A European Investment Bank loan of EUR 150 million to the City of Helsinki will help to improve health- and social care facilities throughout the city. The loan in support of the City's five-year investment programme is the first such loan in the country's healthcare sector and provides a further diversification of the EIB's activities in Finland.

EIB Vice President Ewald Nowotny said that the loan would support the City's strategy of improving long-term care provision. "The project is also contributing to the EIB priority objectives with its focus on healthcare, advancing the quality of services to priority groups such as older people and people with disabilities".

Municipalities in Finland are facing increased responsibility for the provision of social services and now cover over 80% of overall public expenditure on education, health and social services. The investment will benefit future planning and contribute to improved primary healthcare as well as upgrading social care facilities.

The project is an important precursor to the delivery of the city's strategy for the rationalisation of the number of local health centres. The City's target is to deliver primary health care from twenty larger centres by the year 2020, each serving a population of between 20,000 and 40,000 inhabitants. The first phase of this rationalisation will be complete by 2005. This project will support the extension of some centres necessary to achieve this target. The EIB was requested to provide EUR 150 million for the project, as the Bank's conditions are particularly suitable for investments with a long economic life span.

The European Investment Bank, the European Union's long-term lending institution, finances capital investment furthering EU integration, in particular: regional development, trans-European networks in transport, telecoms and energy; industrial competitiveness and integration; SMEs; environmental protection; and energy security. It also operates outside the EU within the framework of the EU's co-operation external policy. Owned by the Member States, the EIB raises its funds on capital markets (AAA issuer). In 2001, the EIB lent some EUR 31 billion within the EU of which EUR 695 million was in Finland.