Persson looking grumpyIt’s one year before the next general election in Sweden, and I am forever surprised by the very negative nature of the political debate. Look at Sweden from almost anywhere else in Europe and things look very, very good. So why can’t the Swedes see it? As a starting point, have a look at this article from the International Herald Tribune, or this from the Washington Mail. Also worth a look is the OECD’s page about Sweden – gives some good ideas about how things can be improved further.

[Update – 23.10.2005]
Transparency International have released their 2005 Corruption Index – details here. Sweden is in 6th place in a table of more than 150 countries, with Iceland ranked as number 1 (i.e. lease corrupt). Once again, Sweden is very close to the top. Maybe I should start a list of all the international comparisons that Sweden does well at?

[Update – 05.11.2005]
Sweden is also number 1 for R&D in Europe. At the time when Europe’s economies are struggling, Sweden invests 4.27% of it’s GDP in R&D, with 77% of that from private sources. Read more here.

OK, so Göran Persson is not really the most riveting leader, and maybe he has been around for too long. But is Reinfeldt of the Moderates any better? He strikes me as reminiscent of a secondhand car salesman.

I think the real reason lies in Sweden’s slightly smug mentality, that has also largely determined their view of the European Union. It’s a sort of "well, we’re OK, so why should we care about other basket case economies elsewhere?" It’s obviously strongly rooted in Sweden’s history of neutrality, and the spirit of national togetherness that was fostered as a result.

But with Sweden’s major firms – Ikea, Ericsson, Volvo etc. – contributing to an ongoing large trade surplus, Sweden needs the rest of Europe to be doing OK. On the other hand, the rest of us badly need a bit of the Nordic model to help our economies improve (France, Germany) or help our social realm improve (UK). And Swedish politicians should have some confidence to stand up and say that their system is good!

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