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POLITICS

Sweden’s spring budget: 45 billion kronor cash boost for healthcare, jobs and more

Sweden on Thursday announced its spring budget proposal in full, with measures to help the healthcare sector, job market and other areas such as climate policy amounting to 45 billion kronor ($5.3 billion) in total.

Sweden's spring budget: 45 billion kronor cash boost for healthcare, jobs and more
Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson presented the spring budget on Thursday. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Most of the measures are linked to the Covid-19 pandemic, with money set aside for the healthcare sector and business support, but there were also cash boosts announced to support rural areas, climate policy, and law and order.

“This is a budget for how we can work, together, to get Sweden out of the crisis,” said Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson at the presentation of the measures on Thursday. This comes amid a rise in newly reported cases and intensive care admissions for Covid-19, with Sweden one of the European countries worst hit by a third wave of the virus.

She said the government was expecting that Sweden will lift many of its coronavirus measures this autumn, such as restricted opening times for restaurants and limits on customer numbers in many establishments. But that depends on the development of the pandemic.

“We still have the restrictions in place now during the spring, but the restrictions might be lifted in autumn. But if the vaccination programme is delayed, then it will take longer before they can be relaxed and longer before the economy can ‘restart’,” she explained.

The 45 billion kronor is made up of a separate amendment budget as well as 22 billion kronor which are part of the spring budget.

Unsurprisingly, a large chunk of the money will go directly to the healthcare sector, including 1.65 billion for testing and contact tracing work, one billion for buying more vaccine doses and 700 million to Sweden’s 21 regions to help them carry out vaccinations. An injection of two billion kronor will not only support healthcare directly related to Covid-19 but also other care that has been postponed due to the pandemic.

“Money cannot, must not, will not be an obstacle in limiting the spread of infection or in caring for the sick,” said Andersson.

The Finance Minister also announced several other measures, including Swedish language courses, summer jobs and extending business crisis support and coronavirus sick pay rules. Here’s The Local’s in-depth explainer on what the budget means for you.

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ECONOMY

Sweden facing ‘the highest inflation in 30 years’

Sweden last month saw the highest levels of inflation in more than 30 years, according to the latest figures from Statistics Sweden.

Sweden facing 'the highest inflation in 30 years'

Consumer prices rose 6.4 percent in April, the agency reported in its latest monthly figures, well ahead of the 6.1 percent rise predicted by analysts and up from 6.1 percent in March. 

“This shows high inflationary pressure. It’s in line with consensus, but it’s 0.2 percentage points higher than what the Riksbank has been predicting,” said Olle Holmgren, an economist with SEB. 

Rising prices of meat, vegetables and other groceries were the main reasons for the rise, with the prices of electricity and fuel falling month-on-month. If energy prices are excluded, inflation was 4.5 percent in April, up from 4.1 percent in March. 

“Restaurant prices are rise quite a bit for the second month in a row. That can be linked to grocery prices,” Holmgren said. “Then there are higher prices generally, but grocery prices are increasing rapidly.”

Holmgren predicted that the inflation rate could continue to rise in the coming months, increasing the risk that Sweden’s public bank, the Riksbank, will hike interest by 0.5 percentage points — two slots — in September. 

Fuel prices fell in April compared to March, although diesel remains 56.7 percent higher than a year ago and petrol 36 percent higher. 

The price coffee is higher now than at any time since it joined the consumer price index in 1983, after rising 29 percent so far this year. 

Other groceries which have risen significantly in price this year are cabbage and tomatoes, which rose in price by 43 percent ad 33 percent respectively. 

The price of avocado has fallen by 14 percent this year, while pickled herring has fallen in price by 16 percent. 

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