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Monday’s papers: Lobbyists, voter apathy and over-indebted households

Debate erupts over the role of lobbyists in Finnish politics, voters run out of steam and the Bank of Finland says households carry too much debt.

Mies salkun kanssa menossa eduskuntaan.
Image: Esko Jämsä / AOP

National Coalition MPs Sanni Grahn-Laasonen and Juhana Vartiainen fired back against criticism from Helsinki University communications professor Anu Kantola that the current government formation talks are the first time lobbyists have been excluded from government banquet hall Smolna, where negotiations are underway, reports online paper Uusi Suomi.

Grahn-Laasonen, said former PM Juha Sipilä barred lobbyists in 2015, but Kantola said that while some efforts were made to limit lobbyists four years ago, the interests of private healthcare companies with a stake in new social and healthcare reforms (‘sote’) featured prominently in subsequent government policy, an accusation Grahn-Laasonen and Vartiainen vehemently denied.

Last week, Social Democratic Party chair and government coalition manager Antti Rinne rebuffed claims that lobby group representatives will have an instrumental role in the creation of the next government.

Voter apathy

With less than two weeks to go to the European election on 26 May, business daily Kauppalehti’s leader says voter enthusiasm for the poll is low.

KL says Finns have voter fatigue after last month’s general elections. Residents are now more interested in seeing how the new government shapes up than considering intangible EU issues. Just 39.1 percent of Finns cast their vote in the previous European parliament contest five years ago.

Climate is a central theme in the European elections, a fact that KL says may encourage a higher youth voter turnout.

Households getting deeper into debt

Helsingin Sanomat’s leader picks up on the Bank of Finland’s concern that Finnish households have become too indebted, partly because of the illusion housing company loans provide. The central banks say housing company loans have grown at an annual rate of 10 percent in the past decade.

Today many new apartments in Finland's bigger cities can be purchased with a modest upfront payment that represents just a small portion of the home's nominal value. The bulk of the sale price then becomes a loan paid back to the housing company over time.

The central bank wants to see limits on the total amount of debt available to households. In the past 20 years, Finnish households’ debt-to-income ratio has roughly doubled to 127 percent--a figure that is, however, still relatively low compared to the other Nordics.

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