Conciliatory tone as Reinfeldt sets out his plans

Sweden's new prime minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, struck a conciliatory tone when on Friday morning he presented his plans for government to the Riksdag, promising to listen to "everyone in Sweden."

The new administration will be an open government that listens to all citizens and that will seek good partnerships with everyone who wants to build a better Sweden, Reinfeldt said.

“More of those who can work and want to do so will get the chance to support themselves through their own work and start and run companies. Sweden will be a country that stays united, with reduced social and regional rifts,” he continued.

More pupils will leave school with the knowledge and skills needed to function as citizens and in working life. Knowledge will be at the heart of school life and results will improve, the new prime minister said.

Reinfeldt also promised a major income tax reform, with a special tax deduction for earned income corresponding to an overall cut of 45 billion kronor. In the first stage, income tax will be cut by 37 billion kronor i 2007. But Reinfeldt emphasised that he would not risk the health of the state finances.

“Every reform will be tested against what the economy can manage, and against the aim of full employment,” he said.

“It could prove necessary to postpone reforms or to provide extra financing,” he said.

Reinfeldt also promised to make it easier and cheaper to employ people. Creating jobs on temporary contracts will be made easier, a special class of “new start” jobs will be created, and payroll tax will be abolished for parts of the service sector. The tax on domestic services such as cleaning and gardening will be cut.

Youth unemployment will be tackled by halving payroll tax for young people. The Swedish Labour Market Board, AMV, will be fundamentally reformed, with the market being opened to new players. The number of people in government labour schemes will be cut, the ‘free year’ sabbatical programme will be abolished and the ‘plus job’ labour scheme will be axed.

It will be made more profitable to run a company, Reinfeldt promised. He said he would reform the 3:12 rules, which govern how much a company owner can take out of the company taxed at lower capital rates, and how much is taxed as income.

Wealth tax will be halved as a step towards abolishing it, and employers’ liability to pay their staff sick pay will be replaced by a state credit guarantee system. Self-employed people will also in the future be able to retain self-employed status even if they only have one client.

State property tax will be abolished, something Reinfedlt promised would be financed in “a responsible manner”. Unemployment insurance will be compulsory for all workers, and the amount that people pay in premiums will increase. The ceiling for earnings to qualify for state sick pay will be reduced, and the way payments are calculated will change. People who are injured in traffic will now have their costs met by their vehicle insurance companies.

The new government will invite all the Riksdag parties into talks on a long-term agreement on Swedish energy policy, to be based on the Alliance’s energy agreement. There will be no decisions during the coming four years over the decommissioning over Sweden’s nuclear power stations, nor will permission be granted to restart the two Swedish reactors already closed. Demands for increasing the power exacted from existing reactors will be considered according to current laws.

An equality bonus will be introduced for parents who share parental leave, and nursery schools will be extended to make space for 3-year olds. Local municipalities that wish to introduce payments that make it easier for parents to stay at home with children will be allowed to do so.

In education, schools will give pupils grades from year six, and there will be more grades than at present. Help to children with difficulties will be provided earlier, with a new special needs teacher training scheme being introduced.

The government’s ambition is to increase the number of police to 20,000, Reinfeldt said. All crimes will be investigated, regardless of the age of the criminal. There will be tougher penalties for assault, rape, robbery and for men’s abuse of women. Reinfeldt said that police should be allowed access to material from bugging, but great importance should be placed on personal integrity.