Finland's Prime Minister Juha Sipilä made his first public appearance after his summer holiday today when he joined his Estonian counterpart Jüri Ratas at the start of a 100-kilometre cycling event to commemorate Estonia's centennial.
Sipilä and Ratas will join in the event's later start on Sunday on a route that will cover 24.2 kilometres.
Sipilä briefly commented on the Finance Ministry's budget proposal at the event. He says the first draft of the proposal for the year 2019, released on Friday, was a good one.
"Decisions on appropriations from last spring's budget talks were included in the plan. Our talks now in August will concentrate more on issues related to taxation," he said, referring to the upcoming government negotiations on the budget scheduled for later this month.
He says the government's greatest task in the looming budget talks will be to promote employment and use the new breathing room the slight economic upturn in Finland has created wisely.
"We have decided to use it for increases to some of the lower-tier benefit payments and guaranteed pension payouts," the premiere said.
Dangling the possibility of tax relief
He says his coalition has unanimously decided not to increase taxation next year, with tax breaks for low and middle income earners one of his Centre Party's top priorities.
Sipilä also says that his government will consider emergency assistance for Finland's farmers, whose harvests have been hit hard by the hot and dry summer.
"I have spoken with the Finance Minister several times [about this]," he said.
He says next year's budget might also contain provisions for the same kind of targeted aid to be extended to Baltic Sea conservation, as the hot summer has clearly raised Finnish residents' concerns about climate change and environmental questions.
"We'll have to look at the final figures and decide on which actions to take once we've established how much room we have to manoeuvre – once the Finance Ministry has completed its final forecast ahead of our budget talks," Sipilä says.