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Shoppers urged to ‘buy Swedish’

The Swedish government has called on the nation's sense of patriotism and is advising consumers to "buy Swedish" this Christmas to protect jobs.

Shoppers urged to 'buy Swedish'
Photo: Janerik Henriksson/Scanpix; John McConnico/AP

“If you open your Christmas present and it says ‘Made in China’ then you haven’t done much to secure Swedish jobs,” Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said according to a report in Aftonbladet.

The Swedish government announced on Friday that it plans to spend 23 billion kronor ($ 2.8 billion) over the next three years on increased support for the unemployed and more funding for high school and vocational training.

Measures included the re-introduction of a tax deduction for home improvements to boost the maintenance services sector among other initiatives as the government battles to ward off a deep recession.

The prime minister has now gone one step further and appealed to Christmas shoppers to do their patriotic duty and buy Swedish made goods this holiday season.

Measures to beat the feared slump have varied across the European Union as member countries oscillate between taking coordinated action to tackle the economic gloom and doom, and taking care of more national concerns.

Sweden’s plea for patriotic purchasing mirrors the call of the Irish government to its people.

The British government meanwhile decided last week to do its bit with the announcement of a temporary cut in sales taxes (VAT) in a bid to boost sagging demand.

Reinfeldt said on Friday that he is however not keen on hasty temporary measures that would then be retracted in a couple of years as the government resisted calls to raise child benefit to give families more spending power this Christmas.

GOVERNMENT

Governments including Sweden’s see support tumble for their handling of COVID-19, survey shows

Governments are fast losing support for their handling of the coronavirus outbreak from a public that widely believes death and infection figures to be higher than statistics show, a survey of six countries including Sweden revealed on Saturday.

Governments including Sweden's see support tumble for their handling of COVID-19, survey shows
Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Lofven (L) speaks with Denmark's Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen during an EU summit in Brussels on July 20, 2020. AFP

Support for the federal government of the United States, the country with the most reported infections and deaths, dropped by four percentage points from mid-June, with 44 percent of respondents declaring themselves dissatisfied, said a report by the Kekst CNC communications consulting group.

In Britain, just over a third of respondents approved of their government's actions, a three-point decline in one month, according to the report, based on an opinion poll conducted over five days in mid-July. 

It also included France, Sweden, Japan and Germany.

“In most countries this month, support for national governments is falling,” the report said.

The notable exception was France, where approval rose by six percentage points, yielding a dissatisfaction rate of 41 percent.

France, which has the world's seventh-highest COVID-19 toll, has all but emerged from lockdown but has seen infections increase in recent days, prompting the government to order face masks in all enclosed public spaces.

In Sweden, which took a controversial soft approach to lockdown and has a higher toll than its neighbours, the prime minister's approval rating has shrunk from a positive seven percent to a neutral zero, the poll found.

'Resigned'

People who participated in the survey —  1,000 per country polled — generally believed the coronavirus to be more widespread, and more deadly, than official figures show.

“Despite relatively low incidence rates compared to earlier in the pandemic in most countries (with the exception of the US), people significantly overestimate the spread and fatality rate of the disease,” Kekst CNC said.

In Sweden and Britain, the public believed that six or seven percent of people have died from the coronavirus, about 100 times the reported rate.

In the United States, respondents estimated that almost a tenth of the population had died of the virus, more than 200 times the real toll, while Germans thought their tally was 300 times higher than what has been reported.

Such views, said the report, “will be impacting consumer behaviour and wider attitudes — business leaders and governments will need to be conscious of this as they move to restart economies and transition into living with coronavirus for the medium to longer term.”

The poll also revealed that fear of a second outbreak wave is growing, and that an ever larger number of people believe the impacts will last for more than a year.

People “are becoming resigned to living with coronavirus for the forseeable future, and looking to leaders and business to pave the way forward,” the report said.

They are also increasingly likely to prioritise limiting the spread of the virus even if the economy suffers.

“In the US, 54 percent want the government to prioritise limiting the spread of the virus over protecting the economy,” it said.

The poll found that mask-wearing was generally popular, except in Sweden, where only about 15 percent of people sport a face-covering in public.

Even in the United States, where mask-wearing has become a politically polarising issue, 63 percent of respondents said they were in favour.

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