Decline and Fall: Finland's National Debt Beyond 1990s Crisis Level

Finland's national debt is reported to have exceeded the EU-norm of 60 percent of the GDP and reached as high as 63.1 percent, a level previously recorded only in the crisis years of the 1990s.

Finland's growing national debt has been a standing source of concern for European officials. According to the latest report from Statistics Finland, the national debt has exceeded EU limits, reaching 63.1 percent of GDP in March.

In 2015, Finland's external debt was hovering at the critical level of 60 percent of the country's GDP and was predicted to reach 62.6 percent in 2016. However, events moved faster than predicted: the rapid growth of the debt exceeded the forecasts of the European Commission and peaked at 63.1 percent as early as in March. At the end of 2015, Finland's consolidated debt amounted to 130.7 billion euros, marking an increase of almost 9 billion euros over the year.

In mid-March, Finland's Finance Minister Alexander Stubb of the National Coalition Party, came under fire from the European Commission, which slammed the country's poor economic performance and failure to keep the national debt within the specified limit.

Together with Finland's shrinking economy, unemployment, an ageing population and the government's highly unpopular austerity measures, this suggests that the bottom has not yet been reached. Fitch expects the general government debt-to-GDP ratio to continue to increase to 67.5 per cent by 2020, the credit rating agency highlights.

Despite the obvious all-European recession and anti-Russian sanctions, which have taken their toll on Finland's economy in particular, many Finns blame the condition on the euro, regarding the European currency as the root of its troubles. As a member of the Eurozone, Finland has lost its independent monetary policy to Frankfurt, seat of the European Central Bank.

At some point this year, the Finnish parliament is supposed to discuss a citizens' initiative on a referendum, questioning the country's membership in the Eurozone. The initiative was engineered last summer by veteran politician Paavo Väyrynen, former minister and chairman of the Center Party and current member of the liberal Alde group in the European Parliament. Last year, the petition demanding Finland's withdrawal from the Eurozone gathered over 50,000 signatures in record time.

According to Paavo Väyrynen, Finland has suffered greatly from its membership in the Eurozone, resulting in sluggish growth with several consecutive years of recession.
Tuomas Malinen, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Helsinki, agrees that Finland should have stuck to its national currency, the markka. According to his article in the Huffington Post, the entire blame for Finland's economic hardship rests with the euro. He argues, that Finland's exports would have been 15 percent higher had the marrka been preserved as the country's currency.

Finland's national debt can be followed live at Velkakello.

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