Persson promises more cash to students and elderly

It won't be an easy year, warned Prime Minister Göran Persson as he began the year's first parliamentary debate between party leaders.

The country faces new difficulties and challenges but also opportunities in the coming year, said Persson. The election is in September and the prime minister said that the country’s ability to seize the opportunities depends upon which route Sweden chooses:

“It depends on whether it is a Sweden characterised by togetherness and solidarity, or a Sweden characterised by conflict and selfishness,” he said.

“I’m looking forward to the debate, a refreshing and tough ideological debate about Sweden’s direction. What way should Sweden go?” said Persson.

He argued that things are going well for Sweden, and that the country is in good shape compared to almost any other country in the world.

“We have no reason to reject the Swedish model,” he emphasised.

Persson also delivered news of what to expect in the spring budget.

Housing support for the worst-off pensioners will be raised from 91% to 93% of rent. According to the prime minister the move will benefit 300,000 pensioners.

He went on to announce news of improvements in student funding.

“We are going to propose in the spring budget that study support is raised in the same way as child support was increased before Christmas, and that it will happen on July 1st with retrospective effect from April,” he said.

Finance minister Pär Nuder will also lead a ministerial group which will look into issues facing Sweden’s youth, for example housing and education.

The leader of the Moderates, Fredrik Reinfeldt, agreed with Göran Persson that it is necessary to invest more money in the elderly and that a roadmap was needed for the care sector.

“But where did all the jobs go?” he asked.

Reinfeldt acknowledged that things are going well for Sweden in general, but said that it is not the case for the whole of Sweden or for all Swedes.

“In Göran Persson’s Sweden 500,000 people have become unemployed and isolated. It’s insulting that Göran Persson stands here talking about everyone and togetherness. There are no policies for those who are not seen or talked about,” said the Moderates’ leader.

“We’re going to get Sweden back to work, create growth which results in more jobs.”

He demanded a decision on the Left Party’s role in government.

“It’s not crystal clear. You give the answer which the conservatives used to give and which you attacked then: we’re not preparing ourselves but we will govern together and we’ll see how it turns out after the election,” said Reinfeldt.

He also attacked Göran Persson for not saying anything about how new jobs would be created during the 40 minutes he spoke in the debate.

“Security is now completely based on social support. For me, security is knowing that I’m suitable for the job market and can get a job,” said Reinfeldt.

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TT/The Local