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FINANCE

Sweden projects budget surplus

Sweden is expected to post a 2008 budget surplus of 163 billion kronor ($25 billion dollars) despite the global economic slowdown, the Swedish budget authority ESV said Wednesday.

“The economic climate has deteriorated markedly, with significant consequences for central government finances,” ESV said in a statement.

These “will nevertheless be strong, with substantial budget surpluses and net lending throughout the forecast period.”

Of the 163 billion, 88 billion kronor is due to non-recurring effects, including 50 billion from the sell-off earlier this year of state-owned liquor manufacturer Vin & Sprit and 25 billion from the sale of property group Vasakronan.

The budget surplus was expected to decrease by 100 billion next year to 62.2 billion, before growing again to 88.7 billion in 2010 and 122.5 billion in 2011, ESV predicted.

The agency had previously forecast a surplus of 150 billion for this year, 90.2 billion for 2009, 107.9 for 2010 and 152.2 for 2011.

“The substantial budget surpluses mean that central government debt will decrease, albeit at a slightly decreasing rate relative to the previous forecast,” the agency said.

“The debt-to-GDP (gross domestic product) ratio is forecast to be 19 percent in 2011, down substantially from 30 percent this year,” it added.

ESV, a central administrative agency under the finance ministry, analyses and makes forecasts of central government finances.

On August 22, Sweden’s centre-right government slashed its growth forecasts for the coming years but said the country was still well-positioned to ride out the global economic slowdown.

Sweden’s economy, which registered growth of 2.6 percent in 2007, came to a full halt in the second quarter, when it registered zero growth, Statistics Sweden announced last month.

ECONOMY

Swedish bank’s IT fault puts customer accounts in the red

A technical problem at Sweden's Swedbank on Thursday night gave customers a nasty surprise, with their account balances inexplicably going negative, payments impossible, and Swish payments no longer working.

Swedish bank's IT fault puts customer accounts in the red

By 11.30pm, more than 2,000 Swedbank customers had reported the fault to the site Downdetector, and the problem was still not solved by 17.00pm on Friday. 

“We have an ongoing IT disruption where certain customers see an incorrect balance on their accounts,” a message on the bank’s app read. “The reason is a planned update to our internal systems which went wrong. We apologise, of course, for that and are working as quickly as possible to fix the problem.” 

The Swish payment service has also been affected, with the service, which is owned collectively by Swedish banks, reporting on its site that there was a “technical disruption at Swedbank and Sparbank which might affect Swish payments from these banks”. 

Some Swedbank customers posted their negative account balances on Twitter, expressing shock at the incorrect figures. 

The disruption comes at the worst possible time for many Swedes. Many people are paid on the 25th of the month, meaning this Friday marks the start of the payday weekend. Many will have also scheduled their bill payments for this Friday. 

Marko Saric from Malmö saw his account balance drop by 1.2 million kronor, going half a million kronor into the red. 

“It’s just totally crazy,” he told SVT. “We were going to go out and shop for the weekend. It’s lovely weather and the kids want to go out, but we can’t use our card. We’ve got no cash. Everything is in the bank.” 

“You’re just completely blocked. Colleagues need to make emergency food parcels for you. It’s just crazy that something like this should happen.” 

In its statement, the bank assured customers that their money was “secure”, and that the bank still had the correct information on what their account balance should be. 

“Customers who feel that they have suffered economic damage as a result of the disruption should contact the bank,” the message said.

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