Persson – reduce tax on alcohol

Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson has said he is ready to fight the Left and Green parties in order to ensure a reduction in tax on strong alcoholic liquor this autumn.

“I believe it needs to be decided now,” Persson told Svenska Dagbladet.

“I am convinced that we need a reduction in liquor tax.”

But the government’s two partner parties insist that alcohol tax should not be lowered.

“Our ‘no’ is solid,” said Yvonne Ruwaida, spokeswoman on economic and political affairs for the Green Party.

Persson argues that the current tax regime creates a black market which undermines the state’s monopoly on the sale of alcohol, and therefore also undermines Swedish alcohol monopoly as a whole.

The prime minister has not said how large he thinks a reduction should be. A government-commissioned enquiry has suggested a 40 percent reduction in liquor tax. It also suggested lower taxes on beer and wine, but Göran Persson is not convinced that this is necessary.

Ruwaida says that the Green Party has a different opinion from Persson about how Sweden’s alcohol retail monopoly Systembolaget and Swedish alcohol policy as a whole can be saved.

“We already have too many people with alcohol-related problems,” she said.

“These will not be reduced by lowering alcohol tax.”

Left Party leader Lars Ohly also rejects Persson’s argument that alcohol tax should be reduced.

“It’s a bad idea. All research shows that alcohol consumption will increase,” he said, adding that criminality and domestic violence would increase.

“The aim is not to keep Systembolaget, but to keep consumption down.”

Both the Left and Green parties want Sweden to ignore EU rules and unilaterally introduce import quotas, allowing the European Court to decide later whether this is permitted.

Ohly and Ruwaida also point out that Systembolaget’s figures for the last quarter showed that sales had stopped falling. Against this background, Ohly said he thinks that Persson’s suggestion for lower taxes was badly timed.

TT/The Local