Six key points: What you need to know about the budget
TT/The Local · 20 Sep 2016, 10:47
Published: 20 Sep 2016 10:47 GMT+02:00
- Swedish budget: Integration, climate change and equality (20 Sep 16)
- Student loans could help Swedes get driving lessons (06 Sep 16)
READ ALSO: Finance Minister presents Sweden's budget
1. Immigration and integration
A crunch issue in Swedish politics right now is how to integrate the record number of asylum seekers the country took in last year, many of whom are still waiting to have their application processed. The long delays and backlog of appeals have also affected waiting times for work permits and foreigners moving to Sweden to live with their Swedish partner.
The government wants to give 2.3 billion kronor ($268.6 million) to the Migration Agency and courts next year to speed up the asylum process. A total of 992 million kronor is being offered to the national jobs centre and other labour initiatives next year to help new arrivals get into work.
2. Innovation and employment
To keep Sweden's place near the top of the world's startup league, the government wants to push 390 million kronor into research and innovation. It also want to allocate 100 million kronor to improve internet infrastructure, in particular broadband access for rural areas.
The minority government will need to haggle its way through parliament to get support for the budget, which has been worked out in cooperation with the Left Party. One of the latter's key points is to offer student loans to pay for driving licences, which it argues will help cut unemployment.
However, Sweden will find it difficult to meet its target of having the EU's lowest unemployment rate by 2020. It currently stands at 6.8 percent, but more than 20 percent of all foreigners are out of work.
Sweden is run by a coalition of the Social Democrats and the Green Party, which means that there is inevitably a lot of focus on green issues.
The budget proposes investing up to 12.9 billion kronor in the next four years, including 200 million kronor for urgent railway maintenance (and 5.9 billion in 2019-2020), 250 million for improving city environments, 500 million in financial contributions to buyers of electric and hybrid cars and tax breaks on repairs. However, some critics may argue the proposed railway budget is too little, too late.
4. Gender equality
As The Local reported ahead of the budget announcement, the government wants to allocate 900 million kronor for the next four years to work out a national strategy to prevent violence against women. It follows criticism of authorities for not doing enough to crack down on sexual harrassment after a spate of reported rapes and abuse at for example music festivals this summer.
The government also wants to set up a national gender equality authority – an idea first mentioned in a study set up by the previous centre-right government – following concerns that Sweden could be in danger of losing the 'leadership jersey' in the equality race.
5. The Swedish model
The government wants to strengthen what it describes as 'the Swedish model' by for example allocating more money to social welfare. If the budget proposal is approved by parliament, some 10 billion will be given to local authorities to spend as they choose (although many have said that the money will serve only to plug deficit gaps), child support will be increased by 126 kronor more a month for families with more than two children and dental care for the elderly will be made cheaper.
6. Police and security
This could be a real point of contention when parliament votes on the budget proposal later this autumn. Several senior police have said they are under increased pressure, partly because of the creation of a new national agency and resources being allocated from general police work to deal with issues arising from last autumn's refugee influx, including border controls being set up in southern Sweden. There have also been rising concerns about organized crime and car fires in Gothenburg and Malmö.
The police had asked for an extra 3.9 billion kronor in the years 2017-2019, but will have to wait for a substantial payout. The budget only proposes allocating another 100 million kronor next year. The security police, Säpo, will be handed 80 million kronor. The plan, however, is to then step up the police's budget, to bring it up to a billion kronor more than today by 2020. But the wait will likely be criticized by the opposition.