Government announces tax cut for pensioners

The government has announced plans to cut taxes for pensioners. The proposal means that seniors over 65 with a pension of SKr 14,000 per month will receive an estimated tax cut of SKr 200 each month. Those with a pension of SKr 19,000 per month will receive a cut of SKr 160. Around 1.4 million pensioners, corresponding to 70% of those aged 65 and over, will benefit from the change.

In the run up to the 2014 general election the Social Democrats promised to close the gap between pensioners and those in gainful employment. Announcing the news on Wednesday, Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson said the cut was a step in the right direction.

The measure, which will be presented in the autumn budget, is expected to cost the Treasury SKr 2.1 billion.

Minister on warpath

Financial Markets Minister Per Bolund (Green) tells Svenska Dagbladet that the Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority (Finansinspektionen) will be given greater powers to stop those fund companies that charge high commissions for poorly performing funds. “They have no place on the Swedish market,” he says.

“Our alternatives to new aviation tax”

In Dagens Industri today Christian Clemens, BRA, Rickard Gustafson, SAS and Bjørn Kjos, Norwegian, address the government’s plans for an aviation tax stating there are more effective ways of tackling emissions than through the “symbolic” tax and present “joint targets for how Sweden can lead the way for more sustainable aviation by 2030”.

The Swedish aviation industry has a joint ambition to halve fossil carbon dioxide emissions from domestic flights by 2030, from 2005 through more effective aircraft and a higher proportion of bio-fuels.

The entire aviation industry, they write, is working to create a market for large-scale bio-fuel production. Investing in more fuel-efficient planes is significantly more effective than bringing in an aviation tax. They believe the proposed tax would reduce accessibility and potential for growth. Under the first year alone it is estimated the aviation tax would mean 7,000 fewer jobs and GDP loss of almost SKr 4 billion. In the best case scenario the tax would bring emissions down by 0.2%. Sweden needs aviation not least to achieve the government’s goal for regional growth.

M: companies being driven out the country

After Nordea’s threat to move its head office out of Sweden the Moderates have attacked the government. Ulf Kristersson, the party’s economic spokesperson, says, “We are driving companies out of the country with the policy the government is threatening to bring in.” He says Sweden needs more head offices, not fewer.

Nevertheless Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson is not fazed by Nordea’s threat. “If they place their head office in another country then it lowers the risk for Swedish taxpayers in the case of a crash,” she says. She points out that the banking sector is healthy, has high profits and the fees have not created any problems. She also emphasises that Nordea made billions of kronor in profits last year.

The proposal is now out for consultation.

EU should not control Swedish forestry

“It is unacceptable that Sweden is entering these negotiations without a clear stance,” write Helena Jonsson, chair of the Federation of Swedish Farmers, LRF, and Sven Erik Hammar, chair of the Federation of Swedish Family Forest Owners in Dagens Industri today of the EU’s negotiations on climate and land use, LULUCF.

Swedish forests absorb 50 million tones of carbon dioxide equivalents, which can be compared to Sweden’s total emissions of 60 million tonnes. Forestry means we can benefit from timber products where if fossil-based products were used instead current CO2 emissions would double.

If the EU Commission has the last word on forest reference levels (annual net absorption of carbon dioxide in the forest) then if felling crosses this reference level the forest will be considered to have net emissions, despite that there is in actual fact net absorption of CO2. They ask the government whether it wants the EU to control Swedish forestry and demand politicians show leadership. The EU directive is a threat to the climate benefits of Swedish forestry.

Trade ministers concerned over US trade policy

EU trade ministers gathered in Malta on Friday to discuss the protectionist trend the United States seems to be adopting. The latest news is that the US administration has vowed to prioritize its trade rules over World Trade Organization rules and threatened to withdraw from the WTO dispute settlement system.

Talking to the newspaper Dagens Nyheter, Swedish minister Ann Linde says the EU must take action, if the US chooses to ignore the rules. Despite the risks, countermeasures may be necessary, she says.

Ann Linde expects a reaction from other countries as well, including China. This could result in a trade war, but the minister’s hope is that it will be possible to have a discussion with Washington.

Constructive meeting with Malta

Sweden and Malta are to work together on the criminal investigation into Falcon Funds, the pension company suspected of having defrauded billions from Swedish pension savers.

On Wednesday, prosecutor Arne Fors was in The Hague to discuss the criminal investigation with representatives from Malta. Over a billion kronor of pension savings is still missing since the Swedish Pensions Agency reported the fund company Falcon Funds in October.

Arne Fors called it a “constructive meeting” and investigators in Sweden and Malta have a fairly similar view of events in the Malta-registered pension company and which individuals are suspected, according to the prosecutor.

However the Swedish Economic Crime Authority is still waiting for important account statements from Malta that are needed to be able to trace the missing funds.

Government considering scrapping PPM

The government wants to redesign the premium pension system, and may even consider scrapping it. Yesterday Prime Minister Stefan Löfven referenced the Falcon Funds scandal in December 2015 while making it clear that the system needed to change.

However Social Security Minister Annika Strandhäll says the government respects the pension agreement and that any changes require agreement from the alliance parties. “We must do what should have been done a long time ago. Criminal elements should not be able to grow rich on Sweden’s pension savers,” she says.

The alliance parties have rejected scrapping the PPM system but agree that tougher rules are needed.

Minister hints at reforms

GDP in Sweden grew by 1.0% in the fourth quarter of 2016, compared with the preceding quarter, and 2.3% compared to the same quarter in 2015, according to Statistics Sweden.

Growth in exports of goods and services accounted for much of the increase while imports fell slightly. Increased household consumption, public consumption and investments also contributed.

However the increase in GDP per inhabitant was lower: 0.7% from Q4 2015 to Q4 2016, compared with a total increase of 2.3%. “This shows that the rise in GDP is not only a result of the growth in population, contrary to what many people believe,” says Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson. She is satisfied with GDP growth of 3.3% for 2016, above most EU countries.

Andersson highlighted that there is a surplus of SKr 40 billion in the public finances, saying, “This is mainly the result of the government’s work.” She also hinted that if the next GDP forecast is higher then this could create scope for more reforms in the budget.

Swedish money financing criticised project

After Donald Trump waived the requirement for the company behind the controversial oil pipeline in North Dakota to consult the indigenous population again about the environmental impact on their water, the tribe is being removed from protest camps at Standing Rock.

SvD reports several Swedish banks and fund companies, including Skandia, Swedbank and Länsförsäkringar, have invested in the company. Länsförsäkringar is trying to get the company to reroute the pipeline while Skandia’s sustainability analyst Helena Larson says Skandia is waiting for a UN special rapporteur to determine whether the rights of the indigenous population have been breached.

Meanwhile Nordea has recently stopped its fund managers from investing in the company and SEB’s fund company has sold its holdings although still has holdings via its index funds.