PETTERI ORPO, the chairperson of the National Coalition, has stated that his goal is to reveal the composition of the next government by the end of this month and begin discussions about the government programme in early May.
Orpo made the statement as he commented on the coalition formation process at a press conference in the Parliament House in Helsinki on Wednesday.
He declined to speculate on both the composition of the government and the answers of other parties to his questions, telling reporters that further discussions on the questions are necessary with all parties. Other parties, he said, will have to elaborate on their answers on measures to promote growth and the need, scope and means of fiscal adjustment.
Orpo also pointed to socially and ecologically sustainable development, the energy transition, climate change and biodiversity loss, describing them as “absolutely central questions” for the National Coalition.
Adjusting public finances to the tune of six billion euros remains the key economic objective for the National Coalition, he stated.
“We talk the same before and after the elections. Six plus three is the key issue for the economy,” he said, referring to an estimate that the public economy must be adjusted by six billion euros in the newly started electoral term and by another three billion euros in the next electoral term.
Fiscal adjustment can consist of spending cuts, structural reforms and tax increases.
The health-based taxes on food products with high fat, salt or sugar content promised by the party on the campaign trail, though, have already been scrapped as “ceremonial talk”, according to Timo Heinonen (NCP).
Mika Niemelä, the director of the budget department at the Ministry of Finance, told Helsingin Sanomat on Wednesday that adjusting public finances by six billion euros over a single electoral term will necessitate cuts also in education, social security and social and health care services.
“Over half of the list [of adjustment measures] we presented were savings in education and social welfare. If any of these major expenditure items are ruled outside cuts entirely, it’d create unreasonable pressure to cut from smaller expenditure items. That’s practically an impossible equation – especially if taxation isn’t raised,” he said.
Orpo on Wednesday said the National Coalition is not willing to slash from education. “Similarly to other parties, we’ve announced that education should be under special protection,” he reminded.
Social and health care costs, meanwhile, are inevitably set to increase, but the increase should be moderated by improving productivity. “Things can be done better. That means we should boost productivity in social and health care services so that we don’t have to add quite as much money to them,” he said.
When asked about possible cuts in social security benefits, he reminded that almost 500,000 people are presently unemployed in Finland.
“We want to make sure that there are incentives to work,” he said, pointing to measures such as staggering the earnings-based unemployment allowance and reconsidering index-based increases in social security benefits.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT