Leo Wikberg's guide to the spring budget

This week the government parties (M, KD, L and SD) presented their spring budget and, from their measures, it was apparent that Sweden's economy is slowing down. But the budget leaves something to be desired. Let's take a closer look at the likely efficacy of some of the proposals and also how they might affect newcomers to Skellefteå.

"It is reasonable to have a tighter budget when inflation is high, but the lack of welfare investments in the spring budget also makes me very concerned about how the government will be able to get us through the economic crisis."

"It is reasonable to have a tighter budget when inflation is high, but the lack of welfare investments in the spring budget also makes me very concerned about how the government will be able to get us through the economic crisis."

Foto: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Ledarkrönika2023-04-21 09:35

Temporary increase in housing allowance for help economically vulnerable families with children

This announcement manages to be distinctly conservative while also being out of line with the party's usual stance on social welfare.

It would have likely been politically damaging for Finance Minister Elisabeth Svantesson (M) to present a budget that didn't include some form of support for the most economically vulnerable during these difficult times.

However, even though welfare payments are generally not something that Moderates are in favor of, Svantesson has managed to frame this small extra resource in a more parsimonious light. The allowance is temporary, limited, and clearly defined.

Given Sweden's current economic situation and the pessimistic forecasts, it is surprising that the finance minister, despite her ideological leanings, did not propose more comprehensive temporary measures to support those who are living on the edge of society. 720 million kronor for the disadvantaged feels like a distinctly begrudging amount.

Strengthening the defense budget

One of the biggest economic commitments in the recently released budget is a 660 million kronor increase in defense spending. While I don't usually advocate for increased military spending, it's regrettable that so much taxpayer money will have to go towards a strong defense.

However, given the current security situation in our region, there is unfortunately good reason to upgrade our defenses.

Increased resources for the Employment Agency (Arbetsförmedlingen)

The allocation of 50 million kronor to strengthen the Employment Agency is another clear sign that the economic downturn has arrived. Given the likelihood of rising unemployment, it is reasonable to reinforce the agency tasked with alleviating that problem. However, I wonder what happened to the once-central debate on the agency's effectiveness in achieving its goals.

Increased resources for adult education

In the same vein as the investment in the Employment Agency, the government is investing 719 million kronor in adult education. This feels like the wisest investment in the spring budget. As we enter a period of economic downturn, more people will lose their jobs, so it's beneficial for the government to provide more educational opportunities for those who want or need to retrain. It's also an investment that may benefit some of the newcomers to Skellefteå, especially those looking to broaden their skills base.

100 million for Swedish language training for Ukrainian citizens

While it's commendable to invest in improving the Swedish language skills of Ukrainian refugees, it's disappointing that it has taken so long to offer them a reasonable chance to integrate into Swedish society. The delay is nothing short of embarrassing.

Investment in the Security Police (Säpo) and Prison and Probation Service (Kriminalvården)

The allocation of 50 million kronor to the Security Police and 300 million kronor to the Prison and Probation Service aligns with the priorities of the ruling party as outlined in the election campaign. Thus, this investment is entirely reasonable in terms of the mandate they received. However, I don't quite understand why this investment is included in the spring budget, which is an amendment budget. The amendment budget is an opportunity to respond to sudden changes that have arisen during the year, and the challenges faced by the Prison and Probation Service were just as well-known when the autumn budget was prepared.

Criticism of the budget

As the budget debate opens up almost all political issues, criticism has been swift. The most politically interesting criticism comes from the right, while the most justified comes from the opposition.

Critics from the right complain about the absence of tax cuts, which is perhaps the most well-established issue for the Moderate party. Nonetheless, it says something about the economic situation we're in when a Moderate finance minister chooses not to cut income taxes, a decision that is very wise at present.

The more justified criticism comes from the opposition and various interest groups in society. The government seems to lack insight into how badly inflation has affected nearly all activities across the country.

Opposition parties and various interest groups are signaling that the welfare system will need to make significant savings, and they are concerned that the government is not providing more funding to municipalities and regions. In the near future, the insufficient funding is expected to result in cuts to educational, healthcare, and senior citizen assistance programs, something that will affect all elements of Skellefteå society, newcomers included.

"The question is whether we can really maintain the quality in both healthcare and social care. The risk is that there will be long-term damage if we get poorer quality," Mattias Persson, chief economist at Swedbank, told the news agency TT.

While it's reasonable to have a tighter budget during high inflation, the lack of welfare investment in the spring budget also worries me about how the government will guide us through the economic crisis. 

Quite simply, too little is being done.