Social Democrats across Europe still espouse the wonders of the Swedish welfare state, claiming it to be the model that should be translated into their countries. It appears nobody has told them that the Swedish model is no more. For a while now, Swedish politicians have been busy reforming the state in an attempt to meet public expectations. Opposition parties in this country should take note.
Swedish school reform – the inspiration for Conservative education policy – gets a lot press, yet as this article in the Financial Times shows, reforms have been radical across the board. Arguably, the biggest concern in this country surrounds the disastrous state of public finances. Compare this to Sweden, where “Anders Borg, the finance minister who will present his budget this month, says Sweden can now afford the biggest fiscal boost in Europe – equivalent to 1 per cent of GDP – to counteract the global economic slowdown". Despite the fact that Swedish politicians still work within the language of the welfare state, they have been busy breaking down state monopolies, opening up competition and cutting welfare to incentivize work.
It is not the just the current centre-right government that has led these reforms. The previous Swedish Social Democratic Party, led by Göran Persson was equally keen. As Waldemar Ingdahl, President of the Eudoxa Think-Tank states in a letter to the Financial Times: “the former Social Democratic government instituted far more radical changes than Mr Reinfeldt".
Fear not Guardian readers, there is one area of change that the right-wing Swedish government should back away from. In June, the Swedish government approved a new law permitting surveillance of e-mails and phone calls that cross the country's borders. And government officials filed a complaint against a blogger who published documents revealing that Swedish authorities have long engaged in domestic surveillance. This video documentary explains the situation well. What they give with one hand, they take away with the other.