Last summer, the EU decided on a 750 billion recovery fund to alleviate the economics bumps caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, the EU also agreed on the budget frame for the upcoming programming period (2021–2027). Finland is to receive approximately €2.33 billion from the Recovery Fund. With the help of this funding, Finland will seek to push the economy towards the path of sustainable growth. Added to funds from other sources the total pot for this task is over €3 billion.
The Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment organised, at short notice, a regional tour (in Finnish), to introduce the EU’s recovery package and the recovery fund RRF (Recovery and Resilience Facility) to the regional level administrations while also collecting ideas for its rational use. The Government decided on the RRF priorities (in Finnish) in the budgetary negotiations on September 16th and the first regional event took place in Oulu on Monday, September 21st. The tour ended with Helsinki-Uusimaa’s regional event in Helsinki, on October 19th. We had the pleasure of facilitating the tour, collecting ideas for RRF use along the way. A summary (in Finnish) of the tour, its preliminary objectives and the regions’ RRF plans was presented in Helsinki, on October 28th. The yield of this autumn seeding will be harvested early next spring.
Where would regions invest the recovery funding?
As one might suspect, there are numerous potential takers for this “extra funding” provided by the Recovery and Resilience Facility. In the regions’ plans, prospective budgets for RRF add up to some €9 billion – three times the resources available. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, some of the regions’ budgets seemed to be indicative, at best.
According to the regions’ recovery plans, the most significant priorities are investments supporting the green transition (36 %) and those supporting sustainable infrastructure and digitalisation (28 %). Education, research and innovation activities (14 %) and securing international competitiveness (14 %) share the third spot in the regions’ plans. Labour market activities, services for the unemployed, the development of working life, strengthening the availability and improving the cost effectiveness of social and health care services however only receive 4 percent each.
The starting point for the Sustainable Growth Programme in Finland is the country-specific recommendations presented by the European Commission. These recommendations have to be considered when designing the programme content. In addition, 37 percent of the funding has to be allocated to initiatives that support the green transition while 20 percent is allocated to activities promoting digitalisation. In the regions’ recovery plans, the preliminary budgets closely follow these prerequisites. It was particularly gratifying to note that the regions see strong connections between the priorities which provide an excellent basis for building large-scale initiatives with a significant impact.
Sustainable impacts as objectives
A coordination group lead by Mr. Juha Majanen is preparing a report on the use of the recovery funding. The report is to be submitted to the parliament during the autumn term, possibly in November. Hopefully, the coordination group and the ministries represented in it consider cross-sectoral solutions in co-operation. Nevertheless, there is concern that the priorities in the Sustainable Growth Programme are seen as ministry-specific playgrounds, inevitably risking the possibility of sub-optimal outcomes.
The ministers emphasised the significance of impact-orientation, co-operation and encouraging a high level of ambition. It is easy to agree with these goals. I well and truly hope that the content of the programme is defined wisely and insightfully thus providing a significant return on the investment over the next decade.
Tommi Ranta toured Finland to collect the region’s thoughts on the use of the recovery funding facility.