people who do have a gambling problem is on a steady rise. And, while it continues to be overwhelmingly more common among men, the number of women who have a gambling problem more than doubled between 2011 and 2015. It is most often seen in the 18-24 year age group.

Work permit delays

The Turku-based daily Turun Sanomat reports that there is such a severe backlog in processing work permit applications for the whole of the province of Western Finland that the Pirkanmaa Employment and Economic Development Office (TE office) is right now urging employers who have an immediate need for foreign employees to look among citizens of EU/EEA countries who do not require permits.

Officials say that the delays are the result of major personnel job reassignments last spring at the Pirkanmaa TE office that handles work permit applications for Western Finland. Kristel Stenman-Huuskonen, who heads up the office's service department, told Turun Sanomat that some personnel were shifted to other agencies to deal with asylum seekers.

"Before we could recruit and train new staff, the backlog [of work permit applications] built up. Right now, for example, we are going through applications for next summer's seasonal jobs," she explained.

Spring? Nope, not yet

The weather in large parts of the country over the weekend was bright and sunny and the forecast indicates that by next weekend the thermometer may rise as high as +5C even in Finnish Lapland.

Is this the start of an exceptionally early spring?

No, it's not, writes Tampere's Aamulehti.

This week will continue mostly mild with temperatures moving upwards on Thursday. However, according to FMI Meteorologist Eerik Saarikalle, this should not be taken as a sign of approach spring, and in fact is not all that exceptional.

"Rather than the start of spring, right now we can talk more about variable winter weather. For example, a year ago at this same time it was below zero in the mornings and plus two by the afternoon," Saarikalle pointed out.

Foreca Meteorologist Ilkka Alanko agreed, noting that +5C may sound like a lot right now, but it's nowhere close to a record for January, not even in the top ten.

"Even though the weather feels warm and spring-like, there's a change coming no later than the first week of February, when freezing cold will make a return."

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