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FINANCE

IMF hails Sweden’s crisis management skills

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has praised Sweden's handling of the financial crisis in a new report, while at the same time lowering its growth forecast for the global economy.

“At a time of record public debt-to-GDP ratios among advanced economies, Sweden is noteworthy for its strong public finances,” the IMF wrote in the latest edition of its Fiscal Monitor newsletter.

In a subsection entitled “Lessons from Sweden”, the IMF details several aspects of how Sweden has managed its public finances since the 2009 recession that could be useful for other countries struggling to find their way out of fiscal trouble.

Specifically, the IMF lauds Sweden for “building up fiscal buffers” during better economic times. Prior to the onset of the economic crisis which developed following the collapse of the 2008 Lehman Brothers bank in the United States, Sweden had a budget surplus of 3.5 percent of GDP.

“When the recession hit (with real GDP contracting by 5 percent in 2009, compared to an average decline of 3.5 percent across advanced economies), the government had enough fiscal space … to implement stimulus measures without jeopardizing fiscal sustainability,” the IMF wrote.

The IMF also noted the credibility of Sweden’s central bank, the Riksbank, in allowing for a more aggressive use of monetary policy, as well as the flexibility of the krona exchange rate.

Sweden’s decisive action in propping up ailing banks in 2008-2009, was also cited as a contributing factor to how the country managed the crisis.

“The authorities took fast action to calm depositors and interbank markets, including a doubling and extension of the deposit guarantee and introduction of new bank recapitalization and debt guarantee schemes,” the IMF wrote.

The report comes as the IMF published its latest World Economic Outlook in which it predicts global economic growth will only reach 3.3 percent in 2012 and 3.6 percent in 2013.

“Low growth and uncertainty in advanced economies are affecting emerging market and developing economies through both trade and financial channels, adding to homegrown weaknesses,” said IMF Chief Economist Olivier Blanchard in a statement.

For Sweden, the IMF predicts economic growth of 1.2 percent this year and 2.2 percent in 2013. The Riksbank, meanwhile, forecast Swedish economic growth of 1.5 percent in 2012 and 1.9 percent in 2013, while Finance Minister Anders Borg’s budget bill includes a forecast of 1.6 percent this year and 2.7 percent in 2013.

The IMF and Borg, however, were in agreement in their forecasts for unemployment in Sweden in 2013, predicting it will fall slightly to 7.5 percent.

David Landes/TT

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ECONOMY

‘Tougher times’: Sweden’s economy to slow next year

Consumers in Sweden are set to crimp spending over the rest of the year, pushing the country into an economic slowdown, Sweden's official economic forecaster has warned in its latest prognosis.

'Tougher times': Sweden's economy to slow next year

A combination of record high energy prices over the winter, rising interest rates, and inflation at around 10 percent, is set to hit household spending power over the autumn and winter, leading to lower sales for businesses and dragging economic growth down to just 0.5 percent next year. This is down from the 1.2 percent the institute had forecast for 2023 in its spring forecast. 

“I don’t want to be alarmist,” Ylva Hedén Westerdahl, forecasting head at the Swedish National Institute of Economic Research, said at a press conference announcing the new forecast. “We don’t expect the sort of economic slowdown that we saw during the financial crisis or the pandemic, where unemployment rose much more. But having said that, people who don’t have a job will find it tougher to enter the labour market.” 

She said that a shortage of gas in Europe over the winter, will push electricity prices in Sweden to twice the levels seen last winter, while the core interest rate set by Sweden’s Riksbank is set to rise to two percent. 

As a result, Sweden’s unemployment rate will rise slightly to 7.8 percent next year, from 7.7 percent in 2022, which is 0.3 percentage points higher than the institute had previously forecast. 

On the plus side, Westerdahl said that she expected the Riksbank’s increases in interest rates this year and next year would succeed in getting inflation rates in Sweden under control. 

“We expect a steep decline in inflation which is going to return to below two percent by the end of 2023,” she said. “That depends on whether electricity prices fall after the winter, but even other prices are not going to rise as quickly.” 

After the press conference, Sweden’s finance minister, Mikael Damberg, said he broadly agreed with the prognosis. 

“I’ve said previously that we are on the way into tougher times, and that is what the institute confirms,” he told Sweden’s state broadcaster SVT. “There’s somewhat higher growth this year, at the same time as fairly high inflation which will hit many households and make it tougher to live.”

Damberg called on Sweden’s political parties to avoid making high-spending promises in the election campaign, warning that these risked driving up inflation. 

“What’s important in this situation is that we don’t get irresponsible when it comes to economic policy,” he said. “Because when parties make promises left, right and centre, it risks driving up inflation and interest rates even more, so Swedish households have an even tougher time. Right now, it’s important to prioritise.” 

 The call 

Sverige är på väg mot lågkonjunktur enligt Konjunkturinstitutets (KI) senaste prognos. Enligt finansminster Mikael Damberg (S) är det därför viktigt att Sverige sköter sin ekonomi ansvarsfullt och vågar prioritera.

– Jag tror att alla partier behöver vara lite återhållsamma och inte lova för mycket, säger han.

Mikael Damberg tycker att KI tecknar en realistisk bild av Sveriges ekonomiska verklighet.

– Jag har sagt tidigare att vi går mot tuffare tider och det är väl det som KI bekräftar. Något högre tillväxt i år men sämre tillväxtförutsättningar nästa år samt fortsatt ganska hög inflation som slår mot många hushåll och gör det tuffare att leva, säger han.

Och vad vill regeringen göra åt det?

– Det är viktigt att vi i det här läget inte är ansvarslösa i den ekonomiska politiken. För när partier lovar vitt och brett till allt riskerar vi att driva upp inflationen, öka räntan ytterligare och svenska hushåll får det svårare. Nu måste man våga prioritera.

Se intervjun med Damberg om konjunkturläget klippet ovan.

“Electricity prices are going to be twice as high as last winter,” said 

Elpriserna kommer att bli dubbelt så höga som förra vintern, säger Ylva Hedén Westerdahl, chef för Konjunkturinstitutets prognosavdelning, på en pressträff.
Den lågkonjunktur som KI ser framför sig kallar hon trots det för en mjuklandning. Den handlar främst om att människor kommer att ha mindre pengar att konsumera.

“Brist på gas i Europa gör att energipriserna ser ut att bli rekordhöga under vintern”, skriver KI, och ser att inflationen kommer att närma sig 10 procent.

Deras prognos för styrräntan är att den ligger på 2 procent vid årsslutet, vilket gör att inflationen faller tillbaka snabbt under nästa år och Riksbanken låter då räntan ligga still.

KI tillägger att de offentliga finanserna är fortsatt starka och de bedömer att det finns ett budgetutrymme på runt 120 miljarder kronor för de kommande fyra åren.

Vad gäller BNP spår KI en blygsam tillväxt på 0,5 procent nästa år – en nedskrivning från tidigare 1,2 procent.

Prognosen för arbetslösheten under 2023 är 7,8 procent, 0,3 procentenheter högre än tidigare prognos.

Fredrik Fahlman/TT
Johanna Ekström/TT

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