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What Sweden’s new coronavirus cash boost means for healthcare services

Sweden's centre-left government and its parliamentary allies have pledged to hand out billions of kronor to healthcare and elderly care, in a series of new investments to boost a welfare sector battered by the corona pandemic.

What Sweden's new coronavirus cash boost means for healthcare services
Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and Centre Party leader Annie Lööf at a joint press conference on Monday. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

“It is, if you pardon me, a heck of an investment in welfare,” said Prime Minister Stefan Löfven as he presented the new proposal at a joint press conference with Centre Party leader Annie Lööf on Monday morning.

Work to hammer out Sweden's next budget is under way between the Social Democrat-Green coalition government and the Centre and Liberals, and it is set to be a more important task than ever as the country attempts to kick-start its economy and jobs in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

The full budget is scheduled to be presented to parliament later this month, but news about various proposals usually trickles out in dribs and drabs in the weeks leading up to the big day, and today was one such day.

The government's budget proposal will earmark a permanent annual investment of four billion kronor (approximately $458 million) to boosting elderly care, as well as an additional 1.7 billion kronor which will be added on top of a previously advertised package designed to drive new and skilled staff to elderly care. In total, that means that Sweden's elderly care sector will altogether receive 7.4 billion kronor in 2021.

Four billion kronor per year will also be injected into Sweden's healthcare sector over the next two years, to help plug the gap of a 'healthcare deficit' as a result of planned surgeries being postponed during the coronavirus crisis. The money can also be used for coronavirus-related medical care.

The four parties involved in the budget negotiations – set out in the so-called January Agreement which enabled the Social Democrats and Greens to take office in 2019 – also propose increasing the funding for Sweden's 290 municipalities and 21 regions in general. That includes a cash boost of 10 billion kronor next year and five billion in 2022, of which 70 percent will be added to the coffers of municipalities and 30 percent to regions.

In total, the proposal presented on Monday includes investments in the welfare state to the tune of 19.7 billion kronor to be handed to Sweden's local and regional authorities in 2021, said Lööf.

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SWEDEN ELECTS

Sweden Elects: How powerful are the Sweden Democrats now?

The Local's editor Emma Löfgren explains how Sweden's parliamentary committees work – and the role the Sweden Democrats will play in them.

Sweden Elects: How powerful are the Sweden Democrats now?

Hej,

The speaker of parliament has given Ulf Kristersson, leader of the conservative Moderates and the likely next prime minister of Sweden, October 12th as a deadline to conclude his government negotiations.

If Kristersson comes up with a viable proposal for a ruling coalition, the speaker will put that proposal to parliament within four days. Chances are Sweden will have its new right-wing government by mid-October.

What will that government look like? Most likely, it will consist of at least the Moderates and the Christian Democrats. Rumours have it Kristersson is hoping to bring the Liberals into the governmental fold, and it is unlikely that the far-right Sweden Democrats will be part of the government.

But anyone who thinks the latter means they will be left on the sidelines is mistaken. They will have demanded significant concessions in order to support Kristersson’s government (and especially to make way for the Liberals) from parliament, and judging from recent news, they got them.

In a joint press release last week, the right wing – the Moderates, Christian Democrats, Liberals and Sweden Democrats – said they had reached a deal on how to share responsibility for their parliamentary committees.

There are 15 committees in the Swedish parliament, seats on which are held by members of parliament, with larger parties getting more seats as well as more high-ranking roles such as chair and deputy chair.

The right wing is after this election entitled to 16 chair and deputy chair roles, and the Sweden Democrats will get half of those, the parties agreed. The key thing that many political pundits were keeping an eye on was which committees, as that tells us a lot about how far they got in their negotiations with the other right-wing parties. The answer: far.

The Sweden Democrats will get to chair the Justice, Foreign Affairs, Labour Market, and Industry and Trade Committees – all heavyweight committees. 

Their most high-profile appointment is Richard Jomshof, one of the most senior Sweden Democrats who in the run-up to the election gave an anti-Islam speech (not the first time). He will chair the Justice Committee.

The Moderates will chair the Finance and Social Insurance Committees (plus the EU Committee), the Christian Democrats will chair the Health and Welfare Committee, and the Liberals will chair the Education Committee.

On the other side, the left-wing parties will get to chair the Defence, Taxation, Constitution, Civil Affairs, Transport and Communications, Environment and Agriculture, and Cultural Affairs Committees.

So what exactly do the parliamentary committees do, and how much influence will the Sweden Democrats now have over legislation?

The votes of every member of the committees count equally (there are at least 15 members on every committee, representing the various parties from left to right), and the chair gets the final vote if there’s a tie. He or she also has influence over the committee’s agenda and over how meetings are directed, with the position also bringing prestige.

All government bills and proposals by members of parliament first go through one of the committees before they can be put to the main chamber for a vote. The committee adopts a position on the proposal and although the final decision rests with the 349 members of the main chamber, they usually vote for the committee’s position since the make-up of their members represent the parties in parliament.

Although chair positions give them a procedural advantage, the Sweden Democrats won’t have unlimited power over their committees, since as I said, the other parties have seats too and their votes count equally.

The main benefit for the Sweden Democrats is rather the soft power it gives them. The chair is the face of the parliamentary committee, and these senior roles will force the other parties to take them seriously.

Another aspect to bear in mind is that they’ll have enough seats on each committee that they will have a key kingmaker role where they can side either with the government or the opposition – giving them fairly significant negotiating power when it comes to future legislation.

In other news, the Swedish parliament last week re-elected the popular Andreas Norlén as speaker, it’s been taking much longer than usual to get a work permit (here’s why) and foreigners are calling for the Migration Agency to issue special visas to allow those affected by renewal delays to leave Sweden and return, the Nord Stream 2 pipeline has stopped leaking gas, and households in Sweden are starting to feel the economic squeeze.

In the latest episode of our Sweden in Focus podcast, host Paul O’Mahony is joined by Handelsbanken chief economist Johan Löf, as well as The Local’s Becky Waterton, Richard Orange and James Savage.

Many thanks to everyone who’s got in touch lately with your thoughts and feedback about Sweden Elects. I’m happy it’s useful to you. If you have any questions about Swedish politics, you’re always welcome to get in touch.

Best wishes,

Emma

Sweden Elects is a weekly column by Editor Emma Löfgren looking at the big talking points and issues in the Swedish election race. Members of The Local Sweden can sign up to receive the column as a newsletter in their email inbox each week. Just click on this “newsletters” option or visit the menu bar.

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