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Stubb again questioned over misleading statement in Parliament

Finland's finance minister is again in the spotlight over a misstatement to MPs while defending a controversial government initiative.

Stubb eduskunnassa
Roll the tape: Stubb addressing MPs last week. Image: Yle

Finance Minister Alexander Stubb told Parliament last week that the funding proposed by the government to keep the beleaguered Talvivaara mine running would suffice through next summer. In fact it will only be enough to keep operations going until mid-June at the latest. The financing goes to the state-owned Terrafame, which took over the nickel mine last September following a series of environmental disasters, criminal charges and massive debts.

The initial 209 million euros granted to Terrafame last autumn began to run out much sooner than the expected two years, raising the ire of opposition MPs. The coffers are expected to be empty by the end of April.

Last month the government asked Parliament to approve additional funds to keep the mine running and avoid further environmental damage.

"Through the summer"

On March 1, Stubb addressed Parliament, saying that the extra funding requested.

"The solution that we are now the 38 million that will be enough to last through the spring, through the summer," he said.

On Thursday, as Stubb returned to Parliament for more questioning, Yle asked his staff whether some new information had emerged about what period the extra funding would cover.

23mn euros a month – and accelerating

Terrafame itself confirms Yle's calculations that at the current rate of expenditures – about 23 million euros a month – the money will be spent by mid-June at the latest. The company's chair, Lauri Ratia, says that spending will accelerate this spring.

When Yle asked Stubb at Parliament House to comment on his previous week's statement, he said the additional funds would suffice until early summer.

"There must be a mistake in that sequence of words," he replied. "We'll look at the transcript and correct it."

So there was no mistake?

"If there's a mistake in the transcript, we'll correct it. If I've said it wrong, we'll correct it."

The transcript corresponds exactly to what Stubb says on the videotape of his speech.

The government's supplementary budget proposal does not mention how long the funds are expected to last. However it is clear that Parliament will be asked to approve more cash soon.

Stubb misspoke in November

Stubb's misstatement, while seemingly trivial, is the second incident within a few months where he seemed to be providing MPs with inaccurate statements to defend a controversial government initiative.

Last November Stubb was forced to apologise after claiming that a securities depository system reform was supported by 90 percent of experts consulted by the government when in fact 90 percent had rejected the proposal. The plan, which critics argued would have facilitated tax avoidance, was subsequently abandoned.

Stubb became prime minister in mid-2014, but stepped down last summer after less than a year following an electoral defeat.

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