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Monday's papers: Negative income tax, anti-Roma racism, Eurovision cost

Papers tackle an SDP tax proposition, a case of racist service denial and the unknown price of Finland's failed Eurovision bid.

Express kylmäasema Vantaalla.
A Kale Roma family was denied service by a racist teller in Vantaa. Image: Kalevi Rytkölä / Yle

This week in print news begins in Helsingin Sanomat with a piece on the Social Democratic Party and its plans to ease the plight of low-income workers.

The SDP's proposal to introduce a negative income tax is part of its broader taxation package out this week, and one of several campaign programmes introduced by the largest opposition party ahead of the spring 2019 Parliamentary elections.

HS writes that the SDP proposal is intended, in a nutshell, to further incentivise low-income earners to work more. According to the paper, the scheme would in effect represent an extension of the current income tax deduction system. A previous scheme to motivate unemployed jobseekers to find work became law in early 2018 with the much-contested, so-called "activation model", which obligates jobless people to reach certain working-hour, training or entrepreneurial targets or face losing their benefits.

The SDP's model, writes HS, resembles the American system of earned income tax credit and would not affect housing assistance or any other benefits, but it would reduce overall payouts of income support subsidies. The mechanism would also benefit some 100,000 solo entrepreneurs and small businesses, the party promises, as the boost would extend beyond salaried employees.

The model would effectively bring the tax percentage of low income workers (between 3,000 and 14,000 euros per year) into the negative; the HS example is of a worker earning some 8,000 euros annually who would receive minus seven percent tax as a 500-euro rebate. Incomes of under 15,000 euros are not subject to income tax, but to social insurance contributions that have risen from five percent to more than eight percent in a few years.

The SDP's proposition would cost some 41 million euros, which HS says the party claims will go towards creating thousands of new jobs.

Roma customers refused

Regional paper Aamulehti features a comment piece in its morning roundup of an egregious case of ethnic profiling that occurred on Saturday in a Vantaa petrol station. A family of Roma was denied face-to-face service outright as they tried to fill up their tank – and a cell phone video circulated online proves the teller had racist motives, according o the paper.

The Lindeman family stopped for gas on their way from Tampere to Helsinki's Linnanmäki amusement park with their 11-year-old daughter. She was also forced to witness the confrontation Neste station employee, who refused to let the family purchase petrol and other products. Instead the teller ordered the family to use the self-service pump, rather than pay at the till.

When asked by father Tino whether they were being refused because of their ethnicity, the teller replied,"I'm afraid so".

AL interviews Helsinki University researcher Markus Himanen this Monday, who says that anti-Roma racism is deeply ingrained in Finland, and has gone unaddressed for decades or even centuries.

"Prejudices can be lodged deep in a person's mind," the article quotes Himanen. "This was a clear case of illegal discrimination. I'm afraid I was not surprised to hear about the employee's behaviour."

Regional Neste Marketing & Services chief Sam Holmberg said on Saturday that he was appalled by the situation. Drivers of vehicles with foreign license plates are routinely asked to pay at the cashier before fuelling their car; the Lindeman's plates had non-Finnish plates. Himanen says that's not good enough.

"There has to be some special reason and justification, you can't just go around treating people differently because of an assumption. Decision-makers should be developing more ways to counter systemic racism."

Some 10,000 Finnish Kale (a group of Roma who live primarily in Finland and Sweden) live in Finland; their ancestors came from Scotland and England in the 16th century.

Cost of a flop

Finally tabloid Ilta-Sanomat reports on the facts and figures behind Finland's bid for Eurovision 2018, a dream that crumbled on Saturday as Finland scored worse than all but one other country in the extravagant song contest.

The bill for singer Saara Aalto's trip to Lisbon, footed by national broadcaster Yle, is the largest to date according to IS. The paper interviewed creative content director Ville Vilén over the rumoured hundreds of thousands of euros that ended in disappointment for many fans.

"We invested more than usual in Saara's final show, but it's hard to pinpoint the full sums as Eurovision involvement is a year-long commitment and both old and new elements were eventually used in the event," Vilén went on in the article.

So the actual cost of the Eurovision debacle is in fact unknown. IS does cite one instance of a good return on investment, when in 2006 Finnish metal band Lordi's more than 30-thousand-euro pyrotechnics helped bring the theatrical music group first place.

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