Borg: Strong economic recovery continues

Sweden appears to be making a spectacular recovery from the deep recession its export-reliant economy experienced during the global financial crisis.

Borg: Strong economic recovery continues

“It’s pretty fair to say that the sun is shining over the Swedish economy currently,” Swedish Finance Minister Anders Borg told reporters after the latest figures were published.

Economic growth in the Scandinavian country accelerated in the second quarter by 4.6 percent on a 12-month comparison and by 1.9 percent compared to output in the previous quarter, according to revised numbers from the national statistics agency.

With less than two weeks to go ahead of general elections, these figures represent the country’s highest growth rate since 2000.

The latest GDP figures “probably mean that you actually have to compare Sweden to Asia to see figures of the same magnitude. Very few European countries are above three percent and even fewer are above four percent,” Borg said.

He added that on top of having the smallest deficit in the EU, the government expects to post a budget surplus by 2012.

Borg reiterated that the election’s most important issues are maintaining sound public finances and rebuilding a budget surplus, restoring full employment and investing more in education and vocational training.

“People on long-term sickness benefits and taking early retirement are still high,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “We need to stimulate employment and increase incentives for the unemployed to look for jobs through measures such as vocational training. The longer they are inactive, the harder it is for them to re-enter the job market.”

He added that although the Swedish education system has traditionally been at a high quality, its standing in rankings by the OECD and other agencies has slipped, especially in math and languages.

“We have a high-capital economy,” he told reporters. “We need good engineers and that requires strong math. Average in Europe is not good enough. Finland spends less on education, but their education system is better. More vocational training is needed like in Denmark and Austria, especially to address youth unemployment.

Although the turnaround is closely linked to a strengthening global economy that has improved the climate for manufacturing and exports, analysts say the Nordic recovery also rests on strong fundamentals such as healthy public finances and strong consumption.

The new numbers place Sweden’s economy at the very forefront of the European crowd, alongside Germany, Poland and Slovakia and far ahead of average EU growth in the second quarter of 1 percent compared to the previous three-month period and 1.9 percent year-on-year.

“Of course, we’ve had a larger decline last year in particular in the manufacture industry and [now] we’re bouncing back,” explained Olle Olmgren, an analyst at SEB.

“But a more underlying factor is that the domestic demand is very firm, with households that have strong balance sheets, unemployment falling, increase of consumption and the same is true for public finances,” he told AFP.

Contrary to many other EU countries that face towering debt and harsh austerity measures, the Swedish government has benefited from strong public finances to put in place economic stabilisation mechanisms and plans to continue to strengthen the country’s famous welfare state, Olmgren pointed out.

Borg reiterated that the Moderates would postpone tax cuts in 2011 and 2012 in response to the projected labour cycle, pointing out that although the situation appears robust for Sweden at the moment, current circumstances among banks in southern Europe may be problematic in the future.

Sweden began to raise interest rates in July, becoming the first EU country to do so after the crisis.

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Today in Norway: A roundup of the latest news on Wednesday

Find out what's going on in Norway on Wednesday with The Local's short roundup of important news.

Today in Norway: A roundup of the latest news on Wednesday
Trondheim harbour. Photo by Carlo Alberto Burato on Unsplash

Norway passes 2 million vaccines administered
Norway has now administered more than 2 million vaccines in total, health authorities have announced.

According to the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, the Nordic country passed the landmark on Tuesday evening.

Since the first vaccine dose was given on December 27th, 2020, Norway has administered 2,019,546 doses of a coronavirus vaccine.

READ MORE: Norway to offer everyone second Covid-19 vaccine by end of August

So far, 1,503,794 people have received their first dose, and 515,752 people have received their second dose.

“I want to say a big thank you to all those who are out in the municipalities and who ensure such good progress is being made. I am delighted that the vaccination program in Norway continues at a good pace,” Health Minister, Bent Høie, told news agency NTB.

Number of gambling addicts seeking help during the pandemic rises sharply
The number of people who contacted Gambling Addiction Norway for the first time rose sharply in 2020.

792 people contacted Gambling Addiction Norway compared to 436 the year before, an increase of 82 percent.

Furthermore, the organisation says that numbers this year compare similarly with last year.

“We have never such high numbers before,” Lill-Tove Bergmo, leader of the organisation.

Current Coronavirus restrictions in Oslo extended until end of May
Oslo’s local Covid-19 restrictions will not be relaxed until May 27th t at the earliest.

Next week, the city council will decide whether the city will have more measures lifted at the end of May.

The city has adopted a phased approach to the second step of its five-step plan to reopen.

READ MORE: Oslo relaxes Covid restrictions with shops and malls to reopen 

The next set of measures that will be lifted will see bar’s and restaurants reopen and serve alcohol, along with gyms reopening.

“I understand that the hospitality industry and owners and users of gyms are getting impatient. The first part of step two of the reopening plan seems to have gone well, but we must still be careful. If infections stay low, then it should be possible to open restaurants, gyms, museums and more before may is over,” the city’s mayor, Raymond Johansen, said.

Decline in Norwegian economy in the first quarter
GDP for mainland Norway fell by one percent in the first quarter, according to seasonally adjusted figures.

There was an economic decline in each of the first three months of the year due to increased coronavirus infections and stricter infection control measures that sure retail and hospitality close in parts of the country.

READ MORE: Explained: What Norway’s revised budget means for you 

Total GDP, which accounts for offshore oil and gas extraction, and foreign shipping, fell by 0.6 percent.

Mainland Norway’s GDP was two percent lower in March 2021 compared to when the pandemic began.

473 new Covid-19 infections recorded
On Tuesday, 473 coronavirus infections were registered, a decrease of 36 on the seven-day average.

In Oslo, 86 cases were recorded on Tuesday, 23 less than the seven-day average.

The R-number or reproduction rate in Norway is currently 0.7. This means that the pandemic is receding in Norway as for every ten people that are infected, they will, on average, only infect another seven people.

Total number of Covid-19 cases. Source: NIPH