Sweden's government slammed for broken pledges in 'restrictive' budget

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Sweden's government slammed for broken pledges in 'restrictive' budget
Mikael Damberg, the Social Democrats' finance spokesperson holds a press conference on the government's budget. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

Sweden's new government has been widely criticised for breaking a long list of election promises in a first budget finance minister Elisabeth Svantesson described as 'mildly restrictive'.


Svantesson said that the tough economic situation faced by the country meant that it was not yet time to bring in the tax cuts promised by the three-party coalition and their far-right Sweden Democrat allies.

"This is a budget which is being announced at a very special time. It's a tough situation," she said. "We are going into an economic downturn with high unemployment which is expected to get worse in the coming years." 


In the run-up to September's election, the three government parties had promised to cut income tax by around 30 billion kronor, ideally in 2023. 

Svantesson acknowledged that while many of the parties' election promises -- such as increased spending on the justice system and defence -- had made it into the budget, others would have to wait until later in the parliamentary term. 

"Our four parties are agreed that we should cut taxes for low- and middle-income people, but it should be done when the situation is right," she said. 

Michael Damberg, the finance spokesperson for the opposition Social Democrats, was sharply critical of the new budget when he spoke on Sweden's state broadcaster SVT on Tuesday morning. 

"The central thing is that they're breaking most of their major election promises at the same time as as they're not really managing to take care of the big social problems Sweden faces today," he said.  

He agreed with Svantesson that Sweden was facing a difficult period economically, but said this did not excuse her party for making election promises it should have known at the time it would not be able to keep. 

"We are facing darker times. We are going into an economic downturn, and that was already clear to everyone during the election campaign. That's why I warned against making copious election promises which would drive up inflation and interest rates and lead to a load of broken promises." 

He pointed out that the budget only envisaged Sweden hitting the Nato target of spending two percent of GDP on defence in 2026, and that Sweden's regions and municipalities were only getting six billion kronor in extra funds, when the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions had asked for 10 billion to handle rising costs. 

"I don't think that will be a comforting message to Sweden's teachers, nurses and assistant nurses, who are thinking about how they're going to make their personal finances match reality in the coming years," he said. 


The new budget also received criticism from the right, with Benjamin Dousa, chief executive of the Timbro think tank, saying that for many citizens, the budget was no more economically liberal than a Social Democrat one. 

"There are effectively no reforms, and they're not putting in place the policies they campaigned for in the election," he told the Aftonbladet newspaper. "Anyone who works and doesn't drive a car might even end up paying higher tax under this current government." 

He said he was "surprised" by how unambitious the budget was .

"In the election campaign there was some very lofty rhetoric from the four right-wing parties about how they were going to change the whole direction in Swedish politics, and this is basically the policies of the last government with a few minor changes. I expected better than this." 


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