'The fixation with Stockholm is over': Stefan Löfven

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'The fixation with Stockholm is over': Stefan Löfven
Stefan Löfven buying meat from a local grocery/butcher's store in Vilhelmina. Photo: Vilhelm Stokstad/TT

Prime Minister Stefan Löfven promised more cash and attention for rural areas of Sweden, speaking in Storuman in northern Sweden on one of the last stops of his summer tour through the Nordic country.


The Social Democrat leader has shunned tradition by not attending this year's Almedalen Week – an annual political festival on the island of Gotland – opting instead to travel around Sweden.

Speaking on Thursday on one of his last stops in Storuman, a municipality in the Västerbotten region just shy of 6,000 inhabitants, he pledged to work to bridge Sweden's growing rural-urban divide.

Sweden's rural communities are struggling with the effects of long-term population loss to the cities. Cities are growing and developing while rural towns and areas are shrinking and becoming impoverished.

Almost half of the country's municipalities have smaller populations compared to three decades ago, and many are now fighting to survive, complaining of a loss of vital shops and services.

READ ALSO: Why Sweden's rural-urban divide is growing

Löfven speaking outside a Coop store in Storuman. Photo: Vilhelm Stokstad/TT

Löfven said it had not yet been decided how to allocate the 20 billion kronor ($2.37 billion) the Social Democrats have pledged to invest in welfare services after next year's election, but promised rural regions would get their fair share – and got applause when he said he would not raise the petrol tax further.

“The fixation with Stockholm is over. There has to be a Sweden fixation now. That's the only policy that is good enough to make sure the whole country is able to live,” said the prime minister.

He spoke about increasing public sector jobs across Sweden, increasing support for fuel stations and grocery stores and boosting medical centres in rural parts of the country, reported newswire TT.

READ ALSO: 15 times Stefan Löfven looked incredibly Swedish

Barbro Johansson getting her picture taken with Löfven. Photo: Vilhelm Stokstad/TT

After his speech people queued to get a chance to speak to Löfven – and get their picture taken. One of those was 69-year-old Barbro Johansson from Stensele, a 500-people town in Storuman municipality.

“It's great fun that he's here. He is very trustworthy and concrete. He has met my expectations very well,” she told TT.

Another Stensele resident, Nicklas Jonsson, said: “I do not agree with everything he says, you have to have a critical mind. But it's good that he shows his face here and I would like to see more big politicians do the same. The gap between us and Stockholm is too wide.”

Löfven's summer tour has so far taken him to Tjörn and Stenungsund on the west coast, Kallinge, Hasslö, Oskarshamn and Öland in the south-east, and Vilhelmina and Storuman in the north. On Friday he was set to continue north to Arjeplog and Arvidsjaur.

However, it will take more than a short tour to recover Sweden's forgotten provinces. Since the mid-1980s, more than half of the country's 290 municipalities have seen a reduction in population, according to the Central Statistics Office (Statistiska centralbyrån, SCB).
A look at rural municipalities specifically shows an even clearer town-country split, with two-thirds of rural municipalities shrinking since 1985. As many as 33 municipalities have lost at least a fifth of their populations since 1985.


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