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Proposal: Finance ministry's 2019 budget prioritises jobseeker services and education

Finland's Finance ministry proposed to boost funding for some low-income students and for an early education trial to extend care for five-year-olds.

Valtiovarainministeri Petteri Orpo esittelee vuoden 2019 budjettiehdotuksensa.
Finance Minister Petteri Orpo held a press conference on August 8. Image: Jarno Kuusinen / AOP

The Ministry of Finance officially submitted its budget proposal for next year on Thursday. The proposal includes 17.4 billion euros worth of appropriations, 223 million more than in this year's budget.

The ministry says in its press release that "strict spending discipline has been adhered to", saying that expeditures would be lowered by way of consolidation, the end of several key projects and a decline in unemployment benefit spending.

On the other hand, it says that an increase in pension costs, price increases and additional investments have pushed numbers up. In its current state, the proposal is 1.7 billion euros in deficit, the same amount of debt registered in last year's budget.

Employment office gets boost

In terms of improving the country's employment situation, the budget says that 10 million euros will be allocated for extending the right to earnings-related unemployment benefits to family members of entrepreneurs, with another 20 million devoted to "improving incentives to work". An increase of 10.3 million euros will be directed towards Finland's network of TE employment offices to develop jobseeker services.

In education, the ministry proposes a 10 million euro appropriation for lowering day care class sizes and hiring additional day care staff in what it calls "challenging areas" – or areas with lower income or education levels or higher incidences of immigrant families. The ministry says this money will help alleviate inequality.

It also proposes a supplementary learning material benefit to be added to study aid for low-income families with children in upper secondary and vocational education. This new funding would sponsor up to 46 euros a month worth of study-related costs. A pilot project to continue the renewal of Finland's system of vocational universities is also proposed.

No funding for more police

The proposal outlines keeping Finland's police force at current levels (about 7,200 officers, excluding the Finnish Security Intelligence Service). A total of 18 million euros would be devoted to the force's maintenance.

To meet the needs of increasing external border traffic at the Helsinki Airport, the ministry proposes an increase of 1.85 million euros for airport Border Guard operations. Another 10 million extra has also been proposed for the implementation of expanded civilian intelligence, if the Parliament approves legislation in this area in the coming year.

The proposal makes no mention of changes to Finland's agricultural policies or possible added funding for Baltic Sea protection. Finance Minister Petteri Orpo said on Wednesday that decisions on these matters will be discussed in the government budget session, scheduled for August 28 and 29.

The proposal will now circle Finland's other ministries for comment, with negotiations on August 15 and 16. The government hopes to have a final version of the draft proposal for the coming year ready by September 17.

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