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Thursday's papers: MPs' parachute pensions, food bank changes and house prices in Helsinki

Papers on Thursday include stories on plans to stop generous pensions for ex-MPs, changes to bread lines in Helsinki, and a look at cheap flats in the capital.

Vähävaraisten itsenäisyyspäiväjuhlan järjestäjä Heikki Hursti
Heikki Hursti's family have been involved in food distribution for 50 years. Image: Yle / Antti Lähteenmäki

Finland's system of helping ex-MPs adjust to life outside parliament has long been a focus of populist ire. MPs elected before 2011 are eligible for large monthly payments until they reach retirement age, so long as they don't get a new job--and that strikes many citizens as unfair.

On Thursday legislators will discuss proposals to reform this system, which arrive in parliament via a citizens' initiative which gathered the support of some 70,000 people, easily passing the threshold of 50,000 signatures for consideration by parliament.

To mark the occasion Iltalehti publishes a list of the top pension recipients, with their total incomes for 2016 thanks to Finland's open tax data. Some 29 former MPs were receiving the pensions at the end of February, with their average income coming out at 4,200 euros per month.

The top earner was former Agriculture Minister and National Coalition MP Anne Holmlund, who grossed some 115,000 euros in 2016, including capital income.

The end of the bread line?

Iltalehti also reports on plans to change the way food banks operate in Helsinki. The capital's food assistance for the needy has been synonymous with the Hursti family, with lengthy queues outside distribution points in the Kallio and Myllypuro districts.

Making people wait outside in all weathers is not the optimal solution, however, and the city council and other NGOs are proposing new models for food assistance distribution. The goal, according to Matti Helin of the Deaconess Institute, is to foster a sense of community and get people involved in the system themselves.

The Institute is looking at models involving eateries that might sell the food to those who can pay and provide it free to those who can't.

The proposals got a cool welcome from Heikki Hursti, whose family has been arranging food distribution for half a century in Helsinki. He was at the seminar where the new ideas were presented, but left early as he claimed the solutions had been decided in advance.

"It's senseless for people who have never been in a bread queue to decide what's the right way to arrange things," said Hursti, who added that the city might just want the lengthy queues out of sight.

IL reports that any decisions on new arrangements will be made in the autumn.

Train lines lead to cheap property

Helsingin Sanomat returns to an old favourite on Thursday, taking a look at the capital's property market. According to an analysis by a real estate agent, journey times to some of the regions outlying districts are actually quite short, thanks to the city's efficient commuter rail network.

According to the HS calculations Eira, a fairly central coastal neighbourhood, is 24 minutes from the declared centre of town, close to the Forum shopping centre. Malminkartano, a suburb 10km north of the centre, is just 19 minutes from the same spot.

The message is obviously that some of the further-flung districts are not really as far away as people think, and might offer some bargains. But it remains to be seen whether apartment buyers in the capital take that message on board.

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