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ECONOMY

Sweden’s new right-wing govt slashes development aid

Sweden, one of the world's biggest international donors, is planning drastic aid cuts in the coming years, the country's new right-wing government said in its budget bill presented on Tuesday.

Sweden's new right-wing govt slashes development aid
The headquarters of Sweden's aid agency SIDA. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson’s government said it planned to reduce the country’s international aid by 7.3 billion kronor ($673 million) in 2023, and by another 2.2 billion kronor in 2024.

That is around a 15-percent reduction from what had been planned by the previous left-wing government and means Sweden will abandon its foreign aid target of 1 percent of gross national income.

International aid for refugees will be capped at a maximum of eight percent of its aid, and will also be reduced.

According to the specialised site Donor Tracker, Sweden was the world’s eighth-biggest international aid donor in terms of absolute value last year, and the third-biggest in proportion to the size of its economy, donating 0.92 percent of its gross national income, behind Luxembourg and Norway.

The new government, which is backed for the first time by the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats, had announced in its government programme last month that it would be cutting foreign aid.

Since 1975, Stockholm has gone further than the UN’s recommendation of donating at least 0.7 percent of its wealth to development aid.

Despite its growth forecast being revised downwards — the economy is expected to shrink by 0.4 percent next year and grow by 2 percent in 2024 — the 2023 budget forecasts a surplus of 0.7 percent of gross domestic product.

It calls for an additional 40 billion kronor in spending, with rising envelopes for crime fighting and the building of new nuclear reactors, as well as a reduction in taxes on petrol and an increase in the defence budget.

The new government is a minority coalition made up of Kristersson’s conservative Moderates, the Christian Democrats and the Liberal party, backed in parliament by their key ally the Sweden Democrats to give them a majority.

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TERRORISM

Sweden to make it illegal to be active in a terrorist organisation

Sweden's government has submitted a new terror bill which could help convince Turkey that the country is acting to crack down on Swedish residents active in the Kurdish PKK terror group.

Sweden to make it illegal to be active in a terrorist organisation

The new proposal, titled “a special penalty provision for participation in a terrorist organisation”, will make participation in the activities of a terrorist organisation in any way that “promotes, strengthens or supports” the organisation punishable with up to four years in prison. 

“This is a wider criminalisation that takes aim at a slew of activities within a terrorist organisation that don’t need to be concretely connected to a specific terrorist crime,” Justice Minister Gunnar Strömmer told a press conference.

“Sweden has an increased terrorist threat which must be taken very seriously,” he continued. “Now the government is putting forward a legislative proposal which means that both participation in and financing of participation in terrorist organisations will be punishable.” 

Actions such as handling equipment, organising camps or locations for meetings, cooking or being in charge of transport for designated terrorist organisations would be criminalised under the new law, which Strömmer stressed was a “considerable widening of the scope compared to current legislation”.

In November, the country amended its constitution to allow the proposed bill to move forward, as it was deemed to infringe on Sweden’s freedom of association laws.

The proposal will now go to Sweden’s Council on Legislation, which judged a previous proposal to ban membership of a terror organisation, brought in in the wake the 2017 Stockholm terror attack, as in conflict with Sweden’s constitution right to free association. 

Under the proposal, serious cases of the new crime will be punishable by up to eight years in prison, while those found guilty of holding a leadership position in a terror organisation could be jailed for 18 years or even for life. 

The proposal criminalises all forms of support for terror organisations, regardless of whether it is financial or other ways of taking part in it, promoting it and strengthening it. 

Strömmer noted that “partaking in a demonstration or at a meeting will not in itself be punishable”, adding that said flag-waving in itself would not be criminalised but such activities could potentially be used as evidence in court.

The government hopes to be able to submit the proposal to parliament on March 7th, and for it to come into force by June 1st. 

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