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Reinfeldt and Sahlin lock horns in televised debate

TT/The Local · 10 May 2010, 10:41

Published: 10 May 2010 10:41 GMT+02:00

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"We will all be affected if calm and order is not restored," Sahlin said in a live election debate on Sveriges Television's (SVT) Agenda news programme.

Both Reinfeldt and Sahlin characterised the situation in southern Europe as serious with the prime minister explaining that Sweden was prepared to offer loans, but at competitive market rates.

"We can say right now that we are not going to risk taxpayers' money," he said.

Reinfeldt warned that the crisis could deepen if EU countries could not quickly reach agreement and that Sweden is not immune despite not being a part of the single European currency.

"It is important that we do the right thing now," he said.

Reinfeldt emphasised that Sweden was the 'happy exception' in the EU with sound public finances and a smaller national debt than in 2006, when the Alliance coalition assumed power. At this point Sahlin reminded Reinfeldt of the deep financial crisis under the centre-right government at the beginning of the 1990s.

Sahlin continued by attacking Reinfeldt's claim that the national debt had decreased under the tenure of the current government, arguing that it had only done so thanks to the sale of state assets, such as Vin & Sprit.

"It is surely positive that I have sold a spirits factory and seen to it that the national debt and taxes have been reduced," Reinfeldt retorted.

Both party leaders underlined their continuing support for Sweden's membership of the euro, although they agreed that further evaluation was required after the recent demonstration of the euro's weaknesses.

Reinfeldt and Sahlin differed on their view on welfare with Sahlin arguing that the centre-left coalition strive to reduce differences among social groups, while Reinfeldt was keen to emphasise the right of the individual to choose what is best for them.

The pair also differed on taxes with Reinfeldt underlining that the Alliance coalition had no plans to raise taxes, while Sahlin arguing that taxes would be raised in order to improve public services.

Story continues below…

Sweden's pensioners stand to stand to benefit from tax cuts regardless of which coalition comes to power at the September election, with Reinfeldt and Sahlin at one point competing on the scale of their respective plans.

The debate was concluded with a discussion over the tax rises on petrol proposed by the left-green opposition.

"The hike is needed for the sake of the environment," said Mona Sahlin in defence of the plan. Reinfeldt meanwhile argued that the environment is done a disservice by raising the tax burden of those living in the countryside and dependent on their cars.

TT/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

12:58 May 10, 2010 by Jan M
Reinfeldt ducked the question on deficit reduction. Assets can only be sold once by the government and once they're gone you need some other way of raising the cash to keep the deficit down. Given the boom in youth unemployment the deficit burden is simply going to increase over the coming years. Short-term asset sales achieve nothing for the medium to long term future of Sweden and are typical of the sort of cash grab politics that buys votes in the short term whilst mortgaging everyone's futures. Sweden is around 20 years from becoming the UK but the course is set.
13:35 May 10, 2010 by bbeynch
Seeing these two together is like mixing polyester with silken La Perla thongs. One of them is hard wired into raising taxes and dragging Sweden down to the level of union controlled Greece. The other, while not perfect, at least has Sweden's long term interest at heart, and sees Swedes as entitled to chose their own destiny without excessive government interference. Good old Ronald Reagan had it right, governmenet is not the solution to today's problems. Governement IS today's problems. The polyester queen from Hägersten has her mind set on "reducing differences between social groups", by force if necessary, not Swedens' stability and economic future. Vote wisely in September!
14:31 May 10, 2010 by Celc
@bbeynch - You do realize Sweden had (last I checked) 80% of all workers in unions and has had a strong union since pretty much the dawn of the social movement, right? The culture in Europe differs greatly between nations and there's a huge differences in the mindset of a Swede and a Greek. Our societies and economies are structured differently.

The soul of a nation isn't built upon whatever economic system it subscribes to, it's the other way around. It's also absolutely hilarious that you bring up an American president that increased your nations debt by quite a lot. Maybe you should look to America and ask yourself why virtually all Americans distrust their government no matter what its about, while Swedes are quite fond of ours.

The Swedish economy has done great for the past 140 years or so except when our banks collapsed when the national bank adapted some good old fashioned Reagonomics behind the back of our government, and then again during Americas financial crisis. During 1870-1970 we were the fastest growing country as a % of GDP on the planet.

Oh I'm sorry, was I supposed to just agree with blunt statements about a nation that is split on every important issue, with politics where it's more important to hurt the other party than to actually govern and don't even get me started on how hilarious it is to brag about a de-facto 2 party system as a democracy.
14:38 May 10, 2010 by Luckystrike

" The other, while not perfect, at least has Sweden's long term interest at heart, and sees Swedes as entitled to chose their own destiny without excessive government interference "

In a ideal dream world i would agree, but you've been brainwashed and are feeling a little too secure.

What this actual means is this.

" The other, while not perfect, at least has THE RICH's long term interest at heart, and sees normal average Swedes as RESONSIBLE to DEAL WITH their own destiny without HELP FROM the government "

Sadly, there is not one good politician in Sweden...
00:27 May 11, 2010 by svenskdod
As always politicians make very bad business decisions. I have never seen an instance where the sale of a state asset has been in the long-term interests of the nation in question.

I have to agree with the Red-green opposition that there needs to be an investment in the country regarding public transport. Since the start of the present coalition public transport has gone down the drain. When I came to this country under Persson the country was efficient and reliable. This has changed.

I just hope that there is a large turnout in the election where both the extreme left and right get enough votes to express their opinion on the floor. The stagnation in the government today needs this. Even some form of influence from SD would bring to light perspectives that would normally never be heard.

All in all, this will be my first election in Sweden I can vote for. At present I am on the fence.
07:44 May 11, 2010 by flintis
Sweden is in the state it is today because of socialist politics & the do-gooders on the left, the country started going down the pan in the 70's & 80's, the difference since I arrived here is depressing, the rubbish, the violence, the crime.

I beleive Sweden should, like lot's of other countries, get it's own house in order before supporting troubled euro countries. Like the UK, all the parties are as bad as the other, promises, promises & never deliver.
09:32 May 11, 2010 by meatpie
As an Aussie who lived in the American mid-west for 13 years it's really interesting to see how Sweden is regarded by people who live here.

As far as the politics are concerned, the antics of the major players are pretty low key compared to the US, and even Australia. But the thing that still strikes me today after having been here for 5 years, is that one of the major political parties has no problem at all identifying itself as Socialist. This is inconceivable for any other major democracy, however it has been the norm in Sweden since the end of WW2. It's something you have to factor in if you are going to start comparing the state of Sweden to other countries.

In 2005 when I got here I was struck by the generosity of the benefits we were eligible for. Raising kids is really easy here. Then when I started following the politics a little I was unsettled by how little effort Persson made while governing the country, then when the election came around I began to understand why. He had the country addicted to their benefits. His campaign strategy seemed to consist of adding to existing benefits and branding his opponent as the heartless one who wanted to take them away. When I asked local Swedes about this I was told, 'this is what he always does'. Unfortunately it didn't work against Reinfeldt as he was ready for it, and pointed out to the nation that unemployment benefits were indeed higher than the minimum wage, leading people to conclude that they are better off if they don't get a job. Yes, at the end of Persson's term unemployment was 19%!

As far as deficit reduction, sale of state assets or not, Reinfeldt can point to the fact that he did it; he has reduced the deficit and not increased it. The fact that it wasn't paid my excess state revenues has more to do with lowering the unemployment rate and weaning people off the excessively generous benefits that are available to all in Sweden, the legacy of SD years in office. It's also a little unrealistic to expect Reinfeldt to undo in 5 years the economic malaise the SD's spent the last 30 years creating.

Hey Luckystrike, there's not one good politician in Sweden? Well, there's not one good politician in any other country either. The job requires duplicity. But I think you can gauge them on their intent, is it honest? Then look at their intellect, their capacity to solve problems. Then their heart, do they really give a crap. I think Reinfeldt beats Sahlin on every count, and if I had a vote it would be for him. I don't trust Sahlin, or her motives.
10:40 May 11, 2010 by Streja
meatpie, there is no minimum wage in Sweden.
11:52 May 11, 2010 by stephenjohnson87
Sweden has televised leader debates as well now. This must be the next section of my totally sweden blog! http://bit.ly/aPoRSz
12:47 May 11, 2010 by Celc
@meatpie - I think you might have gotten a bit too much stigma over the word socialist from America, where people think its the same as communism. They do have one senator (or if it was a house representative, perhaps) that identifies as a socialist. The right usually spouts off "bleeding socialists" the same way you hear the American right speak about their left. :)

There are plenty of other countries where it's perfectly alright to call yourself a Socialist all over. Essentially what it boils down to is that European socialists realized they wanted more liberalism while the American liberals realized they wanted more social justice and usually it converges in around the same spot.

I did enjoy the election in 2005 to, instead thinking it was hilarious that the Moderates practically stole the term "Labor Party" right from under the noses of the Social Democrats always have had that symbol, with strong ties to the Unions. I think you a misinformed by someone rhetoric, I looked at Statistics Sweden (the agency) for all four quarters of 2006 and it was around 5,5-6% of the total labor force. I'm guessing that whoever is presenting those numbers are including anyone that didn't work including students, pensioners and what have you to cook the numbers.

The Social Democrats (Socialdemokraterna) are abbreviated as S and not SD, which is the Swedish Democrats (the nationalistic party) that are close to getting into parliament.

Actually, since we normally only elect parties and not people ( voting for individuals is optional ), there is nothing stopping them from bringing in whoever they think is most suitable. The former minister of Justice wasn't even a member of the Social Democratic party but a lawyer until they Persson called him and asked if he wanted to be a minister.
14:03 May 11, 2010 by Streja
stephenjohnson87, hmmm we started doing that in the 60's already. The UK is behind not us!

It started already in the 30's on the radio.
18:33 May 11, 2010 by Streja
flintis, we have only had social democratic governments since the 40's apart from the 70's and the 90's (and currently), so your analysis is flawed. You may favour the coalition, which is fine by me, but don't post things you clearly have no clue about.

I'm not counting world war 2 here.
10:25 May 12, 2010 by meatpie
Svenskdod, compared to other countries I have lived in Sweden's public transportation is superb. In the last two years my experience is that it is getting better, not worse. Old bus stops around where we live have been torn down and replaced with new, lots of redesign and new bike racks installed that weren't there before. This appears to be local government though. Not sure if that's something you can link to Reinfedt.

Also, I don't see how the sale of a state-owned booze company is not in the long term interest of the country.
07:07 May 13, 2010 by miss79
no way for reinfedt...his policy is dangerous asking all the sick people, pensionär, and hadikapped people to work..no thanks for him
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