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Fri, 16 Aug, 2013 12:00:52 AM
FTimes-STT Report, August 16
Finance Minister Jutta Urpilainen talking to journalists after a meeting with the former finance ministers at a lunch at Government Banquet Hall in Helsinki on Thursday. Photo Str / Lehtikuva
Finance Minister Jutta Urpilainen and seven of her predecessors on Thursday discussed the country’s economic situation to arrive at a viable way out of the ongoing crisis.
Urpilainen invited all the former finance ministers of the country to a lunch she hosted at the Government Banquet Hall in the capital and seven of them, including the incumbent president, Sauli Niinistö, met her over the lunch, meeting sources said.
Urpilainen, who last week announced the budget proposal for 2014, informed STT that they had a threadbare discussion in which the guests shared their experience under similar crises while leading the finance ministry. 
“The discussion was lively and I am satisfied at the outcome,” the finance minister said in a written statement emailed to the news agency, adding that the topic of the discussion was the country’s present vulnerable economic situation.
Urpilainen hinted that similar meetings of experience-sharing would be held in which, she hoped, more of her predecessors would join.
President Niinistö, who chaired the finance ministry from 1996 to 2003, said the country went through similar economic crises in the past and the former ministers shared their experience during those crisis periods with the incumbent finance minister.
Mauno Koivisto and Iiro Viinanen were among the former ministers, the sources said.
The government on August 7 finished drafting the budget for 2014 with a deficit of EUR 6.6 billion.
Finance Minister Urpilainen said the drafting was done without bringing any major changes to the budget proposal placed in the parliament in March.
Urpilainen dubbed the budget as painful, but said it was necessary considering the country’s overall economic situation.
“It is important for every Finn to understand that the bygone days will never return,” said the finance minister, adding that the country is now going through difficult and painful structural reforms.
She said the reforms were essential to overcome the situation.
Photo Str / Lehtikuva
Urpilainen said the government has decided to give subsidy in some sectors including infrastructure development of road communication, repairing houses, and upgrading energy efficiency.
The budget would facilitate economic growth and generate employments by increasing the deduction limit on private individuals for home renovations and homecare services from the existing amount of EUR 400 to EUR 2,400, said the finance minister.
The draft budget, however, upholds the decision taken in the budget planning to cut corporate taxes.
She termed the present economic downswing, exceptional structural transformations affecting the industry, and the deficit in public sector three major challenges to the Finnish economy and said the situation should be dealt with carefully and with patience.
Earlier on August 5, Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen said the main objective of the government’s economic policy is to reduce its debt burden.
Katainen, also chief of the National Coalition Party (Kokoomus), said the country’s present fragile economic situation was the reason behind the increased government borrowing, which, he said would be cut down significantly by the end of its term.
He also said that the government had to compromise with the deficit target.
The coalition government on March 21 announced the budget planning in the parliament for the next fiscal year, aiming at adjusting EUR 600 million.
Katainen on Wednesday also urged party ministers to work for common interests of the country, not only to fulfil the party’s election pledges.
Speaking at a meeting of the ministers of the Kokoomus, the main component of the alliance government, at Joensuu, he asked them to get prepared for the changes taking place in the country under the current vulnerable economic situation.
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