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ECONOMY

Riksbank lowers interest rate to 1 percent

Citing a euro crisis-tainted economy and domestic thriftiness, Sweden's central bank on Tuesday cut the repo rate by 0.25 percentage points, lowering the country's benchmark interest rate to 1.0 percent in order to stimulate inflation.

Riksbank lowers interest rate to 1 percent

“The weak developments in the euro area are clearly affecting the Swedish economy, which is now slowing down,” the Riksbank said in a statement.

It also noted that Swedes are spending less money, wages are not expected to increase at their usual rate, and unemployment has risen, all combining to create “low inflationary pressure”.

Sweden has a 2-percent inflation target.

“Swedish households and companies now have a more gloomy outlook, and consumption and investment are weak,” the statement read.

The governing board, however, hopes that Tuesday’s interest rate cut will keep Sweden on target inflation-wise all the way to 2014. It does not expect to alter the repo rate further during 2013.

Two of the bank’s six governors, however, wanted an even heftier cut.

Karolina Ekholm wanted the Riksbank to cut the repo rate down to 0.75 percent in early 2013 and communicate its intentions to do so now.

Lars E.O. Svensson wanted a similar cut to be put in place immediately and not wait for the New Year.

There were also outside critics who said the Riksbank should have acted more decisively and more swiftly during 2012.

“There is a lot to support an argument that the interest rate we had negatively affected the economy and has contributed to unemployment,” John Hassler, economics professor at Stockholm University, told TT.

Hassler does not think Tuesday’s cut will have any great effect as most players in the market had already forecast the rate cut and made adjustments accordingly.

The Riksbank also lowered its forecast for Swedish economic growth in 2013 to 1.2 percent, down from the previous forecast of 1.8 percent. The bank expects economic growth to pick up in 2014, however, rising to 2.7 percent.

Unemployment, according to the Riksbank, is expected to rise to 8.1 percent next year, slightly higher than the bank’s earlier forecast of 7.9 percent, before falling to 7.6 percent in 2014.

TT/The Local/at

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ECONOMY

Sweden’s new right-wing govt slashes development aid

Sweden, one of the world's biggest international donors, is planning drastic aid cuts in the coming years, the country's new right-wing government said in its budget bill presented on Tuesday.

Sweden's new right-wing govt slashes development aid

Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson’s government said it planned to reduce the country’s international aid by 7.3 billion kronor ($673 million) in 2023, and by another 2.2 billion kronor in 2024.

That is around a 15-percent reduction from what had been planned by the previous left-wing government and means Sweden will abandon its foreign aid target of 1 percent of gross national income.

International aid for refugees will be capped at a maximum of eight percent of its aid, and will also be reduced.

According to the specialised site Donor Tracker, Sweden was the world’s eighth-biggest international aid donor in terms of absolute value last year, and the third-biggest in proportion to the size of its economy, donating 0.92 percent of its gross national income, behind Luxembourg and Norway.

The new government, which is backed for the first time by the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats, had announced in its government programme last month that it would be cutting foreign aid.

Since 1975, Stockholm has gone further than the UN’s recommendation of donating at least 0.7 percent of its wealth to development aid.

Despite its growth forecast being revised downwards — the economy is expected to shrink by 0.4 percent next year and grow by 2 percent in 2024 — the 2023 budget forecasts a surplus of 0.7 percent of gross domestic product.

It calls for an additional 40 billion kronor in spending, with rising envelopes for crime fighting and the building of new nuclear reactors, as well as a reduction in taxes on petrol and an increase in the defence budget.

The new government is a minority coalition made up of Kristersson’s conservative Moderates, the Christian Democrats and the Liberal party, backed in parliament by their key ally the Sweden Democrats to give them a majority.

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