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Finland for Thought » 2007 » April | Politics, current events, culture - In Finland & the United States | Blog of an American living in Finland

Finland for Thought
             Politics, current events, culture - In Finland & United States

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28.4.2007

Ostovoima: Low purchasing power for the highly educated in Finland

Tags: Everything — Author:   @ 6:18 pm

After living in Germany (Saksa) for many years, this is no surprise to me. In fact, it’s quite obvious. According to an advance release of a report by the EU which examines the purchasing power (ostovoima) of university educated professionals:

Suomi keikkuu viimeisenä ja Saksa ykkösenä. Saksassa ostovoima on lähes kaksi kertaa niin iso kuin Suomessa.

It states that Finland has the lowest purchasing power, and Germany has the highest. Furthermore, Germany has nearly double the purchasing power of Finland. A few other countries that beat Finland are England, Holland, Belgium and Spain. How can this be?

Heikkoa ostovoimaa selittävät kova verotus ja kilpailun puute. [...] Tutkimus selittää Suomen heikkoa menestystä ankaralla verotuksella ja korkeilla hinnoilla sekä osin myös alhaisilla palkoilla.

Again, no surprise, it reads that the poor purchasing power is because Finland is severely overtaxed and there is very little competition in the consumer marketplace (in my opinion, the low-competition is a macroeconomic result of both, overtaxation and inflexible unions). All this with relatively low salaries.

My wife and I have a home in Germany but occasionally spend time in Finland to be with family. I can tell you from personal experience that it’s true: The difference in purchasing power between Germany and Finland is quite enormous.

We always bring food, beer, wine, building supplies, clothing, etc., from Germany so we don’t have to buy them in Finland. The savings pay for our travel expenses and more. I even brought a whole shipment of wood and cabinets from Germany to renovate our summer cabin and flat in Finland—saved 30% overall, including truck rental and travel costs.

A few things to consider:

  • Finland has 22% regular VAT and 17% food VAT, which make it the second-highest taxed country in Europe when these amounts are combined. Only Denmark is higher.
  • Automobiles in Finland cost roughly double the German price due to Autovero; a family can lose 10K€ to 20K€ in one shot to this tax, especially if two cars are needed. Public transit availability is not very good, despite 1M+ residents in the Helsinki region. Many families need two cars.
  • The state-run Alko, along with Alcohol Policy, means that even social drinking costs people dearly; many times the central European price.
  • Overly-high Income Taxation causes a sizable Tax Wedge that ensures both, low-Gross and low-Net Salaries. Also, quite astonishingly, Finland publishes the private income information of all its residents for anyone in the world to inspect (verotietojen julkistaminen)!

The average Finnish family, even if it practices frugality, loses many thousands of Euros each year to the assorted ripoffs listed above—along with many more. Everything from Restaurants to Haircuts to Taxi Fares in Finland costs about double the normal central European price. And Finnish salaries don’t compensate for the overpayment.

60 Minutes segment on Finland

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 2:10 am

An absolute must see, from 1993…

Damn, this is pretty harsh, “The Finnish tango is not to be confused with the glorying, grinding, passionate Latin American version. The Finns have managed to neutralize all that, it’s a sad shuffle in a minor key, with lyrics to reaffirm couples instinctive sense of hopelessness.”

Erf, well quite a bit of sensationalistic journalism there, I think that blonde hair Finnish guy was just “taking a piss” as the Brits would say, but they took him seriously. And as far as small talk with strangers go – whenever I’m on the bus or something I’m reading or listening to music or deep in thought, you’d be rudely interrupting me if you were to talk to me. I’m not depressed, I’m just preoccupied.

Hat Tip to Mikael for the link!!

27.4.2007

Markku´s Morning Comb to Eurovision 2007

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 5:13 pm

Finland is gearing up for Eurovision and the thousands of tourists that will arrive for the first time in this great nation – and what a better way to welcome the newcomers than to have our beloved Markku host a SubTV morning chat show…

My videos start running from 16ht of April until the end of Eurovision 2007! So watch out!

During may´s 2. -12. day I manufacture morning show called Markku´s Morning Comb to Eurovision 2007! It uses goodly finnish SMS teknology! It is on air every day from 8.00 – 8.30 in Subtv. So watch out!

…and guess who’s gonna be a guest on his show next week! :-)

Visit his SubTV page for more info and his MySpace page for all the latest video clips and happenings. Here’s a few of Markku’s latest Eurovision clips you may have missed…



26.4.2007

Introducing the Finland for Thought forum!!

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 10:33 pm

If you get tired of just Hank, Kristian, and I starting all the topics, why not start one yourself?? Do so at the new Finland for Thought forum…

http://forum.finlandforthought.net

I think some of you will really have fun with this. I’ve been wanting to setup a forum for a while, there’s really no open forum on the internet to discuss Finland in English, so here it is. But feel free to discuss whatever you like, nothing gets censored unless it’s spam.

Enjoy!!

UPDATE: If you sign up to the forum and don’t receive the confirmation e-mail, check your SPAM folder.

25.4.2007

Inheritance taxes don’t work

Tags: Uncategorized — Author:   @ 2:41 pm

I’ve said it many times: Inheritance taxes only affect families who don’t have the flexibility to structure their finances to avoid them—legally, of course. They also ensure that capital wealth resides outside of Finland. That means all profit generated from that capital will also be taxed outside of Finland, thus leaving we the little Finn-workers with all the tax burden of funding the infrastructure.

You can have all the ideological reasons you want, but ultimately inheritance taxes only ensure that the poor—i.e. those who can’t avoid paying them—stay poor.

On the bright side, as with other misguided policies such as Finland’s forced publishing of personal income information, general overtaxation, etc., it provides a nice boost to people of—e.g.—developing Asian economies. Finland’s loss is their gain. We don’t mind helping them at our own expense, do we?

23.4.2007

TV Licence to Be Re-evaluated

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 12:43 am

Finland’s new Minister of Communications (from Kokoomus) wants to change the way YLE collects its revenue

The Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE should collect revenue with a general tax or fee, said the new Minister of Communications Suvi Lindén in an interview with the Sunday supplement of the Väli-Suomi group of provincial newspapers. YLE’s Director General Mikael Jungner does not yet see the need to change the source of funding..

Lindén said the fee for watching television should not be based on TV ownership because broadcasts can be watched by mobile phone or through the internet. Jungner told YLE that viewers will need to register, and pay, to watch YLE programming on the internet when a significant portion, or between 10 and 50 percent of YLE programming, is offered on the internet.

[...]The Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority also plans to increase its number of TV licence inspectors. It has already hired 15 new employees and plans to hire another 15 by the end of the year. The previous number of inspectors was 60.

The number of households paying the TV licence has declined over the past three years. Last year, 15,000 fewer households paid the fee than in 2003.

Most people agree the TV license tax is unfair – a poor single mom in Finland with a single tiny old TV pays the same yearly fee as the wealthy family with the Plasma screen in their bathroom. But less seem to disagree with the use of the TV inspectors. Opponents of the general tax payment method argue that households who don’t have a TV shouldn’t have to pay. It’s a good point, but aren’t there like a million other state-run services you’ll never use but stil pay for? why is television different?

22.4.2007

16 month queue for dental care in Helsinki

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 11:02 pm

Pääkaupunkiseudun hammashoitotilanne on entistä pahempi. “Helsingissä pisimpään hoitoa odottanet potilaat ovat olleet jonossa jopa 16 kuukautta”, toteaa johtava hammaslääkäri Seija Hiekkanen.

You might have to wait up to 16 months for dental care in Helsinki!! Who the hell gets a dental problem then has 16 months to wait? And people wonder why so many Americans don’t want to give up their private healthcare for public care, if it takes 16 months in Finland it’ll take 116 in the states.

Bald is beautiful

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 8:50 pm

Yesterday I bought a hair clipper so I can cut my own hair at home. For the past nine years, I’d visit the hair dresser once every five weeks and get the “Caesar” cut. Now every couple weeks I’ll do it myself and get the “really short?” cut which seems to be very trendy at the moment.

So bye bye to having to make inconvenient appointments days in advance. It’s amazing, Finland has more hair saloons that people, yet I can never get an appointment right away. And a special bye bye to those expensive prices – Even with the recent tax breaks on haircuts, my local mall charges me 25 euros ($34 US) for 15-20 minutes work – my local mall back in the states charges me $11 US (8 euros). Normally I’d never be such a cheap bastard to cut my hair at home, but I’m just tired of these high costs.

With this recent trend in home haircutting for men – what’s better for the barbers/hairdressers, charging less or losing me as a customer? I doubt very much that Finnish hair professionals are getting rich off their careers, so what makes a $34 haircut in Finland cost only $11 in the states?

bald_is_beautiful1.jpg

20.4.2007

Countries with the highest median age

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 9:19 am

From The Economist via Scandinavian Finance

age2.jpg

19.4.2007

Finnish tax circus

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 11:47 am

In Finland, peoples’ personal income tax information is sold for money in magazines, through mobile services, and spread around in the Internet. Jealous neighbors, nosy co-workers, and twisted strangers can and do use that private information to blackmail, retaliate, or worse. It’s an ancient relic of Finland’s past, reminiscent of their old Soviet neighbors.

It’s a tool of socialists and the welfare state to prevent people obtaining wealth by questionable means. The state doesn’t have the resources to monitor everyone’s behavior, so it essentially outsources the job to its citizens by pitting neighbor against neighbor, and social class against social class. While it may have good intentions, 99% of these personal intrusions are done for the wrong reasons which can lead to dire consequences.

In Finland, concerns such privacy are quickly flushed down the toilet, all in the name of the welfare state ideology. For more info, be sure to check out a website devoted to this (in English) called Verosirkus. – It says that this practice is actually illegal and breaks several international treaties…

Supposedly in Finland, there is a policy of “openness” with tax records. What this openness actually means in practice is the following:

* There have been tax calendars published with everyone’s income information in them by name.
* A company called Satamedia publishes and sells a magazine called Veropörssi. Available according to region, it has everyone’s income information in it, listed by name municipality, salary, capital gains income, and tax percentage. (Ironically, they leave out the poor people, though.) Satamedia also makes everyone’s income data available by mobile text message. Fonecta is the provider of this service. I was able to anonymously buy my income information for €1.95.
* YLE, the Finnish government’s own official TV and radio company, has gotten in on the entertainment by having their own website that publishes the top 10 earners by municipality. (http://www.yle.fi/verokone)

18.4.2007

Ministers’ Photos

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 1:14 pm

finland_ministers_2007b.jpg
Photo from YLE then edited to include text

Virginia Tech massacre

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 7:37 am

How terribly, terribly awful. I’ve actually spent alot of time down at VT, my best friend from back home got his bachelors there and I’d visit him a couple times per semester. It’s about a five hour drive from Baltimore, in the Appalachian Mountains. Blacksburg is a college town, it wouldn’t be on the map if it wasn’t for the university. If you live in Blacksburg you’re either a student or work for the school. It’s known as a very good state school, tuition is quite modest.

When you goto a school that’s literally out in the middle of nowhere, you attract a different type of a student and have a different type of experience compared to a city school, like I went to. These middle-of-nowhere schools are much more like a continuation of American high school – sports are popular, fraternities/sororities are popular, there’s still the “cool kids” and clicks and jocks and keggers and beer pong and lots of rich kids and they’re all mostly white. (think “Revenge of the Nerds”) Since there’s nothing in the town, all activities are done through the school, until you get a bit old and move 500m off-campus to the sea of student-rented houses.

At a giant school like VT out in Nowheresville, it’s very easy to fall through the cracks like this kid did. In fact, when you visit colleges in high school, the smaller schools always stress the important of this. There really isn’t anything like VT in Finland. there are no mega schools and no big schools are located in tiny towns.

vt_killer.jpg

17.4.2007

Finland’s new government

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 4:17 pm

The new government should be finalized by tonight when Keskusta announce their candidates, below is the list (with ??’s after the predictions)…

Centre
Prime Minister – Matti Vanhanen
Ministry of Labour and Commerce – Mauri Pekkarinen (will be in charge of copyright legislation)
Environment Minister – Paula Lehtomäki (I don’t see this woman’s appeal)
Minister of Transport – Anu Vehviläinen
Minister for Foreign Trade & Development – Paavo Väyrynen
Minister of Municipal and Administrative Affairs – Mari Kiviniemi (The new Tanja Saarela of the cabinet?)
Minister of Social Affairs and Health – Liisa Hyssälä (A real nanny-statist)
Minister of Agriculture – Sirkka-Liisa Anttila

Kokoomus
Finance Minister – Jyrki Katainen
Foreign Minister – Ilkka Kanerva (Aapo has a nice summary)
Speaker of Parliament – Sauli Niinistö (The best position possible, it’s like being the punter on an American football team, you can’t screw up. This will surely build his popularity for his next Presidential run)
Defence Minister – Jyri Häkämies
Interior Minister – Anne Holmlund
Minister of Education – Sari Sarkomaa (Or maybe she’s the new Tanja Saarela?)
Minister of Basic Services – Paula Risikko
Minister of Housing and Zoning Affairs – Jan Vapaavuori
Minister of Communications – Suvi Lindén (resigned from her position some years ago when she gave 1 million of your tax money to her golf club)

Swedish-Speakers
Minister of Culture – Stefan Wallin (The Swedish-speakers have only a handful of MPs yet two ministerial positions!)
Minister of European and Immigration Affair – Astrid Thors (new position)

Greens
Labour Minister – Tarja Cronberg (Didn’t win re-election)
Justice Minister – Tuija Brax

Finns at a Theme Park

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 3:52 pm

A couple weeks ago while in Orlando, a Finnish co-worker of mine and I went to Universal Studios, a very popular theme park known for its “movie rides”. We arrive relatively early and decide to get on the first ride we see, the “Shrek 4-D Experience” (or something like that).

Since it’s March we’re in “off season” and the park is far from capacity. We’re waiting in line and I’m thinking, “Hey, this is great, this line looks quite short, maybe only 20-30 minutes” then right away, the Finn says, “Are ALL the lines going to be this long?!?!” He was really quite agitated. I replied, “You’ve never been to a U.S. theme park, have you?”. He said “no”.

I was about to tell him, “Waiting in theme park lines is half the fun!”, then I was thinking, “Hey, wait a second, this sucks!! I spent 99% of my day in lines and 1% on the damn ride!” Never really thought of it, just kinda accepted the long-ass lines. You see, waiting in lines at theme parks is an American past time! Our parents start us in theme park lines from a very young age. Then make us goto church every week, so we’re veterans at doing nothing for hours on end.

By the second or third ride, I noticed that some visitors were somehow skipping the big lines by entering special “Express Plus Pass” line. I never got the details, but for an additional fee (we already paid like $70 to get in) you can skip the lines. WTF?!? The park makes even more money by making me and the other peons wait longer?? I have no problem waiting in two hour lines, but this nonsense is enough to make me boycott theme parks forever.

universal_phil.jpg

16.4.2007

Looks like we have a new government

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 12:23 am

Looks like Finland has a new government consisting of four liberal-ish parties. 8 positions for Kokoomus, 8 positions for Centre, 2 for the Greens, and 2 for the Swedish-speakers…

The conservative National Coalition Party is to get control of the foreign minister’s portfolio in a new four-party cabinet. The National Coalition is to also have control of finance, the interior, education, basic services and the speakership of Parliament.

The Centre Party leader Matti Vanhanen continues as prime minister. Together, the two large parties, the National Coalition and the Centre will each old eight portfolios and the Greens and Swedish People’s Party two each. The total number of ministerial posts in the cabinet is being expanded from 18 to 20.

The Centre Party leader Matti Vanhanen continues as prime minister. The new defence minister will be named from the National coalition and the minister for cultural affairs from the Swedish People’s Party. At the Ministry of Transport and Communications, the minister responsible for transport will be from the Centre and the minister responsible for communications from the National Coalition. The Centre Party will hold the environmental affairs portfolio and the National Coalition, the housing portfolio.

As of the beginning of next year, Finland will see the establishment of a new “super ministry” when the Ministry of Trade and Industry will take over labour affairs, regional policy and copyright issues, possibly renamed as the “Ministry of Labour and Commerce”. In practice, this may mean that the Ministry of Labour will be dissolved. Immigration issues will be transferred to the Ministry of the Interior.

Check out Ari at A Lamb With No Guiding Light for the full report.

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