Danish national debt reaches highest level since 2013

Denmark’s national debt has piled up during the coronavirus crisis, due in part to spending on compensation for shuttered businesses and wages for furloughed workers.

Danish national debt reaches highest level since 2013
File photo: Kristian Djurhuus/Ritzau Scanpix

The country’s debt measured in kroner is now at its highest for 20 years. As a proportion of the national GDP, it is at an eight-year peak.

At the beginning of 2021, the national debt reached 536 billion kroner, an increase of 115 billion kroner compared to the beginning of 2019.

That is evidence that the country has been hard-hit by the economic ramifications of the coronavirus, but government spending during the pandemic had been a necessary decision, an expert said.

“It has been necessary to avoid a massive economic downturn, a huge amount of unemployment and bankruptcies,” said Tore Stramer, senior economist with the Danish Chamber of Commerce.

A wage compensation scheme was initially introduced last spring as lockdown measures took effect during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, and subsequent measures have sought to assist businesses and individuals impacted by lockdowns and restrictions.

READ ALSO: Denmark to offer further compensation for corona-hit businesses

Current compensation rules enable businesses closed due to the lockdown to send staff home with 75-90 percent of their wages paid by the state, up to a limit of 30,000 kroner per month.

The state debt is lower than a prognosis issued by the finance ministry in December, meanwhile. According to the forecast, Denmark’s debt would have been 87 billion kroner higher than the current amount of 536 billion kroner.

Stramer said there was no cause for undue concern over the current national debt.

“It is clear that an increase of 115 billion kroner sounds like a lot. But it’s certain not something that can’t be managed overall,” he said.

“Interest is very low and there is also an expectation of recovery during the spring,” he added.

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Did Sweden’s state epidemiologist really get a big job at the WHO?

For his supporters, it was well-deserved, for his detractors a case of failing upwards. But when Sweden's Public Health Agency announced this month that state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell was taking a job at the World Health Organisation, both sides assumed it was true.

Did Sweden's state epidemiologist really get a big job at the WHO?

Now, it seems, the job might not be there after all. 

At the start of this month, Sweden’s Public Health Agency announced that Anders Tegnell was resigning to take up a post coordinating vaccine work with the World Health Organisation in Geneva. 

“I’ve worked with vaccines for 30 years and have at the same time always been inspired by international issues,” Tegnell said in the release. “Now I will have the chance to contribute to this comprehensive international work.”

During the first and second waves of the Covid-19 pandemic, Tegnell shot immediately from obscurity into the spotlight, gaining such celebrity status in Sweden that one fan had his profile tattooed onto his arm.

Internationally he was hailed by lockdown sceptics for his reasoned arguments against overly restrictive measures to control the spread of the virus. 

His new WHO appointment was reported all over the world. 

But on Tuesday, the Svenska Daglabdet newspaper revealed that the job had not yet been awarded. A spokesperson for the WHO said at a press conference in Geneva that “there is some confusion”, and that “this is an internal question.” 

According to the newspaper, there is even “a certain level of irritation” behind the scenes at the WHO that Sweden acted too soon and dispatched Tegnell to a job that did not actually exist yet. 

“We have received an offer from Sweden, which is still under discussion,” the organisation’s press spokesperson, Fadela Chaib, told the newspaper. 

On Thursday, the Public Health Agency’s press chief Christer Janson conceded that there had been a mistake and that the negotiation had not been completed.  

“We believed it was done, but it wasn’t,” he told Expressen in an interview. “It’s been a much longer process to get this completed than we thought. There’s been a misunderstanding and we regret that.”