'Swedish politicians must admit they were wrong'

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 24 Nov, 2015 Updated Tue 24 Nov 2015 06:00 CEST
'Swedish politicians must admit they were wrong'

Terrorism and Sweden's border controls have hit the headlines in recent weeks. But it is time to start talking about how to help the country grow after the crisis is over, argues entrepreneur Tommy Jacobsson.


For the first time in my life I have felt something akin to personal fear of becoming the victim of a terror attack. Last Saturday morning I woke up and took in everything showing on my television screen of all the terrible things that had happened in Paris over night.

I was supposed to go to Madonna's concert in Stockholm and suddenly felt worried. Should I really expose myself to the risk of going to the capital's Tele2 arena that same night? My daughter tried to persuade me not to go.

The days that followed were peppered with cancelled events in Europe, warnings of new attacks, increased bombings in Syria and politicians trying to calm the public. It gave rise to a number of quite strange circular arguments where raised national threat levels and police hunts for terrorists who may or may not be in Sweden, were immediately followed by somewhat absurd assertions that there was no cause for concern.

Today, everything seems like utter chaos and the situation bleak. That is of course not the case. It is not unlikely that something horrible is going to hit us in Sweden as well; anything else feels unrealistic. Not believing that at least some of them are here to wreak havoc and destruction is sheer wishful thinking. However, these few are not the ones who are going to determine the agenda for how our society will evolve over time.

Instead, it is those whom I call the builders of the future who will ensure that we are able to develop our freedom and our democratic system in the hundred years to come. However, we don't continue that development by putting our heads in the sand to those problems we do have. We do not solve problems by starting perky appeals in social media with colourful hashtags or by writing clever-sounding opinion pieces in newspapers.

Personally, I am so tired of watching or listening to all those celebrities and comedians on television morning shows, each trying to outperform each other in 'goodness' and indignation over everything that goes on – without a shred of concrete ideas for solutions. Nor do I want to see more national coordinators pop up as soon as a problem arises in society.

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I want to see concrete action and discussion about how we are going to continue to build the country after we have dealt with the urgent problems we are currently experiencing. It exudes neither credibility nor commands respect that the same people who two months ago proudly declared that "we can take in everyone" and "there is no ceiling", 60 days later look lost and apparently surprised, demanding that other countries should "take their responsibility" and help get us off the hook.

I would feel so much more respect and hope if all these politicians and pundits humbly stated that "we were wrong" and then began to seriously discuss how we should be dealing with problems in society. After all, we are all pretty much in agreement that those problems do exist.

How are we going to provide those who are actually refugees, who are fleeing war, with roofs over their heads? Perhaps we will be forced to stop economic migrants no matter how badly we wish to welcome everyone. How are we going to get all people, both new arrivals and everyone else without jobs, on to the labour market? We may be forced to accept that not all jobs can live up to what Swedish trade unions regard as minimum wages, no matter how badly we want everyone to earn sufficient amounts of money.

At the same time, we may have to demand that people actually move within the country to where the jobs are, however much we want everyone to live where they want to live. There are many issues surrounding 'the hows' that must be discussed. That is the hard part. That we want to solve problems is something most people can agree on. That is the easy part.

And above all, we have to provide encouragement for all the people in Sweden who want to start a business, whether their reason is to employ more people or just to support themselves.

Beyond all the misery we are seeing today, there is amazing potential among the people in Sweden – all those who want to and have the capacity to help our country grow.

Tommy Jacobsson is the chairman of Swedish investment group Varenne. This is a translated version of an article that originally appeared in Dagens Industri.


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