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Wednesday's papers: Swedes live longer, interest rate caps, and Berner's exit

Today's print press looks at an EU comparison of "healthy life years", legislation on payday loans, and Anne Berner's decision to not run for re-election.

Kommunikationsminister Anne Berner
Transport minister Anne Berner will not seek re-election this spring. Image: Jarno Kuusinen / AOP

Helsingin Sanomat starts out the day with news of a Eurostat comparison that suggests that Swedes live about 15 years longer than Finns. Among the EU member states (plus Norway, Iceland and Switzerland), Sweden led "the number of years a person is expected to live in a healthy condition at birth" list in 2016 with an age of 73.3 for women and 70.0 for men. Finland's male age of 57 was ranged third from last on the list, ahead of Slovakia and Latvia, and eighth from last for females, at the age of 59.1.

The EU's statistical body calculated that the EU average was estimated at 64.2 years for women and 63.5 years for men. To reach these numbers, it used information relating to "healthy life years" at birth, age 50, and age 65, using mortality statistics and data on self-perceived long-standing activity limitations.

The self-appraisal asked respondents to answer the question: "For at least the past six months, to what extent have you been limited because of a health problem in activities people usually do?" In Finland, one in three reported some kind of problem.

Sweden's results indicate that men and women there live 15 more "healthy life years" than Finland's residents. HS advises its readers, "If you want to stay well and keep functional, it would be a good idea to move to Sweden – or at least that's what the EU member state comparison leads us to believe."

Keeping loan companies in check

The Turku-based newspaper Turun Sanomat reports on ministerial plans to crack down on payday loans in Finland. Justice Minister Antti Häkkinen is concerned that peddlers of easy credit are growing more aggressive in their advertising, using images of dream vacations to sell loans that often have high interest rates.

New companies are also entering the Finnish market at a brisk pace. TS points out one new firm, Aurora Laina that set up shop in January of this year. Its advertisement specifically targets people with a bad credit history, offering those that own their own flat a fast loan of between 1,000 and 6,000 euros with a payback time of 1 to 5 years.

Häkkinen's ministry has put forward a bill to legislate a mandatory cap on interest rates (30 percent) and services fees on loans that would likely come into effect in September, if the Parliament approves it.

The Bank of Finland calculates that Finnish residents owed 660 million euros to payday loan firms in late 2017, up 52 percent from the previous year, TS reports

Transport minister opts to leave Parliament

The Oulu newspaper Kaleva carries an analysis piece this Wednesday on Transport and Communications Minister Anne Berner's announcement that she will not be seeing re-election at the end of the parliamentary term.

The paper reports that the Swedish newspaper Dagens Industri has indicated that Berner may be moving to the board of the SEB Bank in Sweden. Main owner of the Vallila Interior design company, Berner first gained a seat on Arcadia Hill in 2015, winning close to 10,000 votes in the capital city Uusimaa region. Her appointment to a minister's position already during her first term as MP was seen as highly unorthodox.

Kaleva says that Finland wasn't ready for a businesswoman with high-flying ideas as minister. Her ambitious project to reform the country's transport infrastructure and introduce private ownership caused friction, while another proposal to eliminate vehicle taxes and set up a road usage fee never even got off the ground.

Berner has said that both she and her family have had to face intimidation, name-calling and even death threats since she took office. "I've seen a part of Finland or Finns that I never would have wanted to see or confront," she is quoted as saying in her book on leadership that was published last autumn.

Kaleva says that Berner's Centre Party is probably not too happy about yet another MP voluntarily leaving the ranks before the election. Berner has said in the past that some of the worst opposition to her ministerial efforts came from within her own party.

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