Finland joined the European Union in 1995 and was one of the first countries to adopt the euro on 1 January 1999. So far, it remains the only Nordic country to have discarded its national currency for the sake of the euro.
Finland’s introduction of the euro in 1999 was a big mistake, Finnish businessman and chairman of the Sampo insurance group Björn Wahlroos said.
“If you have a completely impossible trade union movement and a completely dysfunctional labour market then you have to have your own currency. This is what Finland has done wrong”, Wahlroos said during the DI Börsdagen conference in Stockholm, as quoted by the newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet.
“It has cost Finland loads of money and we are stuck with a German currency and a Finnish labour market”, he added.
Sweden, by contrast, he argued, has been able to greatly benefit from investments, thanks to the weak exchange rate. A weaker krona compared to the euro lends major advantages to Swedish industry and gives a boost to competitiveness, he opined.
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Wahlroos also recalled Finland’s major growth problems in recent years.
“If we take the year 2007 as a starting point, Finland’s GDP has not grown anything at all. It is zero growth in ten years, while Sweden’s GDP it has grown over 20 percent”, Wahlroos noted.
The Finnish markka, divided into 100 pennies, was the currency of Finland between 1860 and February 2002, when it ceased to be legal tender and was replaced by the euro after a three-year dual circulation period.
Between 1975 and 2018, Finland’s GDP growth rate averaged a mere 0.53 percent, reaching a record low of minus 6.80 percent in the first quarter of 2009.
In 2016, 14 of 29 economists surveyed by the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat said that Finland would be better off keeping a currency of its own, while another seven said that the conversion to the euro is difficult to estimate. However, most experts agreed that a markka-wielding Finland would recover from the recession faster.
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66-year-old Björn Wahlroos is the chairman of the board in Sampo Group. Wahlroos is known as a defender of laissez-faire economics, which calls for minimal government intervention, and a fierce opponent of Keynesianism, a theory that favours a managed government economy with government intervention to mitigate crises and was implemented across the Western world during the late stages of the Great Depression, WWII and post-war-years. In his role as chairman of the board, Wahlroos was the driving force behind the Scandinavian bank Nordea’s relocation of its head office from Stockholm to Helsinki. By contrast, Wahlroos himself has been registered in Sweden since 2013.