Krista Kiuru (foreground) and Mia Laiho from the Parliament’s Social Affairs and Health Committee outside the committee’s conference room in the Parliament House in Helsinki on Friday, 1 December 2023. The committee yesterday finalised its statements on the government’s social security cuts, after a reportedly chaotic, emotional and acrimonious series of meetings. (Antti Aimo-Koivisto – Lehtikuva)

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THE SOCIAL AFFAIRS and Health Committee of the Finnish parliament has finalised its statements on government proposals to cut unemployment and other social security benefits, tells deputy chairperson Mia Laiho (NCP).

“It took a lot of effort, but we moved forward in a constructive and collaborative way,” Laiho stated to YLE on Monday.

Chairperson Krista Kiuru (SDP) and Laiho had previously accused each other of putting the brakes on the committee work by presenting an endless stream of amendment proposals. Laiho and three other ruling-party members, for example, published a joint press release last weekend to express their concern about the activities and procedures of the committee, targeting most of the criticism at Kiuru.

Kiuru, in turn, argued that the “unforgettable and historic cuts” presented by the government are so dramatic that their potential impacts must be combed through carefully. Other opposition lawmakers also accused the government of trying to conceal the effects of the spending cuts by removing them from the committee statements.

“These cuts will affect people, and people are sore about the effects. Of course they want to know what the effects will mean,” argued Kiuru.

“We aren’t trying to cover up anything. The committee has reviewed the cuts’ effects, and they’ll be discussed also in the statement,” countered Laiho.

The flurry of accusations reflects what was described as a chaotic week for the committee. Helsingin Sanomat on Thursday reported that one of the committee meetings ended in a march-out by ruling-party members, with its sources telling of meetings that had included yelling, accusations, inappropriate comments and crying.

Kiuru on Monday admitted that there had been some disturbances and that she had raised her voice to remind some committee members of the code of conduct. She denied crying or yelling in the meetings, though.

Kim Berg (SDP) has stood up for Kiuru. He estimated in a press release that the criticism from ruling parties is an attempt to steer public attention away from the issue at hand: the social security cuts.

“Behind the ruling parties’ accusations is an apparent desire to shift attention away from their own attempts to conceal the facts so that people would forget how cold policies Orpo’s government is pursuing,” he said.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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