One year ahead of parliamentary elections, Sweden’s centre-right government presented an expansive 2010 budget bill designed lift Sweden out what Minister of Finance Anders Borg on Sunday called “a historic crisis”.
“We are trying to limit damage from the crisis by taking forceful action to promote jobs and enterprise and by providing support to everyone who has been severely hit by unemployment,” Borg said as he formally presented the bill to parliament.
In his presentation, Borg stood by the government’s outlook of a 5.2 percent contraction of the export-dependent economy this year, “the weakest growth performance in a single year since World War II.”
Growth of 0.6 percent was seen for 2010, before a robust return of 3.1 percent in 2011 and 3.8 percent in 2012.
But unemployment was seen rising to 8.8 percent this year, 11.4 percent in 2010 and 11.6 percent in 2011, before falling back to 10.9 percent in 2012.
The budget bill includes 32 billion kronor ($4.62 billion) in stimulus measures for 2010 and 24 billion kronor for 2011.
The 2010 measures include 10 billion kronor in income tax cuts aimed at encouraging more Swedes to work instead of living off of generous state subsidies.
Since coming to power in late 2006, the government has made the fight against unemployment its main objective.
But instead of declining, Sweden’s unemployment rate has risen, from 5.7 percent in August 2006 to 8.0 percent in August 2009.
Much of the increase has been attributed to the global economic crisis, but the sharp rise could hurt the government as it seeks re-election next September.
Local governments, which are in charge of budgets for health care, day care and schools among other things, will meanwhile receive a one-off injection of 10.0 billion kronor, while other allocations will go to expanding higher education and improving the business climate.
Borg was meanwhile optimistic about Sweden’s recovery.
The government forecast a public deficit — which comprises the finances of the state, local governments and pension system — of 3.4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2010, 2.1 percent in 2011 and 1.1 percent in 2012.
“We may experience the quickest recovery in the OECD region (leading industrialized countries), together with Finland and Switzerland,” Borg told journalists on Sunday during in a preview of the budget bill.
He stressed the importance of quickly returning to the government’s objective of a one-percent public surplus.
“We need to get back to one percent before the next (economic) crash. We will probably experience another crisis cycle within four to five years,” he said.