Columns Finland needs business leaders who have hope

The courage to dream, take risks and see the future is one of the best aspects of business. If a leader wrinkles in gloom, this is forgotten.

Pension company Varan CEO Risto Murto paddled in an interview on New Year’s Eve (HS 31.12.) in deep waters. Murto estimates that poor productivity development and a gloomy population forecast can make Finland a “fading national economy” whose role in the international economy is no longer growing.

“Jumping out of the vicious circle will require luck and action that makes it hard to figure out what they would even be,” Murto said.

Huh. What can be done here then.

Similar despair has recently oozed from the top of business.

Björn Wahlroos, who has been painting a dark picture of Finland for a long time predicted in May (HS 10.5.) the “already gloomy” picture of the Finnish economy becomes “rather cruel”. Kesko’s President and CEO Mikko Helander vertasi in his speech in modern-day Finland to North Korea in August. He later stated that his “throw” was related to a broader concern about the Finnish economy. Jyrki Ovaska, UPM’s Chief Technology Officer said last week (HS 16.1.), which factors affect whether the company invests in Finland or Germany.

“We met [Saksan] state government ministers, which immediately gives us, as a company, the confidence that there is a high-level commitment to this issue. In Finland, it does not seem to be the case that ministers contact the company, ”said Ovaska.

Statements can get a strange picture: Finnish business is in trouble, its cream is clueless and only the state can help them. Somewhat inconsistently, there needs to be less state, but it needs to help businesses more.

Joke to it: there is a legitimate concern under the speeches. Labor productivity is lagging behind. As the proportion of retirees and the hardships of old age increase, the need for money can lead to tax increases or increase political unrest. Finland should find a way in which companies also benefit from the upheaval.

Politicians need to solve this equation. If the charges are unreasonably high relative to other countries or the outlook is blurry, the management of the international company will begin to look at the plant’s location elsewhere. Otherwise, international owners will fire. All companies must have confidence in the future and the availability of labor – that Finland carries and that it is possible to make an effort for the world from here. Without this feeling, no new or new jobs will be created.

In the language of companies, the operating environment must be in order, and that is why leaders are rightly challenging politicians.

But what is the role of business as the creator of the environment?

In Western countries, companies and fair competition have been a source of optimism and a belief in development. The courage to dream, take risks and see the future is one of the best aspects of business. If a leader wrinkles in gloom, this is forgotten.

In his works, Finland lags behind Sweden and Germany in proportion to the size of the economy, for example in research. Industrial investment is dragging on – partly precisely because faith in Finland is weak. Listening to speeches about the state, it feels like you always don’t even believe in your own ability to beat others in the market in the corner rooms.

Elsewhere in the world, big business has been talked about as a societal leader in recent years when politics has faltered. Of course, Finnish corporate cream also talks about the future, but on the sidelines of the trouble.

What impact does this have on those who are considering turning their own idea into a company?

It is clear, that the Finnish economy demands action from the government, but business also needs something: to regain its self-esteem.

The media also has a role to play: the soon-to-be-launched HS Vision looks to the future in the economy realistically but hopefully.

The Finnish economy needs self-confidence and a common vision for the future. Leaders, you could give it.

The author is HS’s chief financial and political editor.

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