Finland’s government resigned

The coalition government in Finland has resigned because it could not deliver on a healthcare reform package that is widely seen as crucial to securing long-term government finances.

Background

Finland is a Northern European country bordering the Baltic Sea, Gulf of Bothnia, and the Gulf of Finland. It is a Nordic country, situated between Norway, Sweden and Russia. Finland is the eighth-largest country in Europe and the most sparsely populated country in the European Union. Finland is a parliamentary republic within the framework of representative democracy. The Prime Minister is the country's most powerful person.

Finland joined the United Nations in 1955 and established an official policy of neutrality. The Finno-Soviet Treaty of 1948 gave the Soviet Union some leverage in Finnish domestic politics during the Cold War era. Finland joined the OECD in 1969, the NATO Partnership for Peace in 1994, the European Union in 1995, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council in 1997, and finally the Eurozone at its inception, in 1999.

The Centre Party has been in a centre-right coalition government since 2015. Since a 2017 re-negotiation, the government has been formed of the Centre Party, the National Coalition, and Blue Reform.

Analysis

The Prime Minister of Finland, Juha Sipila said that he was “hugely disappointed” as the government failed to deliver on a healthcare reform package to the country. As a result, the entire government has resigned. The prime minister’s resignation was approved; however, president Sauli Niinisto has asked his cabinet to stay on as a caretaker government until a new one is appointed.

The head of the prime minister's Centre Party parliamentary group, Antti Kaikkonen, tweeted that Sipila resigned because "the healthcare reform cannot be accomplished during this government term."

The Nordic countries face a severe problem of an ageing population, and it is exerting financial pressure on their social welfare systems. The healthcare program was intended to address the needs of an ageing population while improving efficiency and reducing public spending by 3 billion euros, about $3.4 billion, by 2029. Mr. Sipila also said: “We need reforms, there is no other way for Finland to succeed.”

An ageing population would result in a significant increase in the cost of providing pension and healthcare benefits. Those increased costs are paid for by taxes collected from the working-age population. They make up a smaller percentage of the population than in decades past.

The proposed solutions by Mr. Sipila included creating regional authorities to provide healthcare services than local municipalities. He also suggested involving private companies in the healthcare system as it would ensure “freedom of choice” for the people.

Based on United Nations estimate, the total population of Finland is 5,555,524, i.e., 0.07 per cent of the entire world population. The median age of the country is 42.5 years. According to Manuel Castells, a professor at the University of Southern California and a student of Finland since the 1990s, "Finland is allergic to immigration". He said either they “make more babies, or you make immigrants." However, he also acknowledged that it is easier said than done. He stated that Finnish women enjoy their careers and other fruits of relative gender equality. Finland is "a small country with an endangered culture".

Finland is the only major European country that has not generated a far-right, anti-immigrant political party. According to some natives, this is due to the egalitarian Lutheran values that govern the country. They suggest that it simply would not tolerate an open appeal to racist sentiments, though they admit that such feelings exist.

Finnish laws and regulations discourage immigration. One of the most significant difficulties lies in the Finnish language and the long, dark winters.

Counterpoint

Finland offers its citizens universal healthcare through a publicly funded healthcare system with the key decision maker being the Ministry of Social Affairs and Healthcare. However, local governments or municipalities are responsible to provide healthcare services to the citizens. Though the quality of healthcare is good in the country based on the European Commission consensus, there exist some geographic and socioeconomic disparities in the country. Private sector and occupational healthcare services are largely reliant on the income of the individuals. Only between 3-4% of in-patient care is provided by the private healthcare system. Physiotherapy, dentistry and occupational health services are the most widely used health services in the private sector. Approximately 10% of medical doctors work solely in the private sector.

Assessment

Our assessment is that the government’s decision to resign just before the parliamentary elections, highlight the genuine desire of establishing a successful healthcare system in the country. We believe that the demographic problem faced by the country is a severe human security issue that needs to be addressed as a matter of priority. We feel that immigration is one solution, and the country must be more open and receptive to ensure a sustainable future for the country.