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Wednesday's papers: Hushing govt failure, election issues, Norwegian raiders

Morning papers have news of delayed publication of a report criticising the Sipilä government’s handling of health and social care reforms.

Ennakkoäänestyspaikan kyltti
Notice identifying an advance voting station. Image: Perttu Ruokangas / Yle

The tabloid Ilta-Sanomat carries a summary of a feature by its sister publication, Helsingin Sanomat, saying that the government has held back a report on the reasons for the failure of the "sote" social and health care reform package that led to the Sipilä cabinet's resignation.

A draft of the report accessed by HS was commissioned by the prime minister's office and drawn up by a group of consultants and Emeritus Professor of Legislative Studies Jyrki Tala. It largely attributes the failure to complete the reform on political wrangling and an overly-optimistic deadline for implementation.

The main reason cited was a deal made between the Centre Party and the National Coalition Party. Under that compromise, the Centre got through its plan to shift responsibility for services to 18 elected regional authorities, while the National Coalition Party pushed through its concept of allowing freedom of choice in selecting public or private service providers.

Publication of the report has been delayed until after this coming weekend's parliamentary elections. According to Päivi Nerg, who coordinated the government's reform project, publication was put off because of a lack of time to carry out a thorough review of the report.

Advance voting ends

Advance voting in Finland's parliamentary elections ended Tuesday evening. Many papers, including Iltalehti reported that a good 1.5 million Finns cast advance votes.

That works out as 36 percent of eligible voters. It was even higher in several parts of the country. In the capital, Helsinki, advance voter turnout was 34.8 percent.

Nationwide, in the 2015 parliamentary elections, the figure stood at 32.3 percent.

The highest turnout was on Monday and Tuesday. Iltalehti reports that there were such long queues at some polling stations that many people turned away without casting their votes.

Elections for parliament are being held this coming Sunday, April 14.

National interest

Election campaigns are lacking in debate about international policies, according to an expert interview in Turku's Turun Sanomat.

Mika Aaltola, the director of the global security research programme at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, told the paper that present and future geopolitical issues affecting Finland are not being discussed by candidates.

By this, he does not necessarily mean international armed conflicts, but rather the battle among great powers for control in the global economy of such things as energy, finance and communications.

Aaltola called on Finland's decision-makers to wake up to the fact that they should be promoting national interests.

"The world is not full of pleasant things. Democracy is being challenged. We have special interests. These should be brought into focus with an eye to asserting them," says Aaltola.

He presented the view that part of promoting those interests for Finland is having as much room for maneuvering as possible. According to Aaltola, in this respect Finland has done well, possible better than at any time in its history. He gave credit to President Sauli Niinistö for his work in making it so.

Aaltola added that in practice this "room for maneuvering" means that Finland maintains the best possible relations with Russia while at the same time keeping open the option of joining Nato. Economically, it is in Finland's interest to keep trade as free and stable as possible.

Norwegian buying spree

Helsingin Sanomat looks at an announcement Tuesday by the Norwegian telecoms firm Telenor that it is buying 54 percent of Finnish telecoms company DNA.

"And again one piece of Finnish business gets transferred to the Norwegians," HS writes.

The paper points to an old russophobic saying that loosely translates as "A cossack will take anything not nailed down", and gives it a new twist applied to Norwegian companies, saying that "A Viking will take anything not nailed down".

Following a listing of some other major corporate purchases by Norwegian firms in Finland, the paper continues, "Finns also spend nights in Norwegian-owned hotels, enrich their fields with Norwegian fertilizer, take their children to Norwegian-owned daycare centres, protect themselves with Norwegian security services, and pull on Norwegian underpants and tights".

As critical as that may sound, HS goes on to note that about a fifth of the volume of business in Finland is generated by foreign firms. By international standards, this is not a particularly high percentage.

"And so, Finland has not been drained by foreign investors," it states.

In fact, writes Helsingin Sanomat, Finnish companies are more active abroad than are foreign companies in Finland. Figures show that Finnish companies invest more abroad than foreign companies invest here.

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