25/06/2020

The State profits from investing in streamlining permitting procedures

With the current efforts to get Finland back on the path of sustainable growth, it is worth to further streamline the permitting processes for industrial projects.

Matti Hietanen
CEO, Finnish Minerals Group

The permitting of large investments is demanding and important work. Extensive industrial activities typically require more than one construction permit, as well as an environmental and water management permit that includes a mandatory environmental impact assessment procedure. In many cases, a permit is also needed for handling chemicals and explosives, with the relevant obstacle clearance. In addition to permits, large investments involve submitting notifications and sharing information with various authorities.

Permitting and compliance are crucial in industrial activities, for all our sakes. They help ensure effective and ethical construction and the use of best available technologies, as well as preventing health hazards and environmental pollution.

The scale and multiple steps, however, leave room for streamlining.

Quick anti-recession actions needed

The crisis sparked by the coronavirus pandemic has hit also our national economy hard, but its full impact on the Finnish industry remains to be seen. Even so, Finland and the EU have understood that recovery measures are needed in order to respond to the decline in economic activity. This is an opportunity to align economic growth with the climate targets set by Finland and the EU, such as the emission reduction targets for transport and the related industrial development. This is also Finnish Minerals Group’s mission. 

Averting the impact of the crisis calls for economic support and quick actions. All investment plans and proposals should be encouraged by streamlining the administrative and permitting processes. We certainly don’t want good projects to wither and the economic uncertainty to continue.

The competition for large industrial investments between different countries and areas is fierce. In many sectors, effective and predictable permitting processes are an important factor when deciding which country to invest in.

The efficiency and quality of permitting are competitive advantages

We in Finland are used to good governance and legal protection, which both citizens and businesses can rightfully expect from our government also in the future. As good as things are, the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic justifies a closer inspection of the quality and effectiveness of governance. What these could mean for the industrial permitting procedures?

The starting point of course is resources, as high-quality permitting requires competent and adequate resources. The second priority should be awareness of how the resources are utilised in relation to businesses. Will a company planning an investment be able to identify the authorities it should contact in any given situation? Do companies know what the authorities expect from them during the various procedures? Do the officials have time to answer questions and clarify their views so that the process will not be based on assumptions?

On a more advanced level, quality and effectiveness could mean designing a dedicated service for investment projects.

How does this sound?: ‘Contact persons have been assigned for your project within each authority, with the relevant roles and responsibilities. In accordance with our public service promise, we can assist you in obtaining statements, conclusions and the permit decision in a compact procedure in line with the attached preliminary plan. Our Chief Coordinator will call you next week to introduce himself/herself and to schedule a prior consultation. The Chief Coordinator will also help you identify the relevant stakeholders for your project.’

Why should we do this? Simply because investing in streamlining the permitting is lucrative for the state. When even a single large industrial investment is brought to Finland by increasing the human resources and developing the processes, the employment impact and tax revenues will benefit the national economy and provide an excellent return on the state’s investment in the development work.

Matti Hietanen

CEO