Report on disappointing Sustainability Workshop here in Helsinki, organized by SITRA, the Finnish Innovation Fund

The Nordic countries, more than other OECD countries, are suffering from an internal hangover from the 2007 financial crisis. Prior to the crisis we had given birth to giant welfare states that politicians and their parties are only too pleased to expand with “other peoples’ money”. However, the crisis came, unemployment spiked and production fell like a stone, and these same politicians froze in the headlights, scared of cutting back, because they will not get re-elected. Yes, they enjoy the soft life of ministerial cars and legislating with other people’s money, and perhaps have come to believe that they and their children have the right to everlasting jobs in government, again at taxpayers’ expense.

And what can taxpayers do now that the baby boomers are entering their golden years? They are not really inclined to see cuts in services or higher taxes, even if they know that the government budget is well over in the red.

Then we have this sustainability crowd, who like to talk about working less, the coming of robots, AI and universal income. They like to say that GDP is not the right measure. They see work as it is today needs to change and that we must start sharing cars and ride bikes, grow vegetables on our roofs and balconies, and stop producing electricity with coal. They see cities and digital technology as our savior, and that we need “so much” to support all those who lose their jobs and others who cannot find jobs. At this point, they also talk about the need to have all-inclusive discussions about how we are going to handle the future. How we must help the billions in India, China and Africa…

It is as if we alone can make a difference, and that that we somehow have sufficient resources to help the world, when it is all we can do to manage to ensure basic security and welfare of our own people.

The sustainability folk seem to forget that nobody handed out money and advice to Finland 50 to 60 years ago, when we were almost crushed by the allies and the Russians. Nobody poured money into Finland to build export industries, agriculture, commerce; nobody told us how to organize our schools or healthcare, so we had world-class education and good healthcare now.

And step back from the global view – Helsinki, and a few other cities, have been subsidizing the countryside in Finland for decades so they have excellent services, as we do in the city. The Center Party, like all milk farmers, have been busy milking the urban areas for money to pay for costly services for the few. The cities have not complained, but now they are, because you should not be allowed to have your cake and eat it, which is the demand made by the Center Party for the implementation of the Healthcare Reform and 18 Counties Reform. The Center Party knows or should know that there will be no savings from these reforms, just the risk of huge costs. In similar fashion, the Conservative Party knows or should know that healthcare costs will not be lower with healthcare privatization. Sufficient tax revenues are not being generated to cover these future costs for these 2 “reforms”.

Economic growth and economic dynamics do not work the same way in the countryside like they do in urban areas. When there is a long economic downturn, like today, Finland cannot afford to maintain the same level of support for less populated, far-flung small towns and villages. The municipal system needs to be reformed with far fewer municipalities. And that means less financial support with the realization that if people want to live far away from urban centers then they cannot expect to receive equality in receiving the basic services.

But what are our politician doing about sustainability? They are running scared and putting their heads in the sand and trying to ignore the fact that we just cannot afford to do the same for everybody because there is a clear limit on who can pay for all this in a globalized world.

Finland, like the other Nordic countries, cannot be the social insurance office for the rest of the world, nor can the urban areas of our small countries keep on supporting the poorer empty areas of the country when money is tight.

Finally, sustainable policies have first and foremost an economic meaning and secondly a social content. Both are important but with the above proviso. If you cannot afford to keep a big house then you must accept to live more frugally. Naturally your education and healthcare are a top priority, as is keeping the country clean.

Talking about this at the top of your voices is a cost free way of trying to persuade the rest of the world above this imperative for saving the globe from the clear and imminent dangers of climate change.

Read other news on the city site of Helsinki.
Finland Finnish Innovation Investment Nordic Politics
If you notice an error, highlight the text you want and press Ctrl + Enter to report it to the editor
I recommend
No recommendations yet


Post your comment to communicate and discuss this article.

The coach of a sports club in Hyvinkää, southern Finland has been remanded into police custody on suspicion of sexual abuse of minors he was coaching, the Itä-Uusimaa police department said on Thursday. Officials said that they are investigating the case as suspected child abuse but did not disclose the ages of the alleged victims. The suspect in the case, a 50-year-old man, was remanded into custody on Wednesday. The suspected sexual abuse is believed to...
Finns increasingly forego do-it-yourself construction of prefab elements in favour of completely completed homes. Turnkey homes (where homes are fully finished and owners can immediately occupy them) have become more popular than traditional house packages, says the Finnish Association for Manufacturers of Prefabricated Houses. “About 7,500 detached homes are built in Finland every year, and about 70 percent of them are prefabricated houses of some kind,”...
THE FESTIVE ATMOSPHERE in the Helsinki neighbourhood of Arabianranta was visibly subdued on Tuesday, as residents mourned the death of a local child who is believed to have been murdered. While little information has been released to the public, it is known that the victim was murdered near their home on the night of Christmas Eve (December 24). The police apprehended a suspect at the scene of the crime, who has been confirmed as a 36-year old male. Whethe...
One of Finland’s most famous seafaring vessels, the titanic icebreaker Otso, was deployed on its first mission of the winter season last night, keeping sea routes open for the 22nd year in a row. Late in the evening of Christmas Day, Otso, the crowning glory of Arctia Oy’s extensive fleet, departed from Helsinki’s Katajanokka Harbour, heading north to the Bay of Bothnia. The 7000-ton Polar icebreaker has been tasked with keeping waterways open between Oulu...
Eight Finnish political parties have published their a statement on future climate policy goals in Finland. Prime Minister Juha Sipilä (Centre) in November invited all nine parliamentary parties to join a task force established to find an agreement on new, more ambitious climate goals for Finland. The one-month project was led by Kimmo Tiilikainen (Centre), the Minister of the Environment, Energy and Housing. The Finns Party abandoned the task force last w...
A 25-year-old man suspected of the sexual abuse of a girl under the age of 15 in Oulu, northwestern Finland, who was arrested in Germany last Tuesday is now reported to be at large. According to law enforcement officials in Oulu, the suspect was released by German police before he could be transferred to Finnish custody due to "a breakdown in communication between authorities". Oulu District Court ordered the suspect to be reprimanded into custody in absen...
Finland’s high earners saw their real income grow more in 2017 than their peers in middle and low income groups, according to new data released by Statistics Finland on Tuesday. Incomes among the country’s highest income decile rose by 4.4 percent in 2017 compared to 2016, while the year-on-year increase was 1.3 percent for middle income earners. Incomes for the four lowest income deciles meanwhile grew by 1.2 percent over the one-year period. However amon...
A man wanted in connection with a suspected arson attempt on a home in Helsinki’s Käpylä district was remanded into police custody on Sunday. The Helsinki district court has remanded a man suspected of attempted arson and attempted murder into police custody, ending a short-lived manhunt, police said on Sunday. The 25 year-old is suspected of using a Molotov cocktail to cause a fire at a flat in Käpylä, Helsinki last Monday. The apartment was completely de...
Helsinki Central Library Oodi will opened its doors to the public on 5 December at 8am, a day before Finland’s 101st birthday. Designed by ALA Architects, this library of a new era is an ode to Finnish culture, equality and freedom of expression. Oodi offers everyone an open, public urban space at Kansalaistori Square, right opposite Parliament House. Central Library Oodi is an active and functional meeting point with 2.5 million expected annual visitors....