May 1, 2017

Sipilänomics VI: Unwrecking the universities?

Two years ago, I wrote about our current cabinet's plan to wreck Finland's universities. Just last week, though, we were told that that very same cabinet was making massive investments in science and education (Yle). Really?

Well, hardly. Let's look at some numbers.

To start with, in 2016 student benefits were cut by 122 million euros (IS). Now, our glorious leader is introducing a "family subsidy", which totals 75 million euros. So students are left 48 million euros poorer.

I concentrated on the universities before, but massive cuts were made to vocational training, where 190 million € was cut last year (IL). Now the government is investing 80 million euros into revamping vocational training. So they're still 110m€ behind.

As part of Sipilä's cuts, the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation (Tekes) lost 138m€ (source). Now, though, the three bandits cabinet is giving them 70 million euros of additional funding, which leaves them at -68m€. Similarly, the Academy of Finland is getting 50 million more - which doesn't redress more than half of the 100m€ cuts to university funding (Acatiimi).

So you see how this goes. First the government makes gigantic cuts to education. Then they turn around and make headlines with their "investments in education and research" - which in reality don't compensate at all for the previous cuts.

It's also worth noting that in one respect, this additional funding continues a longer trend: money is being taken away from the universities and given either to funders like the Finnish Academy or to political boondoggles like the government's "flagship ventures". This means that universities and researchers have less freedom, and need to spend even more time negotiating a massive public bureaucracy to get funding for their work. Finnish research is being methodically reshaped into a planned economy, where the government centrally directs what research areas get funded. We have no reason to think that this is going to work any better than any other planned economies.

There are two observations to be made about this. Firstly, the Finnish media is so thoroughly in thrall to the government that they're swallowing this hook, line and sinker. So the government can pull this back-and-forth act and actually use it in the next elections to claim that they're not wrecking education.

Secondly, as I explained earlier, the Sipilä government is failing to meet its fiscal goals. This farce should give you some notion of why. The Sipilä notion of public economy is to make cuts, and then undo many of the cuts, so that things are getting objectively worse but no real savings are made. I don't understand how anyone can possibly approve of running an economy like this.


The Sipilä gang, of course, claim that they're reaching their goals. As I predicted, they're largely accomplishing this by lying. Key to their claimed billions of savings is a ridiculous notion that the healthcare disaster is going to cost three billion euros less than some imaginary alternative.

Meanwhile, the racist "Finns party" was destroyed in the municipal elections, and is currently debating whether to elect a fascist or a fascist as its chairman. One of the fascists is more rude than the other, so the other two parties in government are pretending that if the rude one is elected, there will be a crisis. This is probably also a lie.

But on the whole, then, Sipilänomics rolls on much like the Trump administration: the country is being run by idiots who want to destroy it, but they're constantly tripping over their own incompetence. Despite this, both their actions and their inactions continue to do very real damage.

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