Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s New Year’s message, 31.12.2019
Today we stand on the cusp of a new decade. The new year will bring many changes in its wake, but it will also bring much that is familiar and safe. After the Christmas holidays, we will resume our daily routines, as schools open and we return to our work and our hobbies. Our family and friends will still surround us, and we will take the experiences of the past year with us into 2020.
The start of a new decade provides the perfect opportunity to gaze into the future. However, at the same time we would do well to pause for a moment to look back, to consider how Finland has grown over the generations into the country we know today.
Finland’s strength lies in its people and their knowledge. We have survived because of our desire and ability to learn. We have risen from modest beginnings to become one of the most highly educated and skilled nations in the world. This was the secret of our success yesterday; this will remain the key to our success tomorrow. That is why we must have the courage to keep investing in people and knowledge. We must dare to create something new. In a rapidly changing world, simply reworking old recipes is not good enough.
The Finnish Government has taken up the challenge of delivering bold, stable and sustainable reform. The aim of our Government programme, and of our efforts to implement it, is to build up Finland as a financially responsible, socially equitable and environmentally sustainable society. We believe that society can and must be developed in a balanced way, keeping all citizens and regions on board.
We are aiming to achieve economic sustainability by strengthening employment. In addition to pursuing an active labour policy, this means investing in education, research and infrastructure, and carrying out climate-sustainable reforms of our economic structure.
A great deal depends on global economic developments. Finland is a sparsely-populated country on the edge of Europe, with an economy that relies heavily on exports. The Government is not omnipotent, but it can do its part. A stable and predictable operating environment is essential for companies. We need to avoid purely reactive policies, while responding to cyclical changes. Indeed, this is the approach we adopted in the national budget for next year, which is mildly expansionary in view of slowing growth.
We are aiming for social sustainability by reinforcing basic security and services. As of the beginning of 2020, the smallest pensions will rise, increases in basic security will enter into force, funding for education and training will increase at all levels, and financing of basic services will be strengthened. Equal rights for all children to full-time early childhood education and care will be restored, and group sizes in child care will be reduced.
As of January, low-income pensioners will have more euros to live on. The pensions of more than 600,000 Finns will increase. 70 per cent of Finns will enjoy a higher disposable income. With the repeal of the activation model, unemployed jobseekers will be able to focus on looking for work without having to worry about losing income.
The strength of a society is measured not by the wealth of its most affluent members, but by how well its most vulnerable citizens are able to cope. The question we need to ask is whether everyone has the chance to lead a life of dignity.
We are seeking to attain environmental sustainability by doing our part in mitigating climate change and safeguarding biodiversity. We are committed to making Finland carbon-neutral by 2035. We are entering a decade during which we must find solutions for combating climate change. This calls for decisions that reduce emissions and strengthen carbon sinks. We will rely on scientific data, while taking account of the social and regional impacts of the solutions proposed.
We will take climate action in Finland; but it is at least as important for us to contribute to halting global warming on an international scale. Climate change knows no state boundaries. Every country must do its part. Finland and Europe can be at the forefront of development while also improving the competitiveness of our own industries and businesses. There is enormous demand and a huge market for new climate technology. Will our country have the bold pioneering spirit needed to prosper?
This has been a busy and eventful year. Notably, in 2019 we conducted national and European parliamentary elections and held the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. In the course of the year, Finland had three regular governments and two caretaker governments.
This year’s Christmas holiday fare in many Finnish homes, including mine, has included a television series on the life and times of President Mauno Koivisto. It is an excellent reminder of the colourful political history of our country. The historical context provided by the series also serves to put the current political turbulence into perspective.
These words of President Koivisto’s are very apt for the eve of a new decade:
“If we can’t know for sure how things will go, let’s assume that all will go well.”
I wish all Finns a Happy New Year and New Decade!