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Random thoughts

October 19, 2016

Hello, I apologize for my absence lately – I really got hammered by a bad cold virus almost three weeks ago. I was feeling so bad… I should be good now for the next five years or so! 🙂

Quite often I ask myself a lot of rhetorical questions… I decided I should start writing them down. Below is a selection of random thoughts I’ve had recently on daily happenings in life in Finland. I suspect this will be the first installment of many with this title.

* Over the last few months I have noticed a lot of news reports on fraud, tax dodging, abuse of power, and so on by various Finnish people in positions of power.  How do these things not affect the transparency index for this country? Finland is becoming more corrupt by the day! Just last week, a politician in Finland voiced alarm about so-called “buddy capitalism” in this country. Worth a read.

Stories of people in powerful positions abusing their power (and getting charged and convicted for it) appear to be more common. What on earth is wrong with people? Driven by greed…??

Transparency International still gives Finland a high score, however, with Finland’s government getting high marks for integrity – third in its 2016 assessment.

* Why on earth are we reading so much about moldy schools in Finland? Is the construction of facilities that house and teach our children not worthy of sound investment – so that shit like this doesn’t happen again, again and again? (Excuse my language, I find the whole issue infuriating.) How much money is spent on repairing these structures? Why not do it right in the first place? Take your choice of media and search for it, it seems like a weekly thing in the local papers here. Moldy structures are unacceptable. Period.

* If you jaywalk, you might get hollered at by an elder. Observed last week in Tapiola (Espoo)…

* Now and then I observe elderly people rooting through public garbage cans looking for bottles and cans (which have a refundable deposit). It seems sad that for many of them every cent counts.

* I still marvel at this time of the year when I head to work early: the number of people who do not use lights (front and back) when they are cycling and the number of pedestrians and bus riders who do NOT use reflectors. Someone on a public discussion board called the use of reflectors in Finland “over the top,” which I think is complete bollocks. Using a reflector when you’re moving around as a pedestrian is wise. Be seen!

* I know the new club house at Tapiola Golf is really nice, but why does it have to be lit up like a Christmas tree at night when there is no one there? Seriously, what a waste of electricity!

* Do you still withdraw cash from cash machines? Some banks are mulling whether consumers should be charged for withdrawals, while others have already started charging customers for cash withdrawals. Danske bank already started back in 2015.  Starting in November Nordea bank customers will be able to make four free withdrawals per month from cash machines (ATMs) and then be charged 40 cents from every ATM withdrawal after that. Nordea customers are not happy by the sounds of it.

While there are predictions that Finland will be a cashless society by 2029, it seems that we still need physical cash in our hands in the interim.


4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 21, 2016 5:22 pm

    Interesting thoughts! The article about hidden corruption was definitely worth a read. However, having lived in very corrupt countries, I feel very different in Finland. Despite some alarming trends, I don’t think Finland is a corrupt country. I think the debate is a good indicator that some things might be going on and have been noticed. Why Finland is ranked No. 3 by Transparency International is because they probably have certain thresholds, and current events just don’t reach those. As for ATMs and cash withdrawals, it’s an interesting trend. It reflects the developing payments landscape. It’s been the third consecutive year when the use of cash has been decreasing. Also, every time a withdrawal is made, a bank pays a fee to an acquirer. It’s quite an expense for the bank. So, I’m guessing Nordea was the first one to put two and two together – less customers using this feature plus the up keeping cost, and started charging a fee. It of course depends on the habits, but last year, for example, I used the cash once – when we were getting money

  2. October 21, 2016 5:24 pm

    Sorry, my comment got cut in two 🙂 when we were getting money for a present for an ex-colleague. Finns are quite fast to adapt to modern trends, like contactless technology, for example. I think the switch to cashless society might happen even before 2029. It’s another question how painful the process could get 🙂 Have a nice weekend!

  3. anonymous permalink
    October 22, 2016 12:03 pm

    Of course, one of the problems with cashless society is that all your transactions are monitored. It really isn’t any of the bank’s (or the tax authorities’) business, where people choose to spend their cash-equivalent money, nor should the businesses have an automatic right to know the identity of their customers. Put these transactions through payment transaction providers (as is common) and now those companies know basically everything about you and can connect that to your identity. Larger transactions I understand, because there is an obvious social interest there (for the authorities, not for anyone else), but that interest doesn’t exist for small purchases even as aggregate, so privacy rights should dominate that sphere. I’d be more receptive for cashless society, if there were laws to address that sort of information. Before you go “what’s the harm?” I’ll point out that privacy is a human right, so losing it is the harm. Individuals may choose to give all their private information away, if they so choose, but it should shielded, protected and not biased against on the systemic level.

    Also, cash is simple and immediate: It’s generally faster at bars and shops and less of a hassle when giving small loans and some financial aid to friends and family. Another thing about cash is that you don’t pay for it’s use (yet – especially if you minimize your withdrawals), but I think most banks charge monthly fees for simply having cards. As for payment apps, considering how lax people are with their portable devices, concentrating everything in them is a personal disaster waiting to happen. One could argue it’s the same for wallets, but you don’t fiddle with your wallet every five minutes and leave it lying around everywhere.

    The device problem isn’t solved with biometrics, either, because what if your biometrics are stolen? If someone is intent on robbing you, you’ll be minus some body parts. Of course, biometrics is essentially just information you can’t really change, like fingerprints, larger facial features or blood vessels on your palm. They’re read by a scanner and after that it’s just ones and zeroes. You’re screwed if that is used to verify your identity and it gets stolen. You can get another personal identity number (and that’s not even used as a password like biometrics are), but good luck changing your fingerprints and your face and rearranging you blood vessels. Not going to happen without a major surgery and that’s not an option when someone has stolen your identity and has all your money. Not to mention, your whole life is tied to the old ones.

    There’s something to be said about cash. Just like there’s something to be said about paper. Both are hard beat in some respects.

    • October 26, 2016 9:37 am

      It’s pretty hard to disagree with any of your points anonymous. Cash is indeed convenient… And our future laid out in biometrics – that’s trouble waiting to happen, most definitely.

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