Economists are describing Tuesday’s spring budget as cautious and selective. Annika Winsth, Nordea’s chief economist, believes the government is gradually paving a way for an election budget while SEB’s Håkan Frisén would have liked to see reform on the housing and labour markets. However, he acknowledges that it is too late in the business cycle for stimulus.
Anna Öster, chief economist at Länsförsäkringar, agrees with Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson that the Swedish economy remains strong but is disappointed that the government made no mention of the challenges facing the economy. “Put bluntly, there was no holistic approach,” she says.
At a press conference on Tuesday Prime Minister Stefan Löfven outlined the government’s plans to pump funds into rail maintenance. SKr 620 million is to be set aside this year, and SKr 1.24 billion annually for three years after that.
Rail maintenance has been neglected in recent years, and Stefan Löfven was keen to point out yesterday that the boost in funding would help improve Sweden’s competitiveness.
The initiative will form part of the supplementary spring budget, which will be presented next week.
Prior to last September’s general election, the Social Democrats promised to re-nationalise rail maintenance. At yesterday’s press conference, however, the PM said he was awaiting the findings of a report due to be presented on 15 April, and that only then would the government decide what to do.
The Green Party has made no secret of the fact that it is keen to see maintenance re-nationalised, but according to Infrastructure Minister Anna Johansson (S), the government could equally decide to keep the rails private.
“…Our primary promise was that the trains would run on time,” she says.
Meanwhile, just hours after the government presented its plans, a train pulled down cables south of Stockholm, leading to major delays for south-bound trains.