Erkki Tuomioja is a Social Democratic Party

MP talk

I agree with those who say there will be no business as usual after the COVID-19 crisis is over. We cannot even know how long it will take for the crisis to abate and when (or even if) an effective and safe vaccine can be taken into use.

The COVID-19 pandemic is stark proof of how we, like it or not, are living in a world characterized by increasing interdependence, in things both good and bad.

This also means that, given the weakness of the international community to respond to the crisis, we are witnessing a strong reaction demanding better national preparedness in every country. This is understandable and indeed all countries have to take effective steps to increase their resilience in crisis situations.

At the same time, strengthening national preparedness is in no way a substitute for the increased international solidarity and cooperation that this crisis calls for. How well this is understood and to what steps it will lead to remain to be seen.

Another vital lesson from this crisis is that our choices and acts as individuals will have consequences, not only for ourselves but for society as a whole and indeed for the entire world. Unfortunately, we cannot rely on all people behaving rationally and with due regard for other people's welfare and safety. Society has to act with legislation, decrees and directives, enacted of course with due regard for democratic and constitutional procedures.

Irresponsible people can be found in responsible positions. It is frightening to see how some heads of state are dealing with the crisis with denial and only their own personal interest as a guide.

In principle, a pandemic like COVID-19 is a great equalizer. The virus does not differentiate between rich and poor, black and white, or good and evil people.

This may be true in principle but not in practice. Even if the virus can infect anyone with the same consequences, it is also true that the poorest and weakest in most societies will bear the heaviest burden. This is evident for example in the US where we see how black and poor people are heavily overrepresented among COVID-19 victims.

Globally, it is the poorest countries where people will suffer the most. The health services in failed states cannot cope with such crises. Rich countries are burning billions to deal with the crisis but only crumbs from their table will reach the poorest countries which have no reserves of their own.

In the rich world, rich people will be just as vulnerable as anyone if the virus strikes, but once infected they will have better access to medicines, nursing, and care. Luckily Finland and the Nordic countries are more equal societies in this respect too. But when it comes to dealing with the economic and social consequences of the crisis, the outlook is not that encouraging.

The unfortunate and ill-conceived way money has been distributed through the Business Finland organization is a warning example. Of course, extending life-support to firms and entrepreneurs is necessary to minimize the economic damage and save jobs. But whether this support really reached those most in need and with the best-intended results is another story.

Moreover, concern for business' survival should not override the concern and responsibility we have for how the poorest and most vulnerable in our society manage the consequences of the crisis.

These are people who have the least possibility to make their voices heard and they rightly fear, that the already spreading talk of large cuts in public expenditure will, once again, mean that their entitlements and life-support will be cut down.

They are also right to be concerned by the call for tax cuts from the Central Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber’s recommendations are an expensive and ineffective way to help economic recovery, but they are tailor-made for restructuring the distribution of income and wealth in favor of the already most advantaged in society.


Erkki Tuomioja

Social Democratic Party MP for Helsinki 

This article was written for MP Talk, a regular column from the Helsinki Times in which Members of Parliament are encouraged to contribute their thoughts and opinions. All opinions voiced are entirely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of the Helsinki Times. 



Adam Oliver Smith - HT (Ed.)