Government is closing the EUR 10 billion sustainability gap
On 24 April, the first day of its mid-term policy review session, the Government has examined the outlook of Finland’s economy as well as the EUR 10 billion policy package to cover sustainability gap. The spending limits decision currently being formulated by the Government will be in line with the expenditure ceiling stated in the Government Programme. The EUR 10 billion sustainability gap will be covered by EUR 4 billion through direct savings, EUR 4 billion through reforms, and by measures aimed at boosting growth and improving employment. On the first day, the Government also outlined its policy on easing the regulation of pharmacies, and decided on the reform of vocational education and training. In addition, an experiment on the optionality of a second domestic language was sent out for consultation.
The EUR 4 billion savings target is being achieved. Reforms are also delivering the intended cost savings, because the cutting of costs in the municipalities, the counties and the public sector as a whole has proceeded according to plan, and decisions were made on this today. The targets for employment and growth still require additional measures. Decisions on these will be made tomorrow.
Cutting the costs of municipalities, counties and the whole public sector
The Government fleshed out the implementation of the EUR 1 billion savings target set in the Government Programme. The Ministerial Committee on Economic Policy outlined a year ago that the savings programme will be extended to the whole of general government finances in addition to the municipalities. The objective is to reduce costs by 2029.
In accordance with the policies now outlined, the action programme to reduce municipalities’ duties and obligations will be continued, public sector productivity will be promoted, particularly by utilising digitalisation to the full, and by making more efficient use of premises in the public sector. In addition, an incentive scheme will be created for the municipalities to lower the cost of services.
- Reduction of municipalities’ duties and obligations
- Incentive scheme for municipalities
- Public sector premises programmes
- Digitalisation of municipalities and central government
- Productivity savings
The combined savings potential of the measures is estimated to be EUR 1 billion. The Government will monitor the preparation of measures in its strategy sessions.
Reform of vocational education and training
On Monday, the Government submitted a proposal to Parliament on the reform of vocational education and training. Vocational education and training legislation and its funding and qualification system will be completely reformed. Learning at the workplace will be increased and a new learning agreement introduced. Bureaucracy in education will be reduced and the freedom of those organising education will be increased. The objective is that the new vocational education and training would respond better than now to the changes occurring in working life and meet future competence needs.
The reform will ensure the implementation of the education guarantee for the entire age cohort completing basic education as well as the regional accessibility of quality vocational education. In addition, a new funding model will promote the reduction of education drop-out rates and improve the effectiveness of education. The new legislation is due to enter into force on 1 January 2018.
Language experiment out for consultation
The Government has sent out for consultation a proposal enabling an experiment on the optionality of a second domestic language. The purpose of the experiment is to increase the opportunities for organisers of basic education to extend the range of languages without obliging pupils to study the Finnish or Swedish language. The experiment is for a fixed period, and a maximum of 2,200 pupils can participate in it. The experiment is due to begin in August 2018.
Number of pharmacies to be increased and licence practices eased
The Government policy aims to increase the number of pharmacies in Finland and to reduce the red tape associated with pharmacy licences. The equal availability of medicines and pharmaceutical safety will continue to be at the centre of Finnish pharmacy services. The regional pharmaceutical service coverage will be safeguarded with the pharmacy network and pharmaceutical stocks.
The availability of pharmacy services will be increased by increasing the number of pharmacy service location licences. Regulation of pharmacies will be eased, but pharmacy services will remain subject to licence. Pharmacy licences will continue to include rules with respect to location. This will safeguard the availability of medicines everywhere in Finland. The licence determination process will be eased and it will be made more transparent than at present. In the future, pharmacies will be encouraged to engage in health service point activities.
Growth in the number of pharmacies will be monitored. If regional availability does not improve, the effectiveness of the means testing system will be reviewed. In addition, opportunities for establishing pharmacies in connection with hospitals and emergency service points will also be studied.
The Finnish Medicines Agency’s criteria for determining licences will be clarified. In contrast with the present situation, the Finnish Medicines Agency (Fimea) could given the opportunity to exercise initiative in the granting of pharmacy licences in areas where Fimea considers the pharmacy service level to be too low.
The main owners of pharmacies will continue to be chief pharmacists, who work in the pharmacies themselves. In addition to this, it is proposed that a study be undertaken on facilitating the practice of pharmacy services under certain boundary conditions also in the form of partnerships, which would enable the expansion of the ownership base also to professionals working in the pharmacy.
In addition, the possible modest extension of the sale of certain over-the-counter medicines to daily consumer goods stores will be studied with the emphasis on pharmaceutical safety (for example medicinal creams, but not pain medicines).
Economic affairs: Markus Lahtinen, Special Adviser to the Prime Minister (Economic Policy), tel. +358 295 160 404; Ville Valkonen, Special Adviser (Ministry of Finance), tel. +358 44 567 2201; and Juha Halttunen, Special Adviser (Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment), tel. +358 295 060 066
General Government Fiscal Plan billion: Sami Miettinen, Special Adviser (Ministry of Finance), tel. +358 295 530 057
Reform of vocational education and training: Matias Marttinen, Special Adviser (Ministry of Education and Culture), tel. +358 295 330 132
Pharmacies: Niina Perälä, Special Adviser (Ministry of Social Affairs and Health), tel. +358 295 163 107