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War of words erupts over scuttled Saab sale

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War of words erupts over scuttled Saab sale
12:14 CET+01:00
A verbal spat has broken out between the political opposition and Sweden's industry minister Maud Olofsson after Left Party leader Lars Ohly blamed the government for the failed sale of Saab.

According to Ohly, the government should bear responsibility if Saab Automobile fails to survive following a decision by the Koenigsegg Group to pull the plug on its planned purchase of the troubled General Motors (GM) division.

“It will be a huge failure for the government if it happens, and unfortunately there is much to indicate that Saab isn't going to survive,” Ohly told the TT news agency on Wednesday.

“That will mean that one of Sweden's strongest brands and one of Sweden's strongest industries will have gone bankrupt under a centre-right government.”

What irked Ohly most was what he saw as foot-dragging by the government on parts of the deal that should have been taken care of much earlier in the sale process.

“An active government should have taken the initiative right away to find a new owner for Saab; gotten involved in the process of trying to find solutions. Instead, almost every message from the government was that taxpayer money wouldn't be used, and that means that they devalued the brand. Future owners naturally asked themselves why the state was so eager to distance itself from Saab,” he said.

Olofsson, who also heads the Centre Party, shot back quickly, implicitly attacking what she saw as the opposition's relative lack of business acumen.

“The opposition should be thankful that there is someone out there that understands business deals,” she told TT.

She added that the political opposition should also be grateful “that someone knows how to protect the taxpayers' money”.

“If we had listened to them, we would have lost close to 8 billion kronor ($1.2 billion) to a multinational company like GM without having secured one single job,” she said.

Olofsson went on to emphasize that the government still has no plans to take over Saab.

“That's not on the cards. It has to be private interests that run the company,” she said.

“The opposition has accused me of handling this poorly, so it's ironic that they have so much confidence in my ability to operate car factories.”

In addition to Ohly, the Social Democrats' economic policy spokesperson, Tomas Eneroth, also accused the government of being too passive in the Saab deal, claiming the sale broke down because the government and the EU Commission took too long with certain key decisions.

“Once again, we see how Maud Olofsson lacks leadership and the capacity to handle difficult questions which affect thousands of people and our international competitiveness,” Eneroth said in a statement.

Olofsson brushed aside the criticism as mere “hot air”, claiming that the political opposition's shadow budget doesn't include a single krona to fund any proposals to help Saab.

She added that the government is continuing in its attempts to find a solution to ensure Saab's survival.

“We've seen that there are tools we can use and we're working extremely hard to get things in place,” said Olofsson.

“We're doing everything we can. But it's all predicated on there being private interests with enough money and who have patience.”

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