(Check against delivery)
Six months ago, we presented to Parliament the Government Programme for an inclusive and competent Finland. The goal of the Government Programme, and the five parties in the Government, is to build a society which develops sustainably and in which the nation's economic success, social wellbeing and environmental responsibility go hand in hand. We want to build a society that is good for everyone: children, adults and older people, and those living in the countryside and in the cities.
We have taken the first steps on the road to making the Government Programme a reality, and we will continue to implement it with steadfast determination. The Government is looking ahead with eyes fixed on our goals.
Our task is to strengthen people’s trust in the future. To create trust, we need actions, and that is where our focus will be.
I would now like to highlight the key priorities of the Government Programme. I will also review the decisions that have already been made to reform and develop Finland, and I will outline how we can build a better and fairer society for all people.
The aim of the Government's economic policy is to improve people's wellbeing. Our goal is a socially, economically and ecologically sustainable society.
We are committed to a responsible economic policy and to keeping general government finances in balance. Responsible economic policy also includes the necessary reforms and investments to improve productivity, raise the employment rate and strengthen the long-term sustainability of public finances. That is why we will invest in education and training, research, innovation and infrastructure on both permanent and one-off basis.
The Government Programme includes a programme of 3 billion euros for future-oriented investments. A third of the programme has already been allocated. We will need investment and cooperation from both the public and private sectors. Our common goal must be a society that is able to renew itself both economically and structurally, and which has a high employment rate, a strong business life and competent people who feel a sense of wellbeing.
We want to both strengthen and further develop the Nordic welfare state. High-quality education, social wellbeing and equal opportunities to get ahead in life also form the basis for a sustainable growth economy and human activity. When we experience a genuine sense of togetherness and social inclusion, we can work together to build a country that belongs to us all.
I consider it important that the key objective of the Government's economic policy is to reduce inequality and strengthen equality. It is not only fair but also wise and responsible economic and social policy.
For us Finns, the welfare state is a source of pride, and it should remain so. I value our efforts to create equal opportunities and security for all and to take care of the most vulnerable people in our society. We will not leave anybody to struggle alone.
It is the common will of this Government to make reforms in order to build a country where every child can achieve anything they put their minds to and where every person can age safely in a dignified way. Many people in the world hold Finland in high regard and think of us as an example.
We're about to cross over to the next decade. We have now made the first decisions guiding future development.
Although the debate in this chamber may not always reflect it, we have already gotten off to a good start in the implementation the Government Programme. Many of the major reforms will be implemented in the next year's Budget.
The smallest pensions will rise, the increases in basic security will enter into force, financing for education and training will increase at all levels of education and the financing for basic services will be improved. The subjective right to full-time early childhood education and care will be restored to all children and the group sizes in child care will be reduced.
In a few weeks, these decisions will make a difference to people's daily lives.
In January, low-income pensioners will receive more euros to live on. The pensions of more than 600,000 Finns will improve. 70 per cent of Finns will have more disposable income. Once the activation model has been abolished, jobseekers can focus on looking for work without worrying about reductions to their income.
By investing in education and training and by strengthening our skills base, we will ensure Finland's competitiveness. Education investments are also important for sustainable economic growth and employment.
We have promised people change, and now this change will become visible in their daily lives. This is the path we will continue along.
There has been uncertainty both in the global economy and in the Finnish economy for a long time. Fortunately, we now can see a glimmer of light through the clouds. The slowdown in growth seems to be levelling out, and some sources of uncertainty are being eliminated. We hope for economic recovery and growth, but we are also prepared for conditions of slower growth.
The principle of active fiscal policy has been enshrined exceptionally clearly in this Government Programme. It means that we are responding to cyclical conditions. This will be reflected in next year’s Budget. We will support growth and employment, we will rely on Finnish work, and we will trust in the Finnish determination to do business.
The Government has a set an ambitious target of an employment rate of 75 per cent. We will take it seriously. The sustainability of public finances is dependent on a high employment rate, both now and going forward. When we reach the employment target, public finances will be in balance by 2023 in a normal economic climate.
We will carry out reforms that strengthen both equality and confidence in the labour market. We want to reinforce the dialogue between employees and employers at workplaces.
We want to strengthen companies' growth potential and opportunities to create new jobs. We want to secure favourable conditions for growth across Finland through active regional and economic policies.
We are here for the whole of Finland, from Hanko to Utsjoki and from East Finland to Satakunta.
The Government is committed to the health and social services reform. Last summer we agreed on a joint model for this. This will enable us to secure high-quality services on an equal basis for all people. The focus of the reform is on the people’s needs, not on structures.
The main responsibility for the organisation and provision of health and social services rests with the public sector. This will ensure equal treatment of people in all regions of Finland. We will also take account of the different kinds of challenges faced by different regions in organising health and social services.
The Government will secure services for the older Finnish citizens. Everyone has the right to a safe and secure old age. No-one should have to wonder whether they will have access to decent, high-quality care. This is why a binding minimum staffing level in 24-hour care will be laid down by law. Home care of a high quality will also be secured.
We will implement a treatment time guarantee that will provide people with access to care without undue delays and shorten the queues. This is a significant improvement from the present. The numbers of doctors and nurses will be increased.
The Government sees social security as an important safety net that we need to keep developing. We want our social security system to respond more flexibly to citizens' changing life situations and needs. We want to make the system more reliable and comprehensive, and easier to understand.
Climate change is the greatest challenge of our future. We must do more to fight against it, and faster. This concerns Finland, Europe, and the whole world. It is about the future of our children. This fact has been duly recognised in the Government Programme. We are committed to a carbon-neutral Finland by 2035. Our aim is highly ambitious, but it is also indispensable – both for us and, first and foremost, for the future generations.
Our actions are based on scientific knowledge and facts, and we respect the views and opinions of experts.
The views presented in public debate according to which the mitigation of climate change would mean misery and difficulties for ordinary people, companies and society are highly irresponsible. This simply is not true.
Climate action is not being taken to make everyday life more difficult, but because the option of doing nothing is disastrous for individuals and societies – with high costs to economies and humanity.
We want to build Finland into the world’s first fossil-free welfare society. This requires decisions to reduce emissions and strengthen carbon sinks. Decisions that are based on fact, not imaginary perceptions. And it is important to tell people about these decisions in a way that is open and understandable. Besides this, we must also rectify the incorrect claims that are being presented.
The Government will take climate action in a way that is sustainable, and regionally and socially fair and just.
This means that low- and middle-income earners will have not only the opportunity but also an incentive to make choices in their everyday lives that are beneficial for the climate. The Government will invest in public transport and promote walking and cycling as modes of transport.
A strong climate policy means that we can create new jobs and new success stories around technologies needed to fight against climate change. Work towards low-carbon manufacturing industry and transport is already under way, and we will do our part to enable the renewal of Finnish industry.
The domestic food sector will also become even more important as climate change is altering the conditions for food production on the global scale. Efforts and additional investments will be made to improve the profitability of agriculture.
Besides climate change mitigation, we will also take action to protect and enhance biodiversity in Finland. Finnish nature is a treasure we must cherish for future generations. A diverse natural environment is also a prerequisite for people's wellbeing.
The Government will continue to pursue an active role in the European Union. Our Presidency of the Council of the EU has been successful. After the Presidency, we will continue as an active Member State.
The Government wants to further strengthen Finland’s global role. This is because we wish to solve global challenges together with others, and because this is also in the interest of the Finns and Finland.
Whether Finland is globally influential depends on our ability to act as a solution-oriented and reliable player.
In foreign and security policy we will continue to pursue the same kind of policy as so far. Our focus will be on the rule of law, human rights, democracy and peace.
We will make sure that Finland has a credible defence capacity and secure the necessary resources for this. Finland’s security of supply will be safeguarded in all circumstances.
Finland is country that does not belong to any military alliances. The Government will continue to deepen defence cooperation with Sweden and NATO cooperation based on partnership.
The Government is committed to further enhancing equality in the Finnish society. This is what we are known for around the world.
We want Finland to be a country where every child has the opportunity to become anything he or she wants.
This is why we will invest in education at all levels. Children’s subjective right to early childhood education and care will be restored. We will improve equality in comprehensive school education. Compulsory education will be extended to the upper secondary level. General and vocational upper secondary education will become truly free of charge. University education will be further strengthened.
The Government is committed to raising Finland’s level of competence. Competence is a key factor in terms of the future of both individuals and the whole society.
The higher level of competence we have, the more sustainable is the foundation of our economy. Competence is closely linked to both social and economic sustainability.
One way to invest in social sustainability is to make political decisions that help and support people on low incomes. Any cuts affecting people whose incomes are already low would not only take money from them but also undermine their hope for a better future. This is something we cannot afford.
We all know very well that economic sustainability cannot be achieved without social sustainability. The same applies to ecological sustainability. They all go hand in hand, and this is the thinking that guides the Government’s actions.
The Government will take Finland from a decade that was lost in economic terms to a decade of sustainable development.
The road we have chosen is a fair, just and responsible one. We will strengthen our welfare state, the world’s best model of society.
We will invest in people’s competence and employment. We will take care of people’s wellbeing, safety and security. We will bear our responsibility for the climate. We will enhance equality and inclusion.
Through all this and by implementing the Government Programme, we will strengthen people’s confidence in the future. This is our mission.