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Tuesday's papers: Marin's moves, Veikkaus verdict and Uusimaa's tourism woes

The state-owned gambling monopoly violated the Procurement Act when acquiring its central gaming system.

tyhjä senaatintori ja tuomiokirkko
Loss of income in tourism and related industries cost the Uusimaa region over one billion euros in the first seven months of the year. Image: Silja Viitala / Yle

Over the last week or so, business leaders and the Prime Minister, Sanna Marin, have been engaged in a robust debate about corporate social responsibility.

Marin says businesses might not be showing enough of it, while business leaders criticise her stance as potentially damaging to the economy.

Helsingin Sanomat has a leader article on Tuesday looking at the debate and arguing that, in the current economy, Marin is in a tight spot.

Finland as a whole has done well out of globalisation, but lower-middle class voters — traditionally the SDP's base — have not.

In a world where capital is free to move, countries that want to tax it have to demonstrate they are a good place to invest via other means, and introduce policies that help out business.

HS says that although business leaders' feelings might be hurt as she hasn't met them as often as previous premiers, Marin has done all of this, spending billions of euros on subsidies for companies hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Her policies have been so pro-business, argues HS, that it might be necessary to remind her voters that she understands their plight — and her rhetoric about job losses might meet that need.

Veikkaus told off

Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority (FCCA) announced on Monday that state-owned gambling monopoly Veikkaus did not comply with Finland’s Procurement Act when acquiring its central gaming system.

Tabloid Iltalehti reported that in 2004, Veikkaus and Cyprus-based gaming system company IGT signed an agreement to develop and acquire the programme. In 2018, the parties changed the operating model, pricing and validity period of the agreement.

According to the FCCA report, the legislation bans such substantial changes without tendering. The authority also said there was also no legal basis for direct procurement.

Veikkaus justified the contract changes stating that there was a need to split and reform the gaming system in a controlled manner, among other reasons.

"The implementation method chosen now did not comply with the Procurement Act," FCCA's special expert Elisa Aalto said in a press release.

This is the first time that FCCA has intervened in public procurement by a state-owned company.

However, FCCA declined to fine Veikkaus, instead giving the company "administrative guidance on compliance with procurement legislation", as it had missed a deadline for fines to be proposed.

"In practice, the deadline means that the agency must find information about the suspected illegal direct procurement within six months of concluding the contract," Max Jansson, FCCA’s research manager for procurement control said.

Uusimaa tourism hit hard

The coronavirus crisis has had some serious consequences for tourism in the Uusimaa region, according to the Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council.

Swedish daily Hufvudstadsbladet reported that direct losses of tourism income between January and July in the region amounted to 735 million euros. If the domino effect on other related industries is included, the loss amounted to over one billion euros, the council said.

During the first half of the year, employment in Uusimaa's tourism industry decreased by 5,200 person-years (the equivalent of a person's working time for a year). Nine out of ten companies have had to lay off employees.

These numbers are according to research conducted for the council by the Travel Research Company TAK.

According to the council, public discussion about the effects of the pandemic and related travel restrictions on the tourism industry have largely been about the situation in Lapland, but Uusimaa is also a major tourist destination in Finland.

"The situation in Lapland is absolutely grave. We do not want to start a shouting match about which area is the worst off, but we hope that decisions on the measures needed to cope with the crisis will be made at a national level," the council’s regional Mayor Ossi Savolainen said in a press release.

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