Finance Minister Set to Tackle Unemployment

Amid growing support for the opposition, Swedish Finance Minister Per Nuder set unemployment as the government’s top economic policy priority in the run up to the 2006 elections. 

Nuder says the government may have lost its focus on jobs after bringing unemployment down to its goal of 4 percent in 2000.  Unemployment rose to 5.3 percent in December.  He adds that through new proposals, unemployment can be brought even lower than the old goal of 4 percent. 

The announcement came days after the opposition Moderates, who are currently leading the Social Democrats in the polls, said they would go into the 2006 elections as Sweden’s ‘new labor party’ on a platform of less taxes and less spending.  The Social Democrats propose spending more and raising taxes. 

And as the EU budgetary talks conitnue, the Finance Minister says Sweden is prepared to keep paying more money into European Union’s coffers than it gets back—but only if EU regional aid funds go to ‘poor Europe’ and Sweden itself gets a rebate. 

At the moment, for every crown Sweden pays to Brussels, a half a crown is rebated.  Nuder’s comments come at a time when the EU’s 25 member states are negotiating the bloc’s next budget, to run from 2007 through 2013. 

The EU executive wants member states to raise contributions to 1.14 percent of gross national income to help finance the integration of poorer members, but the EU’s six net payers, including Sweden, want a 1.0 percent cap on contributions.