Vapaavuori warns against excessive emphasis on regional policy
Split brewing between Centre and National Coalition parties
Minister of Housing Jan Vapaaviori (Nat. Coalition Party) has criticised calls by Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (Centre), who has called for a scale-back of the government’s productivity programme in favour of a programme aimed at increased regional dispersal of state operations.
Earlier this month Vanhanen said at a regionalisation seminar that he was in favour of compromising on the timetable of the productivity programme if it helps the goals of regional policy.
The aim of the productivity programme is to scale back on state jobs, while the regional policy programme seeks to move state jobs out of the Helsinki region to other parts of Finland.
Regional policy issues are especially important for the Centre Party, which has its main support base in rural areas.
As Vapaavuori sees it, the ideas expressed by Vanhanen at the seminar were spoken mainly in his capacity as the leader of the Centre Party than as Prime Minister of the country.
Vapaavuori emphasises that the government’s policy programme is a balanced whole agreed to by the various parties in the government coalition, and that the agreement also includes calls for the launch of metropolitan policy.
He notes that the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Transport and Communications have taken metropolitan policy seriously.
The Minister of Housing also wondered why the agreement of intent on immigration has been left hanging “in a nearly tragic manner”.
The state has not implemented its portion of its agreement with the Helsinki metropolitan area to speed up training and employment opportunities for immigrants.
“It is also a part of the government programme. We should commit to it just as strongly as to regional policy. But it seems to be hard to find the pitifully small amount of money that is needed for it.”
The amount in question is EUR two million.
Vapaavuori took as an example the furore surrounding plans to move the National Agency for Medicines from Helsinki to Kuopio, calling the controversy a “farce”.
“When the government programme notes that regionalisation is to be continued, a misperception has occurred, that anything at all can be regionalised, paying no heed to any arguments against it.”
In his view, the idea of dispersing state activities to different parts of Finland has acquired “a greater symbolic value than it deserves”.
The minister responsible for the government’s productivity programme, Minister of Finance Jyrki Katainen (Nat. Coalition Party) , rejects the views expressed by Prime Minister Vanhanen at the regionalisation seminar on altering the schedule of the programme.
Katainen noted that in any event, Finland needs to prepare for the reduction of the working-age population and growth in the need for labour by the private sector. He says that the fact that large numbers of people are entering retirement at present gives a good opportunity for this.
“The state cannot hoard all knowledgeable professionals. The private sector is what brings the extra money from the outside to the public sector.”
Katainen emphasises that the aim is not to do the same amount of work with smaller numbers of people. The work itself will also change: the same services can be performed by a smaller number of people by developing electronic systems.
The regionalisation programme aims at moving between 4,000 and 8,000 public sector jobs out of the Helsinki region to other parts of Finland. The productivity programme is cutting 14,500 state jobs by 2015.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Resignations cause problems for National Agency for Medicines (31.3.2009)