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article imagePM urges Finns to accept austerity in rare TV appeal

By AFP     Sep 16, 2015 in World

Finland's centrist Prime Minister Juha Sipila urged Finns to accept the government's harsh austerity measures in a rare televised address to the nation on Wednesday.

"The Finnish state has contracted debt at a rate of almost a million euros ($1.13 million) per hour for seven years, day and night, every day of the week. We cannot continue like this," Sipila said in a 20-minute pre-recorded speech broadcast on both national television and radio.

Sipila's speech came a week after his pro-austerity, centre-right coalition government announced a series of tough austerity measures to revive the eurozone member's slumping economy after three years of recession.

Finnish employee unions have called for a major demonstration and strikes on Friday to protest against the government's plans to cut back holidays, reduce pensioners' housing allowances, and slash employees' overtime and Sunday pay, among other measures.

"We have contracted debt faster than other eurozone countries on average... The difficult decisions will not be over with in the following weeks," Sipila said.

Political commentators called the televised appeal "highly exceptional" as no other Finnish prime minister has resorted to a similar measure in decades.

But Sipila said Finland's economic situation was "exceptionally serious".

"We must understand that much harsher measures have been taken in countries stricken by the crisis like Ireland and Portugal... We were keen to advise the Greeks, so let's make use of our own advice now," he said.

Finland, once a top performer in the eurozone, has seen its economy crumble under the effects of its rapidly ageing population and declines in key sectors of its economy such as forestry and technology, the latter once led by one-time world leader Nokia.

Finland has in recent years taken a hardline stance against bailout packages to other European nations in economic crisis, calling for tough austerity measures to be implemented instead.

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