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Wednesday’s papers: Budget backlash, minister’s 50K coaching bill, record Alko sales

Finland’s press reports on opposition leaders' reactions to the 5.5bn budget and Kulmuni's coaching bill.

 Katri Kulmun
Finance Minister Katri Kulmuni faced questions over a training invoice. Image: Markku Ulander / Lehtikuva

Finland’s papers were abuzz on Wednesday with opposition party reactions to Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s government announcing a record 5.5-billion euro supplemental budget.

Daily Helsingin Sanomat reported that opposition National Coalition Party (NCP) chair Petteri Orpo took to Twitter to call the supplementary budget a "reckless allocation of money."

"The supplementary budget was supposed to deal with the coronavirus crisis, but it became a reckless distribution of money. Younger generations will have to pay for this waste in higher taxes and growing debt," Orpo wrote on Twitter.

Orpo added that while some of the subsidies presented by the government are necessary for the recovery, some have nothing to do with it.

According to HS's calculations, the supplementary budget will lead to Finland taking on 18.8 billion euros in debt this year.

NCP Party vice-chairman Sanni Grahn-Laasonen also took to Twitter to say the government debt is "frightening", according to tabloid Iltasanomat.

"With first-hand experience of how difficult it is to save on public spending, the thought of billions of debt swarming in front of us raises a lot of fear. Is there no worry about tomorrow - and who will pay for all this?" Grahn-Laasonen asked.

IS reported that while Chair of the Finns Party Jussi Halla-aho did not comment on the matter, vice-chair Riikka Purra made a brief statement on Twitter.

"It really came as no surprise to anyone that a government that does not know how to hold back even during normal times will go all out during exceptional times."

Christian Democratic Party chair Sari Essayah was concerned about the finances of small municipalities.

"We are yet to see employment measures and structural reforms. Smaller municipalities already suffer more from unemployment. The employment criterion should be central to the municipal crisis package, otherwise, it will benefit only large municipalities."

Finance minister’s 50,000 euro training bill

Suomen Kuvalehti reported that finance minister Katri Kulmuni has spent nearly 50,000 euros on the services of communications coach Harri Saukkomaa’s company Tekir since September.

The company has coached Kulmuni in speeches, public appearances, and one-on-one interviews. Kulmuni was often coached by Saukkomaa himself in "sparring" consultations for which he charges 700 euros per hour excluding VAT.

The company invoiced two ministries — the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment and the Ministry of Finance — a total of 47,771 euros including VAT, over six months, according to SK.

SK also detailed the nature of the company’s services offered to Kulmuni. Tekir’s offer document stated that the "exercises train Kulmuni to answer questions that journalists ask people in her position." The services also included techniques that could help her with political debates.

Kulmuni commented on her expensive bill in a direct interview with commercial broadcaster MTV Uutiset.

"A minister has to make a lot of appearances and a lot happens in the public eye, every outing must be successful," Kulmuni explained.

Kulmuni said she had asked the finance ministry if she could get help with training.

"Public appearances make me nervous. I try my best to do a good job, but I needed help in my public skills and I have received it," Kulmuni said in the televised interview.

According to SK, Kulmuni also used Tekir's coaching on December 3, 2019, when former prime minister Antti Rinne resigned after the Centre Party led by Kulmuni expressed a lack of confidence in the prime minister.

Record growth in Alko sales

The coronavirus crisis has contributed to a 10 percent increase in Alko's beverage sales during the first half of the year compared to the previous year, according to a report by tabloid Ilta-Sanomat.

Sales of rosé wines, white wines and red wines have increased the most in percentage terms. However, brewery products, sparkling wines, spirits and non-alcoholic beverages have fared worse than last year.

"Sales at the beginning of the year are affected by Easter and May Day. But the coronavirus situation, reduced foreign travel and the closure of restaurants and bars have all increased sales too," said Alko’s business director Kari Pennanen.

Pennanen estimated that in March-April, the number of visitors was 1.2 per cent higher than usual. Customer interest in Alko's e-commerce and digital services has also increased during this period, he said.

"In April, about 15,000 e-commerce orders were placed. The growth was 110 percent compared to the previous year."

Pennanen told IS that the reopening of restaurants this week will have an impact Alko's sales, but that it is difficult to assess the extent of the effects in advance.

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