The Government has already agreed to reduce public spending by two billion euros, reminds Antti Rinne (SDP), the Minister of Finance.“Rather cruel cuts,” Antti Rinne (SDP), the Minister of Finance, estimated at a meeting of the Confederation of Salaried Employees (STTK) on Wednesday, after being asked to comment on the three billion euro cuts in public spending demanded by the Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK).

The proposed cuts, Rinne reminded, would add to the cuts of two billion euros already agreed upon by the Government.

“Is there a list of [areas] where we could cut more? EK fails to make a single concrete proposal. We'll need elderly services, health care and the police also in the future,” Rinne argued.

The Minister of Finance also commented on the income tax cuts of four billion euros demanded by EK by emphasising that if there is leeway for cuts the cuts should be extended only to low and middle-income households as “tax revenue is needed to guarantee the availability of services”.

Rinne in his speech rejected allegations that the Governments of Jyrki Katainen (NCP) and Alexander Stubb (NCP) have been idle.

On the other hand, he conceded that the Government has achieved too little: it is set to fall well short of its employment goal and has failed to develop municipal structures. He also questioned the rationale behind some of the austerity measures introduced.

STTK representatives, in turn, asked the Minister of Finance to explain the rationale behind the decision to cut back on adult education while urging the jobless to re-educate themselves.

Rinne said that he agrees with the objective of STTK to create 150,000—200,000 jobs by the end of the decade.

“There's no silver bullet to promote employment,” he reminded before offering a list of three areas where jobs could be created. Urbanisation, he said, requires high-rise buildings with lifts and designs, water shortage the development of the sewer system and climate change measures to reduce greenhouse emissions.

“There is still hope for this country,” he stressed in an attempt to deny claims of apathy.

In addition, Rinne suggested that a political contract to promote the efforts to find a wage settlement that encourages competitiveness should be sought. “I hope that the trust between the Government and labour market organisations is maintained,” he said.

Marjukka Liiten – HS
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Sami Kero / HS