Finland’s Premier Candidate Seeks to Accelerate Pension Savings

Finnish Economy Minister Jan Vapaavuori, one of the favorites to take over as prime minister in June, said his country can’t afford to ease the pace of measures needed to pay for Europe’s fastest aging population.

The five-party coalition needs to accelerate its overhaul of the pensions system and implement steps agreed on in a 9 billion-euro ($12.4 billion) plan, Vapaavuori told reporters in Helsinki today.

“Our biggest challenge is that the agreed measures will be implemented,” the 49-year-old minister said. “We have a deep mutual understanding in the government about the necessity of these measures and that they will improve the nation’s health in a significant way once effective.”

Finland’s economy is struggling to recover after contracting in three of the past five years. A decline in paper demand, as consumers shift to online media, has hurt one of Finland’s erstwhile strongest sectors and its technology industry has suffered after Nokia Oyj’s mobile business succumbed to tougher competition.

Austerity Measures

The government has pushed through 6.8 billion euros in austerity measures, even as it’s sought to boost growth through a corporate-tax cut and a planned 600 million-euro package of targeted steps through next year. It decided on structural measures last November designed to bridge a 4.7 percent gap of gross domestic product in long-term funds.

Vapaavuori said yesterday he will run to replace Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen as the head of the National Coalition Party and premier. He’s the first candidate officially to enter the race.

Katainen is stepping down after his party selects a new chairman on June 13-15 and will seek a job in the European Union or the broader international stage, he said earlier this month.

Finance Minister Jutta Urpilainen, who heads the Social Democratic Party, also faces a challenge for leadership by Antti Rinne, head of trade union Pro. She has said the party’s new leader must become finance minister.

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