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Wednesday's papers: Farmer payday loans, taxi rides for children's rights and church membership

A growing number of farmers taking payday loans, Children's Ombudsman's taxi expenses and waning membership in the Lutheran Church.

Maalaismaisema jossa pari latoa ja vanha talo.
Image: Timo Viitanen / AOP

Some Finnish farmers are resorting to high-interest payday loans to cover their expenses, reports Maaseudun Tulevaisuus. The paper writes that farmers who no longer qualify for traditional bank loans because of their inability to provide collateral are increasingly turning to quick loans to pay for everything from children’s daycare to interest on other loans.

"It is absolutely horrendous. We get new cases every week," says Osmo Autio from Wikli Group that specialises in financial administration of agricultural businesses. According to him, one farmer had taken dozens of quickie loans totaling 40,000 euros. "In the end, he didn’t even remember where he had borrowed money from."

Autio said farmers taking predatory loans to pay for daily expenses is a new trend. "I first came across this phenomenon in the spring."

Some farmers do not know how to deal with collection agencies, which has in part led to an increase in high-interest loans, MT writes.

"Negotiating with a collections agency and combining all the debts and bills into one payment makes sense, because it becomes cheaper to service them," says Maija Kakriainen from the Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners (MTK).

Kakriainen has called for MTK establish a collections agency of its own, which would buy back debts from distressed farmers. "Conditions for paying back these loans would be less harsh than in traditional collections agencies," Kakriainen said.

The financial situation among many Finnish farmers has worsened in recent years due to EU export sanctions against Russia, Russia's system of counter sanctions, falling producer prices and bad harvests.

5,000 euros on taxis

Antti Rinne, chair of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), was not keen to comment on the 5,000 euros that Children’s Ombudsman Tuomas Kurttila has spent on taxis within the past three months, Ilta-Sanomat writes. Kurttila is running for Parliament as an SDP candidate in next year’s general election.

"I’m not familiar with the way he works or manages his time. However, when an MP or an official spends taxpayers' money for such matters, it’s important to play by the rules," Rinne said. SDP Party Secretary Antton Rönnholm has had conversations with Kurttila about the matter, Rinne added.

Kurttila came under fire last week after Uutissuomalainen reported he had spent 5,170 euros on cab rides between September and November. He had, for example, spent 600 euros on a taxi to travel from Oulu to Jyväskylä - a distance of 340 km.

Kurttila said his frequent use of taxis was based on time savings concerns, workplace well-being and the conversations he has with taxi drivers.

Children's Ombudsman monitors the welfare of Finnish children and youth and tries to influence politicians to make decisions that benefit children.

Church numbers down

Meanwhile, daily Karjalainen reports that the membership in Finland’s Evangelical Lutheran Church keeps falling dramatically. According to preliminary figures from the Church, membership fell by about 47,000 people during this year.

According to Karjalainen, the reasons for the drastic drop are twofold. First, more people leave the religious community than join it. Second, the number of church members dying exceeds the number of those christened into the faith.

In all, 70 percent of the Finnish population belong to the Lutheran Church, a significant fall from 2000, when 85 percent of people were members.

Alongside with the Finnish Orthodox Church, the Evangelical church has a legal position as a national church and the right to collect a tax from its members.

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