The Government Platform Analysed: Carrot For Digital Startups, Stick For Students

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The government negotiator, Juha Sipilä, explaining the social contract at the Government Banquet Hall in Helsinki, Finland on May 27 2015. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

The government platform of somewhat 50 pages, released last week, states that immigrants strengthen the innovation capabilities of Finland.

The report identifies the beauty of other cultures and acknowledges that the cultural differences, which expats bring to the country, strengthen the Finnish society.

“The government advances work related immigration to Finland which strengthens the employment and the public economy,” the report says.

The government also encourages open discussion about immigration politics. Racism is not tolerated.

The government is also conducting an independent report about the costs of immigration and its effects on the society. The aim here is to create discussion based on facts, which can later be used in improving decision-making related to immigration.

Finland keeps its gates open for somewhat 750 refugees a year, a number corresponding with the past few years. However, the platform states that the cooperation between municipalities is increased, which could mean that municipalities might be more “eager” to receive refugees.

A contradicting decision was to start implementing study fees for students arriving outside the EU and EEA regions. The government proposal was issued last autumn and was left to the new government to decide, whether to implement fees. According to student unions, the fees are a bad idea and will possibly ruin the reputation of Finland as an attractive country for a foreigner to study (this happened to Sweden and Denmark).

The fees will nevertheless be implemented earliest in autumn 2016 and latest the following year. The cost is left for the schools to decide.

All the aforementioned procedures are parts in the ambitious goal of the government: making Finland free from living on debt by 2021.

The government has decided to accomplish this without raising taxes. Instead, the effect is felt on those receiving social benefits. Cuts are made here and there – a total sum of 4 billion euros.

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Timo Soini (Finns) and Alexander Stubb (NCP) discussing of the final agreements and details. Juha Sipilä (Centre) did not join the additional negotiations. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

The cuts are, of course, targeted according to the political thought-process and the ideology of the party leaders: Sipilä from the Centre, Stubb from the National Coalition party and Soini from the Finns; a coalition of far- right.

In addition, Sipilä has a long history leading a multi million company, so he is no virgin in making hard decisions.

The most brutal form of his “toughness” is reflected on the way he approached the labour unions. If the unions won’t comply with a social contract, created by the government negotiators, the government will lay additional cuts of 1.5 billion euros and the wound is not for the eyes of the children . . . In a matter of fact the children are one of the targets: the appendix of complimentary procedures lists cuts in child benefits, additional cuts in student aid and unemployment benefits – and the list goes on.

Sipilä is now trying the harder approach after he failed in the negotiations with the unions in April. Then he, for example, proposed to extend the working time for Finns by 100 hours yearly. This would have amounted to two and a half weeks extra work. Unpaid, of course.

Many politicians were quick to condemn Sipilä’s ultimatum. The former foreign minister, Erkki Tuomioja (SDP), called the move “outrageous”. Paavo Arhinmäki, the chair of the Left alliance, compared the procedure with a “Sicilian deal”, referring to the way of the mafia.

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Hundreds of students demonstrating against the cuts in education at the Senate Square on Friday. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

“Disappointment, disappointment, disappointment!” the screams echoed across the Northern Esplanade while members of student unions tore pictures of the government negotiators in front of the Government Banquet Hall, after the negotiations were concluded on Wednesday afternoon.

People were quick to dig up old pictures from Twitter under the hashtag #koulutuslupaus taken during the election campaign. Sipilä and Stubb pose with a banner saying “We will not cut from the education.”

On Friday, Sipilä, who had now been officially elected as the prime minister, said at the press conference that while he was posing with the banner he shouted: “Let’s renew the education!” Unfortunately, the renewal meant that the student aid will be cut for 150 million euros and the total cuts from the education reach up to about 600 million euros.

It became clear at the press conference that Sipilä, Stubb and Soini believe that they are doing the right thing. They said that Finland would be a better place for a student after the four years, under the rule of the new government. But this requires an attitude change. For the student. “Finland needs an innovative and creative study culture,” Stubb said. “And it will have to be done with less money.”

An hour later, students gathered for another demonstration. This time hundreds protested against the cuts in education, and they marched in the rain to the Ministry of Education and Culture in Kruununhaka and occupied the street in front of the ministry holding banners stating that “We already hate the new government” and “You can stick your innovations up your ass!”

While studying the government platform it becomes obvious that the entrepreneurs are favoured here over the salary man or woman or the unemployed or anybody receiving social benefits of any kind.

The platform clearly states that the government believes it’s the entrepreneurs that will lift Finland from the rotten economy so they, for example, are going to receive tax reliefs. The government downright demands reforms in digital entrepreneurship, including the digitalisation of services.

Luckily, we have a growing, enthusiastic startup culture growing in Finland where innovations are becoming the norm.

And they are far from willing to stick their innovations up their asses.

 

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