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Opposition roasts 2021 budget as "a disappointment"

Opposition parties responded to the unveiling of the government’s 64-billion-euro spending package.

Kokoomuksen puheenjohtaja Petteri Orpo ja perussuomalaisten puheenjohtaja Jussi Halla-aho.
National Coalition Party chair Petteri Orpo. Image: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva

Opposition parties picked apart the government’s freshly-revealed budget for 2021 on Wednesday evening, describing it as "a disappointment" and lacking in concrete measures to achieve its increasingly ambitious employment targets.

Shortly after Sanna Marin and her key ministers presented the 64-billion-euro spending plan, National Coalition Party chair Petteri Orpo said that the package was "a disappointment". He said that with Finland in a position where jobs were being lost and plants shuttered, the government had still not been able to decide on measures to improve the employment situation.

On Wednesday the government said it aimed to agree on strategies to create 31,000 -- 36,000 new jobs by the end of the decade, boosting its overall employment target from 60,000 to 80,000 jobs.

The budget came under the microscope in this week's All Points North podcast. You can listen to the full podcast via the embedded player here or via Yle Areena, Spotify, Apple Podcasts or your usual podcast player.

Audio: Yle News

However Orpo said that the budget talks had produced significantly fewer employment measures than before. He noted that the responsibility for proposals to ensure that older workers would be employed had been offloaded to labour market organisations. He described the government's employment agenda as "gaping emptiness."

"The measures that are there are quite small. However they have come to the conclusion that the activation model will make a comeback. During the previous administration all of these parties were strongly opposed to it," he noted, referring to a planned programme that requires people receiving unemployment benefits to apply or participate in up to four 'job opportunities' every month.

The government proposed spending 70 million euros on beefing up resources and hiring 1,200 new employees at nationwide job centres. Orpo commended the move to hire more workers in this area, but scoffed at the idea that increasing the size of the public sector would help create new jobs.

He said that the private sector is also needed for job creation and he called for action to create confidence in businesses. The NCP chair also criticised government for taking on more debt, adding that there seemed to be no vision for how to rein in state indebtedness.

Finns Party: Difficult decisions deferred to next government

Finns Party chair Jussi Halla-aho said that government appears to be setting increasingly ambitious employment targets, but offered no concrete ways of achieving those goals. He added that difficult decisions are being kicked down the road for the next administration or thrust upon labour market organisations.

"We have emphasised Finland’s competitiveness, especially in the export industries. The government is not advancing this, but is further undermining it," he charged.

The head of the largest opposition party also slammed the government’s decision to increase fuel taxes, a move that he said would discourage people from getting off benefits and finding work.

"Fuel tax increases will affect regular households as well as transport and living, especially outside of large cities."

He applauded the decision to reduce energy taxes, but noted that the emissions trading compensation regime should be continued and increased to the maximum level permitted by the EU to ensure that Finland does not yield any competitive advantage.

Halla-aho also hailed government’s plan to activate public officials to help people find new jobs, but said that the assessment of the impact of the measure was "pulled out of a hat". He added that he did not believe that a plan to increase wage subsidies in the private sector would help stabilise public finances and called for measures to encourage entrepreneurship.

"It is through entrepreneurship that Finland will see the kinds of jobs that will help maintain public finances."

Christian Democrats: Government incapable of necessary decisions

Meanwhile head of the Christian Democratic Party, Sari Essayah, said that the government lacked a comprehensive picture of how to shore up employment and the economy.

She called for actions that would improve the competitiveness of Finnish enterprises and operating environments and would also increase the supply of labour, as well as improve mobility and offer incentives for people to accept jobs.

"There is no use in certain measures creating a certain number of decision-making jobs if at the same time they disappear elsewhere when taxation increases and competitiveness weakens," Essayah said in a statement.

Essayah said that the government’s only significant employment strategy has been resourcing employment services and restoring the activation model. She noted that other decisions in this regard have been outsourced to labour market organisations.

"The employment targets were hiked, but meeting those goals were left to the next government," she concluded.

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