Reinfeldt Calm Despite Slump in Polls

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt says he is calm despite a slump in opinion polls after his first 100 days in office, adding that people needed time to appreciate his tax cuts and welfare reforms.

Reinfeldt said he was determined to push ahead with more income tax cuts and was confident he could fulfill pledges to create more jobs in a country where a rise in employment has lagged strong economic growth.

In an interview Reinfeldt said that ”The general reaction to change in modern political life very often starts off negative.”

He added that ”The first feeling is that it is threatening, is this really good for me? Therefore you always face the risk that when you are doing something you might lose short-term support.”

A weekend poll showed support for the government had fallen to 42 percent from 48 percent at the September 2006 election, which the newspaper Svenska Dagbladet said was the largest decline in popularity for a Swedish government after 100 days in office.

The period has been marked by the resignation of two ministers after only two weeks in office and strong criticism of Foreign Minister Carl Bildt for accepting share options from a company he worked for before joining the government.

There has also been much media debate over government plans to raise obligatory contributions to union-run unemployment funds, which have overshadowed the prospect of tax cuts.

But Reinfeldt said people would see the impact from the tax cuts in their January pay packets, which most people get today.   

The government has promised to cut more taxes this year, funded by some reductions in welfare benefits and the rise in unemployment fund contributions.

Reinfeldt said a further tax cut  from January next year remained a priority and was ready to carry on a programme of privatisations of key assets, including telecoms company TeliaSonera and bank Nordea .

Another change he has proposed includes allowing more private healthcare, something the Social Democrats always resisted as going against the Swedish model of a strong welfare state financed by some of the world’s highest taxes.