‘Poison is spreading’ in the land: finance minister

In an unusually personal speech at a Social Democratic party conference on Sunday, Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson talked of the need to counter a “poison” of inequality and xenophobia spreading across Sweden.

'Poison is spreading' in the land: finance minister
Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson in Västerås. Photo: TT

At the party meeting in Västerås, Andersson said her party should not only work on fulfilling promises made about unemployment and schools, it also had to neutralize the “poison and hate” that were proliferating due to “ignorance” and anti-foreigner sentiment.

She spoke of her personal experience as a high-school exchange student in the United States. There, divisions within the classroom were stark and reflected the inequality of American society. Those students bussed to her school from surrounding poor areas performed at the very bottom of the class, she said.

The general lack of interaction between poor and well-off students was frightening to a Swedish teenager.

“And now I stand here, 30 years later, and see how the same poison is spreading in my country,” she said.

“It spreads in little ways, in comments and abuse, in the streets and on the web,” she added. “It spreads in big ways, such as in electoral successes based on xenophobia.”

Andersson claimed the best strategy to counter this was through policies that boost employment, improve school performance and successfully manage the social-welfare system.

According to her, the country’s economic policies must aim to bridge the growing rifts in society and hold the country together. 

“If a party lacks credibility when it comes to economic questions, that party is not going to earn the people’s trust,” she said. 

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Sweden boosts spending on civil defence in spring budget

Sweden is to channel a further 800 million kronor to local government and other organisations to bolster Sweden's civil defence capabilities, the country's finance minister has announced.

Sweden boosts spending on civil defence in spring budget

The new funding, which will go to municipalities, regional government, and other organisations, was announced of part of the country’s spring budget, announced on Tuesday. 

“This will strengthen our ability to resist in both war and peace,” Sweden’s finance minister, Mikael Damberg, said in a press conference. “If the worst happens, it’s important that there is physical protection for the population.” 

The government is channelling 91m kronor towards renovating Sweden’s 65,000 bomb shelters, and will also fund the repair the country’s network of emergency sirens, known as Hesa Fredrik, or Hoarse Fredrik, many of which are currently out of order. 

A bomb shelter in Stockholm. Sweden’s government is spending 800m kronor in its spring budget to boost civil defence. Photo: Anders Wiklund/ TT

Sweden’s Social Democrats are currently ruling on the alternative budget put together by the right-wing opposition, making this spring budget, which makes changes to the autumn budget, unusually important. 

The budget includes extra spending of some 31.4 billion kronor (€299m), with 500m kronor going to extra spending on healthcare,  and 10.3 billion kronor going towards supporting Ukrainian refugees, of which nine billion will come from the aid budget. 

The spring budget also includes the so called “pension guarantee bonus”, or garantitillägg, which will see four billion kronor (€390m) going to those with the lowest pensions. 

The bonus, which was the price the Left Party demanded for letting Magdalena Andersson take her place as prime minister, risks being voted down by the right-wing parties in the parliament.