Initiation of economic emergency planning

The question of a National Defence Council and the ancillary question how to organize national economic defence were discussed on and off during the following years, both within the armed forces and in Parliament. On the basis of wartime experiences the question of “total defence” as a corollary to total war was a subject of discussion. National economic defence was seen as one pillar of total defence. The general view was that political leaders should have more influence on the organization of national defence.

A background factor of industrial policy was the idea of self-sufficiency. One objective of industrial policy in the 1940s and 1960s was to make the country industrially self-sufficient. At that time several new industrial sectors were founded and many industrial enterprises were established, among them the companies Rikkihappo Oy, Kemira Oy, Rautaruukki Oy and Neste Oy.

Emergence of the idea of a National Board of Economic Defence

In the beginning of December 1955 the idea of organizing economic defence under the auspices of a National Board of Economic Defence (NBED) quite suddenly emerged. Mr Emil Skog, Minister for Defence, suggested the idea to Mr Juho Kusti Paasikivi, President of the Republic, who found it a good idea. Mr Skog also suggested the appointment of General K. A. Tapola as chairman of NBED. After the war General Tapola was principal of the national military academy and infantry inspector. The new arrangements were implemented on 23rd December the same year.

Establishment of NBED

NBED was established in the form of a committee under the auspices of the Ministry of Trade and Industry. General Tapola and Mr Skog had initially thought of forming a permanent agency, but for political reasons a less ambitious solution was chosen. NBED met for the first time on 9th February 1956.

The Board consisted of 18 members. It was divided into four sub-committees; financial, manpower, trade and industrial sub-committees. The NBDE office started work in June 1956, but its head Mr Väinö Haukilahti had assumed office already in January.

The chairman’s, General Tapola’s ambition was to make NBED a large scale organization. His idea was that the country should be divided into economic defence districts according to the natural boundaries between economic regions. Each district was to have its own permanent agent. An essential feature was that the districts should be capable of operating independently in emergency situations.

Switzerland was used as a model

An essential feature of the preparations was that the position of NBED should be confirmed by virtue of law, as was the case in Switzerland that Tapola used as a model. In the spring of 1957 general Tapola made a draft act on economic safeguards under emergency conditions. The views expressed in the NBED meeting were conflicting. Several members considered it foolhardy, even dangerous, to support the draft act on political level. Acts on security stockpiling and on the organization of NBED were considered much more important. The draft act on economic safeguards under emergency conditions and the emphasis on various objectives caused a lot of distrust within NBED.

Operations run into trouble

The National Defence Council was established in 1958. The relevant decree provided that the Council shall draw up guidelines for economic defence. Partly because of dissatisfaction with the office’s operations, even some members of NBED were of the opinion that the whole Council was superfluous. The supplementary budget for 1958 contained a proposal to transfer the budgetary appropriations for the National Board of Economic Defence to the Ministry of Defence for the purpose of developing the plans for national economic defence. General Tapola drew his conclusions of the situation and resigned on 9th May.

A change of Government saved NBED’s operations

However, a new Government was appointed in April. Mr Reino Kuuskoski, the new Prime Minister, had a more positive attitude than his predecessor to NBED. The new Government had three ministers that were also members of NBED. Parliament rejected the transfer of appropriations and the Board was able to continue its activities as before. The Council of State appointed Mr Aulis Junttila new Chairman of the Board. He had made a long career within the building industry. One of his first operations was to abandon the regional organization and to push trough legislation concerning NBED.