Swedish Spring Budget: Building a society – responsibility, security and development

By  Xuefei Chen Axelsson

STOCKHOLM, April 28, (Greenpost)–Swedish Government has presented its proposed direction for economic policy ahead of the Budget Bill for 2017.

The Government’s priorities – jobs, schools and climate action – remain firm. In addition, proposals are presented to increase funding in the budget for 2016 to address the refugee situation. The Spring Fiscal Policy Bill and the proposals in the spring amending budget are based on an agreement between the government parties and the Left Party.

“In the spring budget, the Government continues to address the refugee situation and sets out the future direction – building our society takes precedence over new tax cuts. With the Swedish model as a foundation and modernisation as a tool, we will respond to the challenges our country is facing. Unemployment must be fought, pupils’ learning outcomes strengthened and climate emissions reduced,” says Minister for Finance Magdalena Andersson.

Strong Swedish economy

The prospects for the Swedish economy are good. The growth rate in 2015 was just over 4 per cent, which is well above the average rate of growth for Sweden in the last twenty years. The growth rate was also higher than for many other countries, including the US and Germany. Unemployment fell significantly in 2015 and is now at around 7 per cent. This is the lowest level of unemployment for seven years. Youth unemployment and long-term unemployment also decreased significantly in 2015.

The Government has adjusted fiscal policy along more responsible lines, and the deficit has fallen sharply since the Government took office. The large number of people seeking asylum in Sweden in 2015 and the important investments being made to enable new Swedes to establish themselves in society and the labour market involve temporary costs. Towards the end of the forecast period, public finances will be in balance and show a surplus.

However, the economic forecast is uncertain and there is a substantial risk of a weaker outlook.

Government priorities ahead of the autumn budget

“The challenges that Sweden is facing make the Government’s ongoing efforts to build a cohesive society even more important,” says Ms Andersson.

Reducing unemployment

The Government’s objective that Sweden will have the lowest unemployment rate in the EU by 2020 remains firmly in place. Investments in job creation will be made under the Government’s jobs agenda. These include skills, education and matching initiatives, investments for the future including in housing and infrastructure, and an active business policy for more and growing companies. Welfare investments are also an important part of employment policy.

Providing equitable knowledge-based education and time for each pupil

Central to building our society is an equitable school system that gives every child the opportunity to develop. The main focus is on boosting learning outcomes through early intervention, enhancing the attractiveness of the teaching profession and improving equity in education.

Tightening up climate policy

Sweden aspires to be one of the world’s first fossil-free welfare nations. Climate change is the Government’s top environmental priority. To lead global development, Sweden is taking further steps to tighten up its national climate policy and reducing emissions.

Strengthening welfare and increasing equity

The Government’s objective is that everyone will benefit from Sweden’s growth and prosperity. The Government prioritises building a society in which welfare is strengthened and opportunities are made to employ more people in welfare services.

Increasing equality between women and men

The Government will continue its efforts to ensure gender mainstreaming in all areas of policy-making and is also implementing special initiatives.

Initiatives in the budget for 2016

The current situation has given rise to needs in a number of areas that will be addressed this year. The Swedish Migration Agency will receive a significant increase in appropriations to manage the large number of asylum seekers.

As more people seek asylum, more asylum cases end in rejection. Return activities will be improved.

To facilitate introduction, funds will be allocated for language initiatives and skills assessment for asylum seekers, and skills validation of new arrivals. A new fast track for newly arrived entrepreneurs will be introduced.

The Swedish Police will receive increased resources, community police will be strengthened and efforts to combat hate crimes will be prioritised. Anti-terrorism efforts will be enhanced, including through increased resources to the Swedish Security Service. In addition, resources to the Swedish Migration Agency will be reinforced to increase security at asylum centres.

Preventive action to protect our open society against violent extremism and racism will be strengthened.

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