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Reinfeldt and Löfven lock horns in second debate

Fredrik Reinfeldt and Social Democrat leader Stefan Löfven didn't hold back in their second face-to-face debate on Sunday night, tackling unemployment, taxes, and schooling in what some labelled the most heated debate in years.

Reinfeldt and Löfven lock horns in second debate

Jobs, taxes, and schools were the main themes of Sunday night’s debate, broadcast live on Sveriges Television (SVT). The first half of the debate held the majority of the action, in what the Dagens Nyheter newspaper called “the most heated debate in several years”.

Prime Minister Reinfeldt opened the debate by referring to his government’s plans for a fifth round of income-tax reductions, stating that “if people get to keep more of their salary, then the will and the drive to work will be higher”.

Löfven, who placed unemployment levels highest up his agenda, was unimpressed.

“I hate unemployment,” he said. “I will ensure that every council of state and every authority head gets asked about how they can contribute (to creating more jobs,” he responded.

Reinfeldt, whose four-party centre-right coalition is hoping for a third election victory in September 2014, responded that unemployment isn’t his biggest concern.

“I learned to hate something even worse, that is being an outsider,” he said, adding that such people are often neglected.

Löfven didn’t let the unemployment issue drop, however.

“We have a higher unemployment level than when you took office. You can’t escape that,” he replied.

Next on the agenda was taxes, with Löfven explaining that his party believed it was “fair” to lower taxes for pensioners, stating that “our simple argument is that pension is deferred pay”

Reinfeldt countered by calling Löfven’s tax policies a mess.

“Stefan Löfven is against all tax cuts until they are applied. But you’ll never lower taxes for ordinary people,” he said.

Löfven countered by accusing the PM of lowering taxes with “borrowed money” – a reference to the government’s recently unveiled autumn budget, which caused raised eyebrows also in the country’s conservative press.

Another hot topic was schooling. Education Minister Jan Björklund, taking part in the debate as the leader of The Liberals (Folkpartiet), claimed that school results had continually dropped for 20 years because of the mess from the last Social Democrat government’s actions still being cleaned up.

Löfven retorted that perhaps the statistics had something to do with the fact that Björklund had been the longest sitting education minister in Sweden since primary education (grundskola) was introduced in 1962.

At the close, the prime minister and the leader of the opposition were pleased with their respective efforts in the debate.

“This was a truly good debate, it was the beginning of a long election year where we are going to show that we are focusing on growth, which will get the economy to grow,” Reinfeldt told reporters after.

Swedes will go to the polls on September 14th, 2014.

TT/The Local/og

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COST OF LIVING

Who will get Sweden’s electricity subsidy and when will it be paid out?

Energy users in the south of Sweden were promised an electricity price subsidy by November 1st by Sweden's right-wing government during the election campaign. When will it be paid out, and who will benefit?

Who will get Sweden's electricity subsidy and when will it be paid out?

What is the electricity price subsidy?

The electricity price subsidy (elprisstöd in Swedish), is a one-time payment paid out to electricity users in southern Sweden based on energy usage over the last year.

Here’s some more information on the subsidy and who is eligible.

How does it differ from what the right-wing bloc originally proposed?

The right-wing bloc originally proposed a system of högkostnadsskydd or “high-cost protection”, designed to cover an unspecified amount of households’ energy costs above a certain limit.

This was rejected in favour of the current model, which was originally proposed by the outgoing Social Democrat government prior to the election, as the right-wing government believed its high-cost protection model would take too long to implement.

The government chose therefore to use the Social Democrats’ model which was already in progress rather than to start the process again and potentially cause further delays.

When will it be paid out?

Despite election promises to pay out the subsidy by November 1st, so it was available to households “in good time before Christmas”, social insurance minister Anna Tenje announced in a press conference on November 30th that the subsidy would first be available to households in February 2023, four months later than originally promised.

“The payments will begin in February if nothing unexpected happens,” she said. 

What about business owners?

Energy and business minister Ebba Busch, who was also at the press conference on November 30th, explained that payouts will occur in two stages.

“The first step will be payments to households. The second stage will be payments to businesses, and that question is still being decided,” energy and business minister Ebba Busch said. 

This means that business owners with high energy costs will have to wait even longer for a financial payout, despite Moderate leader Ulf Kristersson promising bakery and café owner Joel Lindqvist that it would be available “before Christmas” during election campaigning in Malmö.

Ministers Ebba Busch and Anna Tenje (centre) at a press conference on high-cost protection for energy prices, joined by Social Security Agency general director Nils Öberg and Swedish National Grid acting general director Peter Wigert. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT
Ulf Kristersson meets with Joel Lindqvist, owner of Mat- och Chokladstudion, on September 1st. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

How could this affect businesses?

Lindqvist told TT newswire on November 18th when it was announced that the subsidy would be delayed that it was “really disappointing news”.

“I hope I’m not going to have to fire people. For me, it means more work and harder work.”

He was, however, happy that the government are offering support, albeit later than promised.

“Just look at how long the Corona subsidy took. And I’m happy a subsidy is on it’s way, but it would have been so much better if it was in place before Christmas.”

“You just have to work harder, hope there aren’t more delays and that it stays windy.”

What will happen if energy prices are high in 2023?

It’s not yet clear – the government’s electricity price subsidy is based on usage between October 2021 and September 2022 and will be paid out to whoever was listed on the energy network agreement (elnätsavtal) on November 17th.

Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson has stated that he considers the current model to be “fair”, but did not comment on what could happen in 2023.

“We’ll have to see what happens in 2023,” he told TT newswire. “There’s a substantial risk that there will be high costs in 2023 as well.”

However, he stopped short of promising any new subsidy for next year.

“I’m going to let what happens in the future remain unsaid,” he told the newswire.

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