Jump to content
The Education Forum

Swedish Elections


John Simkin
 Share

Recommended Posts

Sweden has a Welfare State that is the envy of the worl. Unemployment benefit at up to 80% of slary for 12 months; and 18 months of similar pay for maternity or paternity leave, or to care for sick children. Day childcare for working parents costs at most £90 a month for the first child. Child benefit starts at £20 a week. The elderly receive state earnings related pensions (basic state pension is £206 a week per couple), up to 90% housing benefit and free care homes. Public transport is cheap and efficient with no journey in Stockholm costing more than about £1.50. University education is free.

According to reports in the UK press, the Swedes might be about to give this up. I heard the leader of the Moderate Party (I wonder what George Orwell would have said about that name) say on radio that his political views have been inspired by the policies of Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair).

What do Swedes think about this?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

We have seven parties represented in our Parliament (Riksdag). Four parties has made a "rightist" coalition - that's the Conservative Party (Moderaterna), the Liberal Party (Folkpartiet), the Christian Democratis Party (Kristdemokraterna) and the Agrarian Party (Centerpartiet). During the last month they have showed an unusual agreement in several questions - and they have been able to get this across to the media (the majority of the newspapers are in their hands which of course makes the situation a bit easier).

The "leftist" coalition - that's the Social Democratic Party (Socialdemokratiska Arbetarpartiet), the Environmental Party (Miljöpartiet) and the ex Communist Party (Vänster) has showed less agreements. Our Prime Minister Göran Persson doesn't show any big interest in finding a common ground. My personal view is that he continues to "bully" the other two parties which has had very little influence on the government policies during the periods they been "support parties" to the Social Democrats. The Party has gradually, during his reign, disassembled the Swedish welfare state. He made education the responsibility of our Communes (local districts) which meant that local politicians now has the economic responsibility for the running of schools (this was in the hands of the Swedish State before which meant that they could try to distribute the money to all schools fairly equally...). This decission (which basically all teachers were against) created A-, B- and C-schools depending on the local budget. At the same time we saw an enormous increase in Private Schools - all approved by the Social Democratic Government. Sweden use to be at one of the top positions when you compared schools in Europe. Now you can find us in the middle and we seem to loose positions every year... Part of this is due to the Social Democratic school policies.

Also during Persson reign we have lost one of the oldest institutions in Sweden - the Post Office. Today different stores and private businesses takes care of our mail, packages, etc... This was also run by the State before. We can also see a beginning privatization of our hospitals. A few private companies has started up and the discussion right now is to just keep the Emergency part as a "State business"... The Social Democrats did not move a finger when some of our biggest companies were sold - Volvo, Saab, Skansia, etc... just "disappeared" abroad.

Our highest representative for the Swedish Workers has bought a lovely Mansion with lot's of land so he can retire after all these years of hard work - dismantling the Swedish Welfare State. I wonder if there is anything left for the "rightist" coalition to do... :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sweden will wake up to a new government tomorrow. The "rightist" coalition will win the election. It's especially the Conservative Party that increased their amount of votes - about 1 out of 4 Swedish people voted Conservative. We haven't seen these numbers for the Conservatives since the 1920's...

Our Prime Minister Göran Persson has now declared that he will retire and the party should elect a new Party Leader in March. As I mentioned before - the leader of the Swedish Social Democratic Workers Party will have his mansion to comfort himself (together with a great retirement, stocks, paid "vacations"... etc - a true representative for the workers!). He and his party did the worst election in 80 years - at the same time as the Swedish economy is fairly good... Interesting.

What really disturbs me is the relative success of the "Swedish Democrats" - a neo Nazi Party that managed to get about 1-2 % of the votes in Sweden and up to 20% in some local elections - that's terrible! :angry:

Edited by Anders MacGregor-Thunell
Link to comment
Share on other sites

BBC report on the election:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/5353092.stm

Sweden's centre-right opposition bloc has defeated the ruling Social Democrat party in the country's closest-fought general election for decades.

Moderate party leader Fredrik Reinfeldt declared victory as near-complete results gave him a 1% lead.

Minutes later, Prime Minister Goran Persson conceded victory and said he and the government would resign, ending 12 years of Social Democrat rule.

The centre-left party has led Sweden for all but 10 of the past 89 years.

Mr Reinfeldt, who had promised to cut taxes and reform Sweden's cradle-to-grave welfare state, took to the stage in front of supporters with his arms raised.

"We ran in the election as the New Moderates, we have won the election as the New Moderates and we will also together with our Alliance friends govern Sweden as the New Moderates," he said.

Mr Persson told his supporters he would step down as party leader in March 2007.

"We have lost the election but we are not a beaten party," he said. "We will never accept the right's change of system - we will hit back!"

Key issues in the election included whether Sweden's generous welfare model must reform for it to survive in the global economy.

Opinion polls had put the centre-right alliance consistently neck-and-neck with the Social Democrats.

The latest poll, published before voting began, put the challengers a few points ahead.

Trading accusations

Both leaders had admitted the result was expected to be extremely tight.

"If you want to use swimming terminology, we are going to be the ones who touch the finish a few hundredths of a second before the opposition," Mr Persson said on Saturday.

His rival urged supporters to turn out and vote.

"Don't believe the opinion polls. Persuade neighbours and friends to go vote," said Mr Reinfeldt.

The opposition says changes to Sweden's rigid labour market and high cost welfare system are long overdue, and promises to cut both employer taxes and unemployment benefits.

It also wants to cut the large social sector, which currently employs 30% of the Swedish job force.

Mr Reinfeldt has accused the government of disregarding the high unemployment rate, and for not making sure the country can continue to compete in a global market.

The government maintains the unemployment rate is a low 6%, while the opposition says it is around 10%, taking into account the many people on sick leave and in job training schemes.

Mr Persson has accused the opposition of wanting to destroy job security and make dangerous cuts to the welfare state.

He said this would undermine Sweden's unique social model - a cradle to grave welfare system and strong economic growth.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sweden's always been a very divided country - which might seem strange to an outsider. In this election the difference between winning and losing was 1.9%. Since Sweden uses PR, this is a fairly 'real' 1.9% (parties which get less than 4% of the total vote are eliminated, which has amounted to around 5% altogether on this poll).

Persson's market-oriented policies definitely made it difficult for the Social Democrats to mobilise their vote … and the right played their hand very carefully, by not really making it clear what they intended to do if they won power. My own estimation is that we're in for a period of hard right policies for four years, since, despite the image they've tried to convey, the 'Moderates' are far from that.

Sweden used to be a very 'Germanic' country before the Second World War, and never really went through anything like 'denazification'. In 1938, Sweden was stamping 'Jew' in the Swedish passports of Swedish citizens who happened to be Jewish, in order to assist the German authorities … during the war, many escapees from Norway were handed back to the Germans by the local border police in Värmland … and on May 8th, 1945, the portraits of Hitler came down off the walls … and the whole question wasn't spoken of again. The right in Sweden still act on the basis that what the people of Sweden need is a bit of iron (market?) discipline … and it's been very hard for them to accept that policies based on collective solutions, rather than individual ones have actually delivered the goods.

In my local county, Kalmar, the left increased its share of the vote, and it looks like the county government (which basically handles health care and culture) will tip back over the knife-edge in favour of the left. Last time, the right ran the county and promptly embarked on an extensive process of privatisation … which ended rather lamely, when they discovered that there weren't any private entrepreneurs who *wanted* to take over the hospitals! Big, rich hospitals in Stockholm were OK, but who wants small ones in rural areas? After that diversion, they quietly took up the plan that the departing left had prepared and it turned out to be quite a success. The town of Kalmar also went left quite strongly.

My favourite local election experience was when I was outside the polling station yesterday (I think I've told this forum I'm a member of the Social Democrats), together with a prominent local 'Moderate'. We got to talking about this huge investment a Chinese company are making in an exhibition centre here. The Chinese company are planning to build housing for about 1000 employees too (which will earn Kalmar a hefty sum in local government grants). The Moderate lady told me in a hushed voice that, you know, the Chinese are only allowed to have one child back in China, so what's to stop them from breeding like rabbits the minute they get the chance. "I'm only saying, do we have the maternity beds for all these Chinese? I'm telling that you that we haven't!"

That's about the level of reasoning I'm expecting from the new government in more or less all areas of policy!

Still … we know what's likely to happen, since we've been through this before: four years of right-wing squabbling and wasting of public money, which will end in massive debt … and about 10 years of left-wing governments who'll have to spend their time clearing up the mess.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nearly a year ago at the thread “The Most Successful Society” few of us debated Sweden as a Welfare State with all its good side and its flaws.

At that time I did contributed with articles from newspapers and magazines which debated this topic from a range of different views.

“The Most Successful Society” can be found at:

http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=5249

Right before the election did I read yet another article “Admire the best, forget the rest” on this matter from The Economist.

Are you interested of “Admire the best, forget the rest” here is the address:

http://www.economist.com/world/europe/disp...tory_id=7880173

I do have a feeling that these articles gives more accurate and better view of the current situation in Sweden than the somehow emotional postings published at this thread so far.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The fall of the Social Democrats in Sweden reverberates around Europe, but sends particular shudders through those close friends of Goran Persson in Labour ranks. As strangers occupy Stockholm's governing corridors, here is a chilly memento mori for Labour.

What an irony that the victors - 41-year-old Fredrik Reinfeldt's New Moderates - modelled themselves on New Labour. They took power by ditching old promises to savage the welfare state, rebranding themselves as near Social Democrat clones. Reinfeldt won by doing what David Cameron does, sounding so Social Democratic no voter could take fright. Unsurprisingly, Cameron is in close touch with the New Moderates.

Here is Labour's fear. How can a good government lose power when the country is flourishing? With a rising growth rate of 5.6%, low interest rates, thriving manufacturing and exports Britain would die for, how did it happen? True, unemployment is a problem - but hardly worse than in much of the EU, while Sweden's welfare system is the envy of the world. Abroad, Persson wasn't hampered by two unpopular wars with no end in sight. So why?

Swedish Social Democrats held many sessions with Labour about "how to renew in office", swapping fall-asleep thinktank tomes on staying alive. Aware of the threat from a new young face after 12 years in office, Goran Persson tried to deflect criticism for staying too long by promoting fresh-faced young ministers, as Tony Blair has. But all to no avail.

Sweden shows "the economy, stupid" is no longer enough to win. That is alarming to Gordon Brown whose claim to the top job is Britain's unaccustomed economic strength. The warning from Sweden is that when things feel so good, voters feel they can take a punt on a fresh new party. "Time for change" is always a potential winner: a natural democratic urge tugs voters towards throwing the bastards out after a while.

Visiting Sweden during the campaign and talking to those ruefully picking over this week's result, I can see stern lessons for Labour. Persson's party ran out of steam. Its leader stayed far too long, a risk Labour faces if there is a seamless Blair/Brown continuity of more of the same, going on and on. Brown seems dangerously eager to emphasise "no change" on every policy of importance. But change or die is the lesson of Sweden.

Persson forgot his wise maxim: in opposition the left must behave like a government, and in government it must act like an insurgent opposition. But in Britain and Sweden left-of-centre governments have fallen into the trap of micro-managing departmental policy, forgetting the lifeblood of politics. Bogged down in minutiae, devoid of infectious enthusiasms, parties forget their identity. Reduce the question to who manages best, and why shouldn't voters without emotional attachment give the other lot a try? Blair's four committees devising 10-year plans are unlikely to fill the vacuum at the heart of Labour politics.

Here's the other great lesson from Sweden. They forgot about women - yes, even in Sweden. New Labour has won the past three elections only on the strength of women's votes - yet Labour too has forgotten the importance of connecting with them. Sweden's women ministers fumed during the campaign as Persson ignored the party's record on childcare and maternity and paternity leave, which should have been the Social Democrats' proudest electoral assets. He let the right set the agenda with traditional male politics when it is the women-friendly subjects that win the Social Democrat vote. Forgetting about women seems a peril of power.

But in opposition look how Cameron's campaign is devoted to pleasing women, in tone, style, words and demeanour: the polls tell him women are more green, family-minded and worried about work-life balance. Never mind if it's all empty mood music, trading on what Labour has done without promising anything more than mild exhortation; Cameron has the right tunes. New Labour came to power understanding what women want - but they have lost it and Cameron is winning the women's vote.

War has done Labour all kinds of damage - but especially among women voters. Even in realms where Blair was once undisputed champion of the women's vote, he has chased them away with strident emphasis on punishing children and blaming parents. Failure to work with the grain in reforming health and schools is alienating the women who staff them and use them most.

Yet consider what Labour has done for women. Labour's best narrative is the story of its family revolution, with Sure Start for babies, universal childcare, after-school and breakfast clubs, domestic-violence laws, tax credits and the children's trust fund. Why has so much political capital on brilliant social programmes - noticed most by mothers - been allowed to vanish from the political radar? Sweden's Social Democrats are asking these same questions - far too late. It will take Gordon Brown more than intimate interviews about his children to recover this lost ground.

Above all, Labour needs a woman as deputy leader. And not any woman, but the woman who persuaded the party that childcare was the only route to getting families off welfare and into work. That means Harriet Harman, to remind what's been done while pressing for much more. What a pathetic figure Ming Campbell cut in an ill-advised photo opportunity on the beach with his tiny cohort of women - only nine out of 63 MPs; yet the Lib Dems, like the Tories, still refuse to use quotas to get more women into parliament. Labour has 97 women MPs. Polls show that voters feel women are more "on their side" - yet Labour still fails to use their strength. The Swedish result warns that without the women's vote, Labour is lost. It's not an add-on: women are the main event.

The last, brief rightwing government in Sweden left heavy footprints. It cut the welfare state and damaged education by bringing in private schools, leaving a far more socially segregated system. The New Moderates may deliver more of a shock than voters were lulled into expecting. If so, many may regret the decadence of throwing out a good government just because they were bored. But decadent or not, here is the wake-up call Labour needs: competent governments can be killed by boredom. People want circuses with their bread. In politics as in everything else, humans also need novelty and romance.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/st...1875679,00.html

Link to comment
Share on other sites

An interesting editorial in today's Dagens Nyheter stated that the Social Democrats actually won the election. It said that the Social democratic ideology has such a strong hold of Swedish politics and society, that any party that wants to get a large share of the votes has to pursue a Social democratic political agenda. That, I think, explains a bit of this "boredom" that led the Swedes to vote for a liberal-conservative government. They know that the even with such a government, they will essentially get a Social democratic society, i.e. tax financed schools and health care, no real privatization of important parts of society, OK unemployment benefits (they will be reduced with 10%...) etc.

So, the Social democrats did win, but their politics will be run by another party.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

An important part of the Swedish "private" schools, is that they are still tax financed, and they are now allowed to take any tuition. So it is a far cry from American or English private schools, where you have to pay to get in.

So they students are not divided into "rich" and "poor" students, but into students with active parents who help their kids find the best school, and those whose parents don't care and let their kids go to the closest school. It has led to some segregation, but it has also in my opinion, led to more pressure on the public schools to be attractive and offer better education.

We have seven parties represented in our Parliament (Riksdag). Four parties has made a "rightist" coalition - that's the Conservative Party (Moderaterna), the Liberal Party (Folkpartiet), the Christian Democratis Party (Kristdemokraterna) and the Agrarian Party (Centerpartiet). During the last month they have showed an unusual agreement in several questions - and they have been able to get this across to the media (the majority of the newspapers are in their hands which of course makes the situation a bit easier).

The "leftist" coalition - that's the Social Democratic Party (Socialdemokratiska Arbetarpartiet), the Environmental Party (Miljöpartiet) and the ex Communist Party (Vänster) has showed less agreements. Our Prime Minister Göran Persson doesn't show any big interest in finding a common ground. My personal view is that he continues to "bully" the other two parties which has had very little influence on the government policies during the periods they been "support parties" to the Social Democrats. The Party has gradually, during his reign, disassembled the Swedish welfare state. He made education the responsibility of our Communes (local districts) which meant that local politicians now has the economic responsibility for the running of schools (this was in the hands of the Swedish State before which meant that they could try to distribute the money to all schools fairly equally...). This decission (which basically all teachers were against) created A-, B- and C-schools depending on the local budget. At the same time we saw an enormous increase in Private Schools - all approved by the Social Democratic Government. Sweden use to be at one of the top positions when you compared schools in Europe. Now you can find us in the middle and we seem to loose positions every year... Part of this is due to the Social Democratic school policies.

Also during Persson reign we have lost one of the oldest institutions in Sweden - the Post Office. Today different stores and private businesses takes care of our mail, packages, etc... This was also run by the State before. We can also see a beginning privatization of our hospitals. A few private companies has started up and the discussion right now is to just keep the Emergency part as a "State business"... The Social Democrats did not move a finger when some of our biggest companies were sold - Volvo, Saab, Skansia, etc... just "disappeared" abroad.

Our highest representative for the Swedish Workers has bought a lovely Mansion with lot's of land so he can retire after all these years of hard work - dismantling the Swedish Welfare State. I wonder if there is anything left for the "rightist" coalition to do... :ice

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Very interesting thread and contributions.

As an Australian, I'm disappointed to learn that the 'centre right' coalition has displaced the incumbent leftist coalition. Persson may have been fine tuning the welfare system but I fear it might be a case of not realising what you have until its gone. When politicians like Mr. Reinfeldt say things like "we have to compete in a global market", what they mean is that labor must be made much cheaper in order to compete with and resemble the labor rates in the emerging global economies ie. India and China. Unskilled or semi-skilled labor intensive industries simply get shipped over there, if they haven't gone already.

Globalisation is a zero-sum game and should be embraced with great caution by nations who have comparatively high living standards. Your admirable welfare state is the foundation of your living standards, IMO. Globalisation's disciples will surely point to the welfare state and demand its removal, by claiming it is not practised by your competitors around the globe. They'll basically say you have no right to it because few other countries have it.

Reinfeldt should have been made to spell out what the real implications of globalisation would mean for the average Swede. Obviously Persson ran a poor campaign, as Polly pointed out.

Edited by Mark Stapleton
Link to comment
Share on other sites

There are already some signs that reality is beginning to affect the new Swedish government. It'll be interesting to see how they deal with it.

One comparison I draw is with Turkey - also missed out on WW2, also has a difficult geographical position, also has a difficult climate, also commanding natural resources for which there are plenty of alternative sources of supply. Why was Sweden's post-war fate so different from Turkey's? One explanation is the politics of post-war Swedish governments (pre-war Sweden was still one of Europe's poorer countries, with people dying of starvation as recently as 1919, to judge from some of the letters Swedish emigrants received from home which I've translated for Americans).

If you're going to turn everything over to the 'free market' (which isn't free and isn't a market, but that's another matter), then you really need to accept Turkish levels of prosperity. There's a tension within the Swedish employers' organisation between the politicised leadership, who want to do away with labour laws in Sweden and allow, say, Latvian companies paying Latvian wages to compete with Swedish ones on the home market, and the broad mass of the organisation's members who realise that their companies would rapidly go out of business.

The new government would like, ideologically, to go along with the 'free marketeers', but the consequences of such actions are very close to hand, when you live in a small country like Sweden. You can surely make Swedish labour cheaper … but you can't make it cheap enough to compete with China, unless Swedes are prepared to live like Chinese people - and even then, the geographical position and climate of Sweden would make it unprofitable to set up in Sweden, instead of, say, Malaysia.

The autumn round of pay negotiations starts next month. The unions have already started saying that they're going to try to claw back from the employers any increases in things like union fees or decreases in social benefits. And the employers can forget about three-year agreements (one of the factors which provides for stability in the Swedish economy … which is also one of the reasons why Sweden is a very attractive place for foreign investors).

Last time the political parties who're now in charge ran the country, we got 500% interest rates within one year of them taking office, and in three years they built up a foreign debt mountain that still isn't paid off. I'm not very optimistic that we're going to avoid that this time.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's difficult to say which way a new Government will move when it's comprised of a coalition of four different parties. Moving too quickly in any direction may cause the coalition to fracture.

However, it's probably safe to say that the free market ideology will be adopted. It's popular with 'right of centre' Governments. If, as Anders says, the media is already behind them then this is a major concern. It means the new Government won't have to fully justify its arguments to the public---the media will help do it for them. This has been a feature of Australian politics for the last decade. It has enabled the conservative Government here to install a political paradigm which basically reads: "What's good for Corporate profits is good for the country". Now, while this is true up to a point, it has implications which can be detrimental to the wider community.

The first implication is that the economy must be modified to adapt to 'the new global marketplace'. Supporters of the globalisation philosophy argue that the Government has a duty to assist Corporations to compete in this new, tariff-free environment by removing many of the costs which currently encumber them. Corporations, by their nature, oppose collective bargaining and centralised wage-fixing systems and always push for the dismantling of such systems, arguing that the cumbersome, bureaucratic nature of these structures harms their competitive potential. Replacing centralised wage-fixing with individual contracts and enterprise agreements is more efficient, they argue. This may help Corporations and their shareholders, but it will leave many employees in a very poor bargaining position and will quickly erode their income-earning potential, and consequently their standard of living.

Another implication of the Corporatist dogma is that Governments are duty-bound to privatise all major Government institutions. Here in Australia we have seen the privatisation of Government owned banks, insurance companies, airlines, airports, electricity companies and the partial privatisation of the Government telecommunications company. A recent attempt to privatise the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority, which provides much of the water supply to southeastern Ausralia was aborted due to community opposition to the plan. People realised that water is a basic human need and should not be in the marketplace, especially in the world's driest inhabited continent. The only public assets the Corporations don't want to own are the relatively unprofitable ones like public schools and the postal service. When Governments relinquish their role, the public are at the mercy of the marketplace. Unlike Governments, Corporations have no duty to the public.

In Australia, Corporations lobby the Government to underwrite infrastructure costs which should rightly be borne by the Corporations. The Government here is considering a $100 million training package to address the apparent skills shortage. While Governments have always played a role in training, it seems that the Corporate sector would like to offload its role and place the burden squarely on the taxpayer. Even profitable mining companies, who in the past built entire towns and all the ancillary infrastructure, are now reluctant to absorb costs such as housing and roadbuilding. There is a major housing crisis in some northwestern mining towns, despite the availability of lucrative employment opportunities. Some mining companies feel they have no duty to provide this infrastructure and argue the cost should be sheeted home to the taxpayer, despite record profits being earned and dividends paid.

All these factors, combined with other forms of Government largesse, such as generous tax breaks and subsidies to Corporations, eventually cause a major redistribution of wealth from the lower to the upper strata of society, IMO.

Hopefully, the Swedish public won't allow the Government to become a victim of complete Corporate capture (as in America). When Corporations fund the political parties, and by extension own the political process, they tell Government, "Don't spend taxpayers money on the public---spend it on us".

Any country boasting such an enviable welfare structure is too smart to let this all happen, IMO. I hope the Swedish political system resists sweeping reforms.

Edited by Mark Stapleton
Link to comment
Share on other sites

There are a couple of factors which militate against the new government in its desire to bring about a sweeping change to the Swedish system. One of them is the existence of opposition newspapers. The national newspapers in Sweden are basically evening ones, and they're both tabloids. One of them leans left and the other right, but it's the left-leaning one which has by far and away the largest circulation.

The two morning papers which are sold in many parts of the country, Dagens Nyheter and Svenska Dagbladet, are both right-wing papers … but they're also really Stockholm's local papers, so people out in the country don't really read them much.

Most people get a local morning paper. In many parts of the country, there are two to choose between, usually a left-leaning one and a right-leaning one, so the situation in Sweden as regards access to the media isn't as one-sided as it is in many countries. Just to give one example, how about this comment from an article by Jan Guillou, a well-known journalist, about the Danish cartoons ridiculing Mohammed, which was printed in the left-leaning evening paper Aftonbladet: "If this is really all about freedom of speech, when are we going to see a cartoon showing George W. Bush butt-f***ing Jesus Christ and being butt-f***ed by Donald Rumsfeld [in the Western press]?" Can you imagine that being printed in a large-circulation newspaper in the United States?

Another factor is the very high rate of unionisation in Sweden (something like 80% of workers are in unions). The new government will attack this by raising the cost of membership, but you still get your unemployment pay via the union, if you're unemployed, which is why everyone is in a union. The unions in Sweden are very good at collective action, and won't be afraid to use their strength.

Another factor is the basic divisions which exist within the coalition. What happened last time was that everyone wanted to spend money, but no-one wanted to raise it. I see no evidence that the same thing won't happen this time too. There'll be privatisation to try to raise money, but there's a limit to how far that can go. The ideologues on the right are convinced that the 'market' is just waiting in the wings, ready to take the Swedish economy to a promised land, but this is, of course, far from the case. When the right won control of our county council last time, they tried to privatise one of the local hospitals … and then discovered that all these entrepreneurs aren't interested in small local hospitals. Their only interest is in a couple of hospitals in the middle of Stockholm. The Social Democrats privatised the national telecom company a couple of years ago … and found that the take-up of the shares was very disappointing.

Contrary to many people's expectations, there's not as much state ownership as you might think in Sweden. Generally, the state has limited itself to 'levelling the playing field' and has subsidised private companies to provide a service. The introduction of 3G telephones in Sweden was a case in point. The state didn't run an auction of wavelengths as happened in nearly all the other countries in Europe. Instead they *gave* them away for free … but only to companies who both promised to, and were adjudged to be able to, actually build the systems. The result was that now, three years later, Sweden has 3G telephones, whilst most of the rest of Europe doesn't, since their auctions resulted in the telecom companies almost bankrupting themselves … and not having any money left over to actually build the systems they'd won the concession to run.

This relative lack of state assets makes it extremely difficult for a right-wing government to raise temporary revenues (say up to the next election) by selling off the family silver.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 weeks later...

Article in today's Guardian:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/st...1923858,00.html

Sweden's new centre-right government is facing a crisis a month after its election victory as a second minister quit yesterday in a row over tax avoidance.

Hours before the coalition government presented its first budget, the culture minister resigned after admitting she had failed to pay her television licence for 16 years and that she had been paying her nanny cash in hand. Cecilia Stego Chilo, who oversaw funding for Sweden's state broadcaster STV, was among 124 MPs who have admitted not paying the licence fee.

Her resignation came two days after the trade minister, Maria Borelius, quit following her admission that she had also avoided taxes by paying her nanny cash.

The resignations overshadowed the budget yesterday, which centred on tax cuts of 42bn kronor (£3bn) funded by cuts to unemployment benefits. Fredrik Reinfeldt, 41, the prime minister, won last month's election promising a fresh start. His four-party Alliance for Sweden ousted the Social Democrats, who have led Sweden for all but 10 of the past 89 years.

The two ministers issued statements, admitting irregularities. Ms Stego Chilo said: "By not paying my television licence fee and employing black-market domestic help in the period before becoming minister, I have committed errors which are not acceptable, but which I have attempted to rectify as far as possible."

Ms Borelius said she had employed cleaners and nannies in the 1990s without paying employer's taxes. Her position became untenable when Mr Reinfeldt hired a lawyer to investigate claims that she avoided paying property tax on a summer house by registering it to a corporation in the Channel Islands.

The minister did not help her case when she said she and her husband, who are relatively wealthy, could not have afforded nannies if they had paid taxes.

The second resignation is dangerous for Mr Reinfeldt who targeted his election at Swedes still attached to the "social model", which delivers strong social benefits paid via relatively high taxes.

At least one other member of the government, the immigration minister, Tobias Villstrom, is among MPs who have admitted not paying for TV licences.

Mr Reinfeldt had hoped to burnish his modernising credentials with eye-catching ministerial appointments. Nyamko Sabuni, a Burundi-born Swede, was appointed minister for integration and community, while Anders Borg is Europe's first finance minister with a ponytail.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...