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.

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....
The teacher was convicted for nine incidents of sexual abuse that took place between 2013 and 2017. A teacher at a Swedish-language school in Helsinki was slapped with an 18-month suspended prison sentence for the sexual abuse of students in his charge. The court also ordered the defendant to pay damages amounting to 1,500 euros to one of the complainants and 1,200 euros each to four others. The court found that the offences occurred between 2013 and 2017....
Four projects will focus on resident services, data and AI, infrastructure and enablers and it aims to promote a culture of experimentation. Helsinki is continuing its drive to make the best use of digitalisation with four new projects focused on resident services, data and artificial intelligence, infrastructure and enablers, and a culture of experimentation. The Finnish capital is striving to be the world’s most “functional” city and to achieve its aims...
Police suspect a fire that destroyed a flat in Helsinki Monday night was ignited by a Molotov cocktail thrown through a window. No one was hurt in the incident. Authorities are investigating a case of suspected arson and attempted murder in Helsinki related to a fire that broke out shortly before 8 pm Monday, ravaging an apartment in the city's Käpylä neighbourhood. Police suspect that a burning Molotov cocktail, also known as a petrol bomb, was thrown thr...
The ministry also wants the national communications regulator to determine whether Trafi's other consumer services can be safely restored on Wednesday. The Ministry of Transport and Communications has asked the Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority Ficora, to assess data privacy and security on the web services of the Finnish Transport Safety Agency, Trafi. The request follows a recent public backlash to Trafi's decision to open an online database wh...
Taking a train between Finland and Estonia will be possible by Christmas 2024, says the entrepreneur behind one of two massive tunnel projects being planned. Last week the FinEst Bay Area Helsinki-Tallinn tunnel project received 100 million euros from a Dubai-based construction group ARJ Holding – the first external financing made towards the estimated 15-billion-euro effort. Peter Vesterbacka - a man who made a fortune as a marketing boss at mobile gaming...
Several protest marches took place in Helsinki on Thursday evening. Police intervened to forcibly remove swastika flags from Neo-Nazi demonstrators. Police said on Thursday that they will open an investigation into neo-Nazis flying swastika flags in downtown Helsinki. Four protesters had reportedly been taken into police custody. Two processions made their way through Helsinki city centre Thursday evening. The neo-Nazi Kohti vapautta ('toward freedom') dem...
Most of Friday’s papers focus on Thursday's gala at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki where Finland's movers, shakers and honourees were invited to celebrate the nation’s 101 years of independence. Traditionally, media attention has centered on the best-dressed guests and this year was no exception. According to tabloid Ilta-Sanomat, among the most elegant invitees this year was MP Jaana Pelkonen, who wore a bright yellow sleeveless dress by French desig...