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Wednesday's papers: Jobs for the boys, budget talk and Vantaa daycare complaints

Wednesday's paper review includes news of a political appointment by PM Juha Sipilä, who has previously opposed political appointments to official roles, previews of the budget talks consuming the government and criticism of Vantaa's restrictions on early years education.

Juha Sipilä ja Hannu Takkula
Juha Sipilä and Hannu Takkula. Image: Lehtikuva, Yle

Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipilä's attraction has long been his status as a political outsider, a businessman entering politics to implement logical solutions. He has boosted that image by demanding Finland ends the practice of divvying up juicy official posts among politicians, and simply hiring the most suitable candidate for the job whenever one of these posts opens up.

Therefore every time he does appoint a political comrade to a post with a light schedule and a fat salary, the press likes to point out the contradiction. So it proved on Tuesday when Iltalehti revealed that Sipilä plans to replace Ville Itälä, the Finnish representative at the European Court of Auditors, with a Centre Party MP from Oulu. Sipilä is from Kempele, a dormitory town just outside Oulu's city limits.

Itälä, a former interior minister and National Coalition Party chair, was appointed by NCP colleague and ex-PM Jyrki Katainen, now a European commissioner.

Takkula has no experience of business, much less auditing, besides a short spell on the European Parliament's Committee for International Trade. IL says his most important job outside politics was three years as a primary school teacher, before he moved on to serve as a Centre Party MP and as an MEP. His basic salary at the Court of Auditors will be 21,155 euros, and it will be largely tax free.

Takkula dropped out of the European Parliament in 2014 after failing to get elected, but returned in 2015 when his friend Sipilä appointed MEP Olli Rehn to become Minister for Employment, leaving open the MEP spot he'd just secured. Takkula took that spot as the centre candidate with the next highest number of votes.

Budget blues

The three government parties gather on Wednesday to begin talks on finalising the state budget for 2018, and no big surprises are expected. There will be political horsetrading and compromises, but the Finance Ministry's proposal is expected to go through largely unchanged.

The big outstanding issues are planned changes to the tax code, which could leave high earners better off if not adjusted, reforms and funding for police in the wake of the Turku stabbings.

Helsingin Sanomat chooses to lead with a picture of a newborn baby and the news that even this innocent child has 25,000 euros of debt: that's his share of the money Finland has borrowed.

"This year, too, Finland is borrowing five billion euros more than it is receiving in revenue," scolds the paper.

Vantaa daycare divisions

Lastly this Wednesday we have an editorial from Vantaan Sanomat that was published on Saturday but achieved something of a signal boost in the following days. The topic is daycare, and in particular the way the municipality of Vantaa has implemented changes to the right to daycare legislated by central government.

Those changes mean that children of unemployed parents are not entitled to full-time early years education, with their time in kindergarten limited to 20 hours per week. The implementation of this change has been left to individual municipalities, with some--like Helsinki--refusing to impose limits.

Vantaa, meanwhile, has limited children's rights and according to Vantaan Sanomat that has brought some extraordinary real life consequences. Hungry children have been denied food, for instance, or prevented from napping as their time at daycare is coming to an end.

Now the municipality is targeting an additional one million euros in savings from the early years budget, and one key part of that plan is to put part-time attendees in separate daycare groups--effectively creating groups populated primarily by the children of unemployed parents.

The paper asks which is more important to decision makers: saving a million euros or the equal treatment of children?

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