Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) attended a question-time debate in the Parliament House in Helsinki on Thursday, 24 November 2022. Marin on Sunday told YLE that the government should scrape together 700 million euros for clearing the backlog in the health care system. (Antti Aimo-Koivisto – Lehtikuva)


PRIME MINISTER Sanna Marin (SDP) on Sunday reiterated a call for allocating 700 million euros for reducing the backlog that built up in health care during the coronavirus pandemic and nursing strikes during her regular interview on YLE Radio Suomi.

Members of the Social Democrats have repeated the proposal twice since it was first aired in early November by Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Krista Kiuru (SDP).

The Finnish government, however, made no agreement on such a budget appropriation in its budget session in September. The funding for dealing with the backlog should therefore be scraped together by cutting other expenses, taking on additional loans or knowingly exceeding the framework for central government spending, outlined Minister of Finance Annika Saarikko (Centre).

There is simply no budgetary leeway, she said to YLE on Sunday.

“It’s unclear where this money would come from. The Social Democrats’ proposal has been repeated on a weekly basis, but now we need to know where the money to reduce the health care backlog will be taken from,” she said.

The Social Democratic Party, she estimated, is well aware that the government has only 350 million euros at its disposal, an appropriation that should suffice to cover all unexpected costs until the end of the electoral term.

The party is not the only to call for increases to the budget draft for next year, though. The Centre has proposed that a package worth 200–400 million euros be put together to support agricultural businesses.

Marin on Sunday assured on YLE Radio Suomi that the government remains able to function despite the divisions exposed by a number of scrapped legislative proposals. A ruling party failing to play by the rules, she gauged, is indicative of the situation within the party rather than the government in general.

“I wouldn’t say it’s chaotic. We have legislative proposals that, to put it bluntly, have been difficult for the Centre,” she said.

Saarikko voiced her puzzlement with the remark.

“The Centre has the right to its own values and views, and they’re just as valuable as others. It looks like there’s some unease also within other parties. Even the prime minister’s party isn’t as popular as the parties leading the polls,” she said.

YLE’s latest poll projects a vote share of 10.9 per cent for the Centre and 18.2 per cent for the Social Democrats. The former would represent an improvement of 0.5 percentage points and the latter a drop of 2.9 points from the parliamentary elections held in 2019.

The National Coalition was by far the most popular party in the poll, receiving the nod of approval from 23.9 per cent of respondents.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT