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Sick leave dominates first election year debate

Sick leave dominates first election year debate

Published: 20 Jan 2010 19:34 GMT+01:00
Updated: 20 Jan 2010 19:34 GMT+01:00

Sweden's two political blocs each set out their stalls on Wednesday in the first parliamentary debate of 2010, with sickness benefits proving the main bone of contention.

It was Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt who set the ball rolling on Wednesday in a debate viewed as the launch pad for the respective parties' campaigns for a general election that is just eight months away.

Reinfeldt laid out three main challenges facing his government if reelected in the autumn: full employment, a higher quality social welfare system, and strong opposition to the dual dangers of drugs and violence.

The Prime Minister billed the election as a straight choice between two alternatives: an experienced Alliance that has successfully navigated a period of economic turbulence versus a left-wing experiment based on "fake accords", vital parts of which would be sent for official review and postponed until after the election.

Reinfeldt spoke further of the need to empower citizens by continuing to cut taxes while also investing in the social welfare system.

Social Democrat leader Mona Sahlin countered that policies enacted by the previous government, led by her own party, were the main reason Sweden had not come off worse from the global financial crisis.

She also rejected claims by the Moderate Party leader that the Red-Green coalition's pre-election agreements were in any way "fake", or that their sickness benefits proposals were financially irresponsible.

"What you describe as fake accords are in fact clean-up jobs aimed at reestablishing a decent sickness benefits system. You got your job by saying that there would be more people in work and fewer excluded. The reverse happened, but I don't call it fake, I call it right-wing politics," said Sahlin.

Eighteen months have passed since the government first decided to place limits for each link in the chain of Sweden’s welfare and benefits programmes, a move designed to bring as many people back into the workforce as possible.

A report released last week showed that Swedes spent less time on long-term sick leave and more returned to work as a result of the new sick leave rules introduced in 2008. But opponents of the measures say they have created a harsher social climate in which vulnerable citizens risk falling by the wayside.

TT/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

20:28 January 20, 2010 by krigeren
Typical Swedish Politics.

Arguing over who gets the what part of the pie rather than making the pie bigger.
20:42 January 20, 2010 by moaca
Is it different in your country do you think? This is politics remember, they play the blame game all the time trying to win votes for the coming election. MP's are always arguing. There are very few pragmatic leaders with common sense unfortunately. Just look at the morons ruling the other countries, or do you really think they do it better elsewhere?

The really good leaders are shortlived because they dont follow the rest of the sheep.
22:25 January 20, 2010 by zircon
So, if you get Euro 600,-- in another EU country, social benefit, how much is that in Reinfeldt's future High Quality Social welfare system?
22:57 January 20, 2010 by Jan M
The country is running a budget deficit and unemployment has risen. Reinfeldt has a solution. Cut taxes and increase investment in social welfare. The intended therefore being presumably to increase the deficit further and make people feel wealthier at the same time. He is a muppet. It failed to work in the UK and it is not going to work anywhere else either. I doubt that Mona has any world class ideas either mind you. As for empowering citizens, the evidence is that if they already are empowered. A legal system that imposes negligible sentences for rape and murder and an attitude to copyright that until recently has promoted piracy. High quality empowerment. All the evidence that Swedes want something for nothing just like everyone else and without an effective legal system that is more achievable than in most countries.
01:22 January 21, 2010 by americanska
moaca - I think krigeren's point is that they are both arguing for different levels of socialism. rather than policies of economic growth.
02:03 January 21, 2010 by johnsorel
Kind of like that "economic growth" they have in America?

Largest trade deficit in the world (buy more than sell)

Largest budget deficit in the world (spend more on stupid wars than they take in)

Massive job exports -- stagnant and lowering wages -- this generation living a lower quality of life than the last -- and the next generation will be worse off. Health care that costs 2Xs as much as other industrialized nations.

Your Americanska economic growth is junk food economics...
02:53 January 21, 2010 by svenskdod
I am thinking that the Politicians of Sweden need to go back to school. They are arguing over frivolous topics in an attempt to displace the publics concentration on the basic role of government.

Their responsibility is to take care of public funds and invest in responsible longterm endeavours that will benefit the public in a positive way. They are accountable to the citizens of Sweden, no one else.

If we look at it this way, the only thing on their mind should be finding employment for each and every citizen of the country. Idiotic sickness benefit arguments just cloud the true issues. Prevention is always better than cure (costs less too). If people are employed and can take some responsibility for their lives and that of their loved ones they feel much better about themselves.

If only we had some direct politicians in this country (or the world) who were honest and forthcoming.
09:14 January 21, 2010 by Glempa
I warn Swedes to look at UK history over the lasy 30 years.

In the 70's we had a socialist government that bankrupt the country and the UK had to go begging to the IMF for a rescue loan, the first and only western country (until Iceland recently) to do this. But UK socialism then, with all industries nationalised and union leaders deciding government policies, was very different to the swedish model.

Then we Margret Thatcher with her tough spending and tax cuts, and her ideas that the free market should decide everything and no one was entitled to support from the government. Benefits would be cut to force people back to work and union powers were cut. She was going to make UK efficient and that would bring back jobs.

What we got was mass unemployment (over 4 million) and mass poverty. There were no jobs for people to have, and they had no money to live on. Yes, the UK had a budget surplus but the UK has not had a trade surplus for nearly 30 years. Today the Uk has one of the highest poverty rates in Europe, and people I worked with have an american attitude of not caring about other peoples' welfare.

The likes of Reinfeldt are keen to cut taxes and benefits because they are rich enough to afford it. For the rest of the nation, it is quite a different story. Sweden may not be perfect but I moved here to give my children a better quality of life and I have no regrets.
11:43 January 21, 2010 by Bensonradar
"...cut taxes while also investing in the social welfare system."

This is a bit confusing. The social welfare system is funded by taxes. If taxes are cut, there is less money to spend on social welfare. Is this right? They could take the money from other areas like education and defence, maybe.
13:02 January 21, 2010 by karex
@Bensonradar

If taxes are cut it does not necessarily mean there will be less money to spend on social welfare. It all boils down to efficiency (and in some cases downright honesty and social responsibility): how much is exactly available? How much is being spent on what it's actually supposed to be spent on? How much is being squandered?

If you curb the squandering, you could actually achieve better social services while still cutting taxes. It's a matter of priorities, social responsibility and downright honesty.
13:06 January 21, 2010 by Beynch
Do not let the Sahliness fool you! That marxist vermin! Give her a chance and we'll all be living in a socialist dictatorship. Remember this woman commenced her career in SSU in Hägersten, and has never done an honest day's work in her life since then. In fact we should all be wary of career politicians. They like their sinecures where they lift a hefty, taxpayer funded, salaries, while doing little or nothing, and mete out their besserwisser power. It is the Sahliness' predecessors, beginning with OP, with their national cry for more government, who has turned Sweden into the multicultural sewer that it has become under liberal-socialist dogma. Do not let her continue metastasizing the sordid mess. Take Sweden back from this useless garbage. Time to watch the Social Democrats circling in the drain and pour out for ever! Dump the loser Sahlin.
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