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Thursday's papers: Sote mess, cold summer, and Airbnb pros and cons

Thursday's newspapers covered the government's mangled health and social care reform, the colder than usual summer, and the positives and negatives of popular apartment rental site Airbnb.

Pääministeri Juha Sipilä tapasi toimittajia Helsingissä 5. heinäkuuta.
Prime Minister Juha Sipilä is determined to force through his 'Sote' reform. Image: Roni Rekomaa / Lehtikuva

On Wednesday the government announced delays to its long-awaited reform of health and social care, thanks to constitutional problems with the proposals on private sector providers gaining a bigger slice of Finland's health care spending, which the government refers to as 'freedom of choice'.

The press is full of sceptical comment on Thursday, particularly of the government's dogged determination to ram through the reform. The choice agenda got slammed by Ilta-Sanomat, particularly the trade-off between the National Coalition's demand that private providers come in and the Centre Party's fervent wish that Finland create 18 provincial governments--six more than the maximum suggested by experts looking to control costs.

"Freedom of choice in a free society is not a bad thing, but the question is the cost of increasing it," read the editorial. "In accepting the Centre Party's demand for regional governments, the NCP bought the Centre's support for for an extreme interpretation of freedom of choice. That was business, not health policy. An ideological objective was disguised as claims of improving health services."

Experts not all radicals

Aamulehti, on the other hand, draws a parallel between the government's rhetoric criticising 'constitution fundamentalists' and the slippery term 'immigration discussion'. That debate has seen human rights advocates labelled radical  extremists, with a mass of 'moderate' people in the middle. This prism has made some racist ideas seem sensible, according to Aamulehti.

In the same way, constitutional fundamentalism has created the idea that Finland's basic law can change and twist with the situation, and basic common sense is a better guide than centuries of legal practice and precedent.

The constitutional problems were known well in advance, with several officials refusing to present a law they knew to have constitutional issues. In the end Tuomas Pöysti, the architect of the reforms, was the official signing off on the law, and he has admitted there was political direction.

He's also, Aamulehti points out, the new Chancellor of Justice charged with examining the constitutionality of all new laws. President Sauli Niinistö rejected one proposed candidate before accepting Pöysti to the post, a decision the opposition has suggested opens a glaring conflict of interest for Pöysti.

Helsingin Sanomat notes that parliament's constitutional law committee heard over 70 experts, and they can't all have been radical leftists. The HS comment piece suggests that the NCP has flopped both politically and practically, failing to win arguments in the media, emerge politically unscathed, or even to get its legislation through.

Not cool

It will not have escaped anyone's attention that Finland is a little cooler than hoped-for right now. HS notes, however, that this is simply a typical summer for Helsinki.

"Exceptional" and "unusual" are meteorological terms, lectures Hesari, and the current cold spell does not fit the bill for either. For weatherpeople to declare conditions exceptional, there has to be a lower than 2.5 percent probability of them occurring. For them to be unusual, the probability has to be between 2.5 and 12.5 percent.

Conditions right now happen roughly once every four years, so we are certainly not at a stage where we have the right to complain.

Ilta-Sanomat chimes in with a 'stop whining' piece listing eleven good things about a cool summer. Highlights include "fewer people drown", "it's nicer to work than when it's hot", "there's less green-blue algae", "queues are shorter" and "there aren't many mosquitos".

Is it worth it? You decide.

Airbnb bonus

Another holiday (or silly) season story concerns Airbnb, which HS reports is difficult to ban from an apartment block. There are around 4,000 Airbnb options in Finland, with the majority in Helsinki. Some of them can annoy the neighbours, with noisy or messy guests prime among the complaints.

Despite the problems, it's difficult for building management to ban Airbnb operations. Finnish apartment blocks are usually run as limited companies, with every flat owner holding a stake in the firm. Changing the building rules to prohibit short term tenants requires the agreement of every shareholder, and not a single building company has succeeded in doing so yet.

Still, on the bright side, Aamulehti has a price comparison showing that Airbnb is the cheapest option for families in Rauma, Tampere and Rovaniemi this summer. Hotels could in some cases be a hundred euros more expensive for a two-night stay.

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