Q: Finland ranks highly in terms of its business climate but not in terms of FDI inflows. What is the reason for this?
A: That is the question we keep asking ourselves. Sure, there are some natural reasons. Finland is considered a remote location and it has a population of just 5 million people. [But] we are a neighbour to Russia and a key entry point to Nordic countries and the Baltics, so the market around us is big. Where I think we might blame ourselves is that we may not be good at selling our success.
Q: What is your involvement in promoting inward investment?
A: In Finland, historically, it is said that one of the most important mandates for the presidents is to enhance and promote exports. I am changing the view of that and promoting not only trade, but also capital investments into the country.
When I visited Germany a couple of months ago, I had a delegation of businesspeople from the cleantech sector with me. I tried to help them with contacts. They can make contacts themselves, but when they are a part of such delegation it gives them more possibilities.
Q: How much is the current push for FDI promotion connected with the fact that Nokia, the country’s biggest company, is going through hard times?
A: When Nokia conquered the world, we learned that it is possible for a Finnish company to do [such a thing]. We took that lesson, but what has happened to Nokia [recently] means that we need investment more urgently. We believe that our incentives are stability, having many highly educated people and the [solid] framework for investments.
Q: The country might be deemed too expensive by some investors. What is your take on that?
A: I would say that, unfortunately, more and more issues such as social stability are important to investors. I say it is unfortunate because it means that there are so many places that lack such safety.
You can trust Finns and that is quite important if you are going to invest your money here. Not everyone knows, but Finland was the only country that paid off its debts after the First World War. [It] depends on which sector an investor wants to enter, but Finland is not necessarily that expensive if you compare it to other Nordic countries.
Q: Which countries does Finland consider as its main competitors when attracting crossborder investments?
A: In today’s world, the competition is global. But I must confess that we sometimes envy how Sweden is managing. It has been doing better in FDI attraction than Finland. In that sense, we are competitors.
Sweden also has wonderful success stories, which Finland lacks. Nokia, Marimekko [a design company] and Rovio [a software developer] are the only success stories we have when it comes to consumer goods. Otherwise, we have Kone [an elevators and escalators producer], but it is in the business-to-business sphere.
It might be down to the fact that Nokia is not doing that well at the moment. When Nokia was growing rapidly, everybody knew that it was a Finnish company. Now, people are more careful, but maybe we should speak a bit louder about our achievements.
Then again, you do not meet that many Swiss people who are advocates for their banks or watches. You have to have this kind of reputation that is recognised. And I think that in areas such as mining technologies and construction, [in Finland] we do.