Whoever is debt-burdened is not free!

This is the title in Swedish of a book by Göran Persson Sweden’s Statsminister for 10 years, 1996-2006. The book has its own Wikipedia web page (in Swedish only): Den som är satt i skuld är icke fri. The book is an autobiographical account of his time as Statsminister.

I have discussed the wider problem of government debts and their impact on member states of the EU in a recent post: Poverty and Corruption in the EU. Here I just want to emphasise the high price Swedes have had to pay for this freedom. It does not come without considerable sacrifice, and the 20 years of the Persson and Reinfeldt Governments combined on top of the Carlsson Government add up to a considerable period of sustained public sector cuts. Even the deficit of the Bildt Government of 1991-1994 was made up by the Carlsson Government:

“Following the assassination of Olof Palme in 1986 Ingvar Carlsson became the new Prime Minister or Statsminister and party leader. Together with Minister for Finance Kjell-Olof Feldt, the government turned a budget deficit of 90 billions SEK to a surplus of a few hundred billion SEK, which led to large investments and record low unemployment.[citation needed] As Prime Minister he also carried out a comprehensive reform of the tax system. But Sweden’s economy would start deteriorate more in the early 1990s. In 1990 the Carlsson cabinet resigned after failing to gain majority for economic reforms, but was reinstated immediately with a slightly changed agenda.

The Social Democrats lost the elections in 1991, but Carlsson returned to power after the elections in 1994.

After three years in opposition and an election victory in 1994 elections, Carlsson could re-form a government. This government put focus on cleaning up the Swedish Government finances, and it was assigned to the newly appointed Minister of Finance Göran Persson. The government period was tough and it was strongly criticised by trade unions and party members for all cut-backs and tax increases that were made.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ingvar_Carlsson

So with the exception of the Bildt Government of 1991-94 the state budget was kept in balance. But it was done only be continually pruning/cheese-slicing budgets which affected all public expenditures, including health, education and welfare. It also resulted in a huge backlog of railway expenditure to maintain and upgrade the rail network, a backlog that grew bigger and bigger.

Defence was also cut back severely, especially after the end of the USSR. Year after year defence expenditure was cut, eventually disestablished entire units. I will return to this in the next post on Sweden and NATO.

These last two cuts – made by both the Persson and the Reinfeldt administrations – will take a lot of money to make up, if they ever are made up.

 

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