“Finland is a rich, happy country and good at austerity,” according to a special report by the Financial Times.
In a five-page special report published on 30 May, Financial Times openly admires Finland's budget discipline, robust fiscal position, strong government finances and healthy banking sector, which set it apart from most other countries.
“Budget discipline has been impressive and there is a wish to stay in the euro, despite the profligacy of others,” states the report. “Since the global crisis, Finland has focused on ensuring its financial house is in order and has further strengthened its reputation for having among the soundest public finances in Europe.”
Financial Times reports that Finland's debt-to-GDP ratio was just 48% at the end of 2011, compared to 82% for prudent Germany, and its borrowing costs are about 1.8% lower than for Netherlands, Austria and Greece. “Richer, happier and better educated than the OECD rich nations' club average, Finland is also one of the few countries that all the main credit agencies still judge as triple A-rated.”
According to the report, Finland's six-party coalition government has successfully argued the case for austerity without forgetting the need to encourage growth. As a result, Finland's “consumer confidence has bucked the European trend and risen this year, helping the country maintain GDP growth”, with retail sales still increasing and new car sales rising sharply over the past 12 months.
The report also examines the prospects for Finland's clean technology sector and its gaming industry which are seen as potential engines for future growth. Finland's dynamic gaming sector is led by Rovio, creator of the Angry Birds smartphone game, and also includes other innovative companies like Grey Area, Mountain Sheep, Supercell and Grand Cru. Revenue in the sector has grown nearly 60% to EUR 165 million in the past year, according to the Finnish National Centre of Game Business Reseaarch and Education.
Other topics investigated in the report include the challenges facing Nokia, the shift to emerging markets, biofuels and renewable energy production by Finland's major forestry companies, and the future of Finland's nuclear power industry. On the cultural front, Financial Times also examines the importance of the sauna in Finnish society and the enduring popularity of tango music among the Finns.
Read the full report here