Finland

   

Policy Performance

#5

Economic Policies

#6
Despite lingering economic concerns, Finland’s economic policies place it in the top group (rank 6) internationally. Its score in this area has declined by 0.3 points relative to 2014.

The country is emerging from a period of weak or even negative growth that has been attributable to declining export competitiveness, weakened investment and subdued domestic consumption. However, growth levels remain moderate, and government efforts to restore vibrancy, increase competitiveness and reduce debt have topped the agenda.

Unemployment rates have declined to moderately high levels of around 7.5%, but efforts to address long-term and youth unemployment have been less successful. A unemployment-benefit reform has cut eligibility durations and increased work conditionalities. Income taxes are strongly progressive, and municipal tax rates high. Corporate taxes have been cut, and complexity reduced.

Budget deficits are moderate, but the government has been unable to halt the growth in public debt. R&D spending, which once topped the EU, has declined.

Social Policies

#5
With a generally strong safety net, Finland falls into the top group internationally (rank 5) in the area of social policies. Its score in this area has declined by 0.3 points relative to 2014.

The education system is of high quality, though the country’s outstanding PISA scores are slipping due to gender and regional disparities in student performance. Spending cuts have undermined education-sector performance somewhat. Pockets of relative poverty persist despite generally very efficient redistributive policies.

Implementation of a reform shifting social-welfare and health care responsibilities from municipalities to larger governmental entities has been delayed by constitutional concerns. Child-poverty rates are low, and women’s employment rates high. A reform currently under development would encourage more equal sharing of parental leave and better facilitate mothers’ labor-market participation.

The pension system generally prevents poverty, while ongoing reforms are addressing fiscal concerns. Immigrants are not well integrated in the labor market. Anti-immigrant protests have occurred, occasionally turning violent, but the refugee crisis has triggered somewhat more favorable attitudes toward immigration overall.

Environmental Policies

#5
With a strong record of cooperation on conservation issues, Finland falls into the top ranks internationally (rank 5) with respect to environmental policies. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.6 points since 2014.

Contributions to combating climate change have been modest overall. The country has focused strongly on water pollution, curbing industrial emissions and cleaning polluted waterways, but farm-produced waterway pollution remains a challenge.

Forest protection has also been a top priority. Efforts to halt a decline in biodiversity have been insufficient, although the government has created networks of protected areas.

The country has engaged in and honors a large number of international environmental agreements, but is rarely a forerunner in creating these regimes. It will chair the Arctic Council from 2017 to 2019, and is promoting implementation of the Paris Agreement and the UN’s sustainable development goals.

Democracy

#2

Quality of Democracy

#2
With an outstanding mix of procedures and protections, Finland falls into the top group internationally (rank 2) with regard to quality of democracy. Its score on this measure is unchanged relative to its 2014 level.

Campaign-finance laws are strict, featuring transparency requirements and independent monitoring. A widely used new popular-initiative system allows the public to submit issues to parliament on a non-binding basis. The media is strongly independent and pluralistic, with the healthy market promoting high-quality journalism despite digital competition.

Civil rights are generally strongly protected, with same-sex marriage and adoption rights recently granted. Anti-discrimination rules are broad, although the small Roma community is marginalized. The now-divided Finns Party, one splinter of which is part of the government coalition, encourages discrimination against ethnic minorities.

Legal certainty is a strong part of the political culture. Courts are independent, though no constitutional court exists. Corruption is rare.

Governance

#4

Executive Capacity

#3
With a broadly evidence-based system, Finland falls into the top ranks internationally (rank 3) with regard to executive capacity. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.3 points relative to 2014.

Strategic planning is deeply integrated into policymaking. Evidence-based planning is enhanced using trial projects, as in the case of the basic-income experiment. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has broad policy-review capabilities, and works closely with ministries. However, decision-making is based on ministerial consensus rather than PMO leadership. Interministerial coordination is strong at all levels.

RIA use is systematic. Evaluations have resulted in some concerns over the quality of the assessments. Interest organizations are regularly involved in the legislative process, although the role played by tripartite labor-market negotiations is weakening. Conflict within the Finns Party nearly led to a coalition collapse, but instead led to a split in the party, with moderates staying in the government.

While the current government’s agenda is comparatively focused, several proposals have already been abandoned. An ongoing reform that would create new, larger entities to provide the social and health services now provided by municipalities has been contentious. The government has exceeded standards set in some EU climate-related agreements.

Executive Accountability

#4
With strong oversight mechanisms in place, Finland falls into the top ranks internationally (rank 4) with regard to executive accountability. Its score in this area has declined by 0.2 points relative to 2014.

Parliamentarians have access to considerable resources, and very strong formal executive-oversight powers. The audit and ombuds offices are well-funded and independent. Use of the ombuds services has risen consistently in recent years. The ombudsperson can initiate investigations on his or her own initiative, and conduct onsite investigations if necessary.

Citizens’ policy interest and trust in political institutions have risen in recent years. The media produces a considerable quantity of high-quality information. Although declining, daily newspaper circulation figures remain reasonably high.

Political parties are responsive to members’ input, but leaders decide most issues. The large economic-interest associations have long been integrated into the policymaking process. Other interest groups often present influential if narrow proposals and analyses.
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