Posts Tagged ‘Turku’

Where are the ‘Cities’? Finland’s income plan.

December 10, 2015


Old Turku, Finland

Old Turku, Finland

If you are looking for a city called Shoalhaven City, forget it. It does not exist. The same for a city called Canterbury City. We are visiting a place named Nelson Bay which does exists but yet Port Stephens does not. Nelson Bay is also Port Stephens together with some other townships. Palm Beach has no palms and tasty cheese is often not tasty.  Many a foreigner is left dangling to make sense of our fondness for the confusion caused by complications in naming things. I remember buying a house in Balmain but it was actually in Petersham because that was the Parish in which Balmain was situated but it was also in the county of Cumberland even though Balmain was also a Borough till at least 1906. (which was in the Cumberland County). To top it off, Balmain is part of Leichhardt Shire

I suppose, history leaves a stamp on land- titles and official documents and it takes a brave soul to modernise the running of a bureaucracy. Then there are places like Leichhardt near Balmain, but you would be wrong thinking it is the same as the electoral seat of Leichhardt which is 2500 kilometres away in the North of Australia.

It is no wonder someone asked; What’s in a name?

In the meantime Finland is addressing social inequality , by planning to pay every person a monthly income. Now there is a country that likes innovation and making things simple.

“To fight poverty and boost its own economy, Finland is planning to issue a check for $876 to every citizen, every month. The concept is called basic income, and the Finnish government is getting closer to finalizing its implementation this month.

The Finnish Social Insurance Institution (KELA) is drafting the plan to pay every one of its 5.4 million people $876 per month, tax-free, which would replace social support programs, such as welfare and unemployment benefits. Though a proposal from KELA isn’t expected until November 2016, a pilot stage is currently planned prior to full implementation of the program.

Basic income has been debated by economists for years, but Finland would be the first major nation to actually implement the model on a universal basis. The arrangement was initially popularized in the 1960s by Milton Friedman and would “provide payments from the state that would increase in inverse proportion to income.

This could be the Finnish government’s answer to rising poverty and unemployment rates during a three-year recession, and it is certainly popular among Finns. In a recent poll by KELA, 69 percent of Finns support a basic income. Voters elected the Centre party this April, which campaigned in support of basic income, but the idea is popular among voters of almost all parties.”

I will just leave you with the following;

Our Dutch pension that includes a holiday loading is now higher than our Australian pension. I worked in Holland for about three years. I worked in Australia for well over fifty years (paying tax!) Because the Australian pension is means tested, it gets deducted by the value of savings, the family car, furniture, silver tea spoons, cash on hand, brass taps etc AND a deduction of the value of our Dutch Pension.

Can one believe how complicated and unfair this all is.  We are not complaining and are living well. But what about those who pay rent or mortgage, have debts or living in struggle street?

Finland-Suomi ( Auto-biography).

July 12, 2015
In Finland

In Finland

Travelling in the mid sixties did not yet involve threatening gun carrying Border Protection Guards nor queueing at all sorts of gates to get on board a boat, plane or train. I never had to take shoes or my belt off, hopping through metal detectors nor padded down for concealed weapons under my armpits or between my ankle-sock of a scrotum. Or, if they  existed, I can’t remember. I suppose a passport was sometimes glanced at, perhaps even stamped, after which the train guard would dip his cap, say thank you and move on to the next carriage. Of course, we did lug suitcases for which those handy swivelling wheels and extended handles still had to be invented. The suitcases of that period had two  chrome-plated snappy locks for which a key was used that was so universal it opened almost every suitcase. Even so, we felt safe travelling. Travellers smiled and were tolerant.

Finally arriving in Finland and getting off the large overnight ferry must have been smooth. Perhaps I did have to show my passport. All I had eyes for, somewhat nervously; was for the girl with the smile. The  Mona Lisa who promised to me as I did her. She wore a lovely two piece sienna coloured outfit. I definitely did not wear my suit! It was  mid-summer but not just the season. All of Finland seemed braced in cheerful golden hues.  We embraced, took each other in,  held hands as we walked slowly to the railway station. I must have walked lopsided holding her hand in one and a suitcase in the other.  We stopped somewhere,  had a coffee. A lot was going on. It had been a while since our first encounter skiing and a bloody nose resulting from the icy fall. That exchange; ‘you have beautiful eyes’ and her unnerving answer, ‘yes I know.’

We kept in contact by writing, frenetically so towards the end, before my departure from Australia to Finland for our marriage. Now at the arrival in Finland we had to  deal with each other for real and possibly forever. Look at facial expressions, wonder (study shyly)  nose, chin, hands… and as I did, especially her lovely smile. The way we walk and talk, inside our skins.  It was beautifully serious and often fortunately hilarious as well, wholesome…, as a river flows quietly into the ocean.  Still is.

My knowledge of Finland was scant. It was the forgotten corner of Europe and unlike Sweden and Norway wasn’t much on the world’s horizon. I knew by looking at the map trying to find the village where Helvi grew up that it was a huge country, sparsely populated. It had a land climate. Surprisingly warm dry summers and long cold winters. I knew that its architecture was modern and that it had a very strange language with long words that I could not link to anything.

The long words became comprehensible after some time when I found out that where we use many words to form a sentence, Finnish language link many words into one long word. Suffixes, adjectives, pro-nouns, you name it; they are all joined into the one word without using articles or prepositions. Perhaps this unique language developed out of the long winters. The need to be sparse and economical, no waste of energy, preserve the good. I would like to think that it is so. Academics claim differently. There is a link to Hungarian and Turkish languages. The mind boggles. It is surprising the language survived at all. Ownership of Finland wavered often between Sweden and Russia throughout its history.

View from our apartment's rooftop in Sydney. 1966

View from our apartment’s rooftop in Sydney. 1966

It was soon discovered that my  Dutch passport wasn’t enough identification for a marriage. Even though I was a resident of Australia, I needed much more paper work done. A date of the wedding had been set to coincide with all the Finnish family members which was extensive. Helvi came from a family of nine children of which she was one almost in the middle. My parents in Australia were hoping for a wedding in Sydney!  The date was shifted several times. It become so hard that when all the paperwork was finally done, including a finger-print extract from Australian police that I was not a known (or unknown criminal), that we just decided to marry in a registry instead. The wedding dress was dyed in red and given to one of Helvi’s sisters! Afterwards we had a photo taken. I haven’t been able to find this photo. There are so many boxes of photos and so many albums to go through and so little time.  Do people actually go over old photos? We did when we moved from the farm.

During the process to get married in full regalia including big party afterwards with guests and laden food tables, wild dancing including the tango or polka, I remember going to the local parish and asking the Lutheran priest to marry us. He was a good man but very careful, did not speak English. He kept rubbing his chin and saying, “niin, niin”, which meant translated, “well, well, or so, so”. “I have to think this over, come back in two weeks time, I’ll give it more thought”. After two weeks we returned  back to this good man. But, again the priest rubbing his chin and again saying pensively ” niin niin”!  This time he had a thick book in front of him. Perhaps he wanted to put more weight to his eventual answer in marrying us and was showing us he was seriously investigating the problem of marrying a foreigner. The Lutheran church in Finland is strong and a very important part of Finland and its culture. He meant well and did not want to make a mistake. Perhaps he was worried that he might marry a rogue of a non-believer, a scoundrel from Australia. He was not totally unjustified in thinking that. The third time back it was still, “niin, niin”, while rubbing his chin in between huge silences.

We got married, eventually, but at a registry!  And by that time the summer had passed. It was now mid-winter and what a winter. During a few days the day-time temperature dropped to -34c. We rented a cottage on a frozen lake with outside sauna. It was in Ankeriasjarvi. You have seen some photos that I did manage to find.

Can you imagine?