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IT IS not quite as bad as a dystopian novel, but it doesn't look good. The Bank of Finland's latest economic outlook is notable for its grim bleakness. Yet at the heart of terrible projections is the opportunity for a rebirth for the Finnish economy.

TO START with the dark predictions: the central bankers see the recession continuing throughout 2015, with slow growth only returning in 2016. They believe our long-term growth after inflation will be 1%, and as our population is growing at about 0.5% that means our per capita growth will only be half of one percent. Capital investment will be low, foreign trade will be weak and household purchasing power will not improve.

UNEMPLOYMENT will officially remain about the same, but only because "there is a constant stream of people leaving the labour market who have abandoned searching for work due to the negative labour market situation." The general government deficit will be worse for 2014, and the austerity measures won't improve the situation like we had expected. Our debt will reach 64% of GDP, breaking the rules of the EU Stability and Growth Pact. Oh, and the Russian economic situation could only make things worse.

TO DRIVE the final nail in the coffin, the Bank of Finland says that traditional Keynesian fiscal policy stimulus measures won't work. "A counter-cyclical strengthening of domestic demand through fiscal policy measures would simply weaken the balance of the economy," they write. "The measures would probably just feed a rise in prices, undermining competitiveness."

I HAVE a few doubts about their idea of demand-side inflation, but the overall gist of their thinking is clear. The central bank is pessimistic and doesn't believe traditional means to stimulate the economy will work.

...

David J. Cord
(This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

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