Red meat on the cheap

The government program negotiations got underway yesterday. Three issues were raised in the media: food's value added tax, nuclear energy, and military neutrality. The first one is a Centre Party issue. Food producers are a traditional Centre constituency and the party has brought up cutting food VAT in several election campaigns. Now is the time to deliver. The problem is that none of their government partners are very interested in it, arguing that only a part of the tax cut will be passed on to consumers. A recent study indicated that roughly three quarters of a food VAT cut will show up in consumer prices. The other two issues, both Coalition specials, are largely symbolic.

Opening the way for a sixth nuclear reactor while the fifth one is still being built won't please the Green League. The Green leaders' reasoning goes that they can increase the government's commitment to renewable sources of energy being being in the government, but still, opposition to nuclear power has been central to their ideology for a long time. Personally I hope that they see that fighting climate change is more important and that increasing the nuclear energy production is a way to cut carbon emissions. Nevertheless, the nuclear plant can be built regardless of whether the possibility is mentioned in the government program.

Not mentioning military neutrality in the government program seems like an important move, but I think its practical implications would be minor. Finland already cooperates extensively with NATO and the government program isn't going to put an end to that. On the other hand, as I've written before elsewhere, I don't believe that a full membership is happening during Halonen's presidency, again regardless of the government program. The EU's military dimension, too, will move along just the same no matter what the Finnish government program happens to say.

PS: The Esko-Aho-for-Foreign-Minister-(ooh-he's-our-Carl-Bildt) rumour is showing signs of falling through. I kind of figured it would.

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