Written by Petteri Orpo in January 2020
Last December news spread out from Finland throughout the globe. Sanna Marin from the Social Democratic Party (S&D) was going to become the world’s youngest prime minister in a government coalition led entirely by women. Furthermore, four out of five party leaders are between 32 to 34 years old.
First of all, the sheer fact that this is possible in Finland, is something to be very proud of and it should not be taken for granted. Finland was the first country to grant full political rights to women in 1906 and ever since women have played an active role in developing our society. It is important that our children can grow up in an environment where they see that they can become the prime minister despite their gender. Also, the age can lead to false conclusions about a person’s abilities or the level of experience. Certain age is not a prerequisite for high office. People have individual sets of skills and experiences no matter the age or gender.
Equality of opportunity is profoundly a value of Kokoomus and EPP. We all must work towards ensuring its better realization in our societies. Your future should not be determined by your age, gender, or social background. However, the success of a government is also something that is not determined by someone’s gender or age. It is determined by actions and results.
To give a short background about the political situation in Finland: the last parliamentary elections were held in April 2019, after which a government coalition was formed by the Social Democratic Party (S&D), the Centre Party (RE), the Green League (Greens/EFA), the Left Alliance (GUE/NGL) and the Swedish People’s Party of Finland (RE). In the autumn, Antti Rinne, the Prime Minister at the time, lost the confidence of the Centre Party and thus the parliamentary majority because of his handling of the postal strike. Mr. Rinne had to resign and shortly after Ms Marin was sworn in.
Prime Minister Marin’s government was formed by the same parties which also accepted the same government programme that was negotiated after the parliamentary elections. Ultimately the only change was a minor reshuffle of positions. Sticking with the same programme meant also sticking with its problems.
The positive side of the programme is that it includes investments to education, people’s wellbeing and security. The worrying part is that to fund these investments, according to the government itself, the most important individual element of the revenue base is to raise the employment rate to 75 per cent. With a rapidly ageing population and global economic insecurities that goal should be the very minimum.
Unfortunately, the government seems to have prioritised spending the money before figuring out how to create it. By the time of writing, all truly effective decisions on the labour market reforms have been postponed. Fortunately, the solutions do exist, and we have already provided many of them.
Firstly, in August we published our own list of actions which, according to a set of estimations, would bring 60 000 new jobs. Many of those ideas have been out there and discussed for a long time. There should be no excuse for postponing these vital decisions. Not all of them are easy to make, but if 60 000 new jobs could be achieved by easy and simple decisions, they would have been made a long time ago.
Secondly, it is a custom for Finnish opposition parties to draft an alternative budget in order to present their own solutions. In November, we demonstrated in our alternative budget that it is possible to make important investments in education and infrastructure, while taking care of the economy and securing a sustainable financial basis for our Nordic welfare model.
The key to everything is the employment rate. Our parliament’s independent information service provided calculations according to which our alternative budget would increase employment by 26 000 compared to the government’s budget, while the government’s budget for 2020 was calculated in fact to decrease employment by 5 000!
To conclude, the rapid and worldwide media interest showed us how important it is to have a widely representative political leadership and different kinds of people in high offices. However, what matters the most are the tangible results of government’s policies and actions. Our duty in the opposition is to challenge the government and to offer our own solution.