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Poll: Most back delay in fighter jets, other major public purchases

Government supporters back delaying public acquisitions, increasing taxes and debt and boosting work-based immigration.

Hornetit ylilento.
Finnish Air Force Hornet fighter jets in a fly-over during a Defence Forces parade in Kuopio. The current fleet will reach the end of its effective lifespan in the mid-2020s. Image: Toni Pitkänen / Yle

With the Finnish economy experiencing a sharp plunge this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, a majority of residents surveyed say that big-ticket public spending ventures such as a new fleet of Air Force jets should be postponed.

In a poll published on Saturday by the independent Foundation for Municipal Development (Kaks), 54 percent of respondents said that such acquisitions should be postponed and cut back, while 53 percent agreed that the planned fighter jet purchases should be pushed back by several years.

New planes could cost over €10bn

At present, the government plans to make a decision next year to buy 64 jets to replace Finland's ageing fleet of Hornet fighter planes. The aim is to commission the new fleet between 2025 and 2030 at a estimated cost of 7-10 billion euros, excluding lifetime costs.

Support for delaying or scaling back large public acquisitions was relatively constant across all respondent groups and supporters of all political parties.

Respondents were asked whether they would actively support or at least accept a dozen possible measures to help stabilise and adapt the economy to the crisis. A majority of respondents said they would at least accept all 12.

Support for more work-based immigration

Besides putting off and/or limiting big public purchases, the measures garnering the most support were increasing companies' rights to agree on labour contracts locally rather than nationally, cutting corporate subsidies and advancing work-based immigration. More than seven out of 10 people said they would accept these moves.

Meanwhile opponents outnumbered supporters when it came to raising fees for public services, taking on more public debt, raising taxes, limiting tax deductions and selling off public property. However a clear majority would accept these, even if reluctantly.

The proposed steps with the least support were raising the pension age (now 65 for occupational pensions), making it more difficult to retire, trimming social and unemployment benefits and cutting welfare services.

Opposition supporters prefer to cut spending, government backers would raise taxes

Supporters of the five parties in the centre-left government were more likely to back postponing major public acquisitions, raising taxes, facilitating labour-based immigration and taking on more debt.

Backers of opposition parties such as the Finns Party and the conservative National Coalition Party tended to prefer cuts in benefits and services, and to allow locally-agreed labour contracts.

Younger respondents were more likely to approve a delay in jet purchases and making it more difficult to retire, while opposing cuts to services.

The survey was carried out by independent polling organisation Kantar TNS Oy. Just over 1,000 people aged 18-79 were interviewed between 30 May and 4 June.6 2020. The pollster says that sample is representative of the adult population of mainland Finland, and estimates the margin of error at just under three percentage points.

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