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Thursday's papers: Helsinki rebellion, trade war and football postponements

Newspapers cover social and healthcare reform, trade wars and problems in the schedule for Finnish football clubs.

Kupittaan jalkapallostadion.
Image: Yle Kalle Talonen

Finland's attempt to reform social and health care services (known to many as 'sote') is heading to a vote in parliament, and Helsinki is not happy. Specifically Mayor Jan Vapaavuori is not happy, and Thursday's papers are full of the council meeting held on Wednesday evening to approve the municipality's negative stance on the reform, which expands private providers' share of healthcare and creates 18 new regional governments to oversee it.

The problem, according to the council's board, is that the reform will not help slow rising healthcare costs and that it transfers funding from the Helsinki region to the rest of the country. Helsingin Sanomat reports that on Wednesday the whole council gathered to express its views, and approved a negative statement by 80 votes to three.

Growing cities like Helsinki and Tampere produce economic benefits for the whole country, according to Vapaavuori.

"The kind of government that disregards that is either stupid or irresponsible or both," said National Coalition politician Vapaavuori in his speech. That speech may not have been greeted warmly by the government, which of course includes Vapaavuori's own National Coalition Party.

National Coalition councillors voted for the critical motion on 'sote', including one MP: Wille Rydman. He told Ilta-Sanomat that he had not yet decided how he would vote in parliament, as the final legislation was not clear yet. With NCP MP Elina Lepomäki having already announced her opposition, there is plenty of time left for rebels to torpedo the government's flagship legislation.

Trade war

The brewing trade war between China and the USA is focusing minds in Finland. As a small economy reliant on trade and exporting industries, the country could be affected by a protectionist turn in global trade policy, and Ilta-Sanomat reports some of those concerns on Thursday.

"The situation is a little concerning, because these tariffs and counter-tariffs have increased and there is no clear indication of how the situation could develop," the paper quotes OP chief economist Reijo Heiskanen as saying.

Heiskanen adds that OP's next economic forecast is due out at the end of May and it may downgrade growth forecasts for Finland. In January the bank had forecast growth of 3.3 percent this year and 2.3 percent next year.

Snowy football

Finland's football season is getting into full swing, with the women's league starting at the end of March and the men's Veikkausliiga getting underway on Saturday. The women have been playing indoors or on artificial pitches, but many of the men's teams are scheduled to play on real grass in outdoor stadia--and winter isn't quite done with Finland.

On Wednesday Veikkausliiga held its annual media day, and the league's chairman Matti Apunen outlined the organisation's stance on postponements. Basically, there won't be any. Iltalehti reports that clubs who fail to get their pitch playable will need to find another venue or lose home advantage.

The goal, according to Apunen, is two-fold: reduce fixture congestion caused by the re-arranged games later in the summer, and to encourage clubs to improve their grounds.

"We have to create pressure on clubs and decision-makers and every stakeholder, to get this sorted out," said Apunen.

The first rash of venue switches could come on 15 April, when among others TPS Turku could be forced to switch their home game against SJK Seinäjoki to SJK's ground some 300km away.

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