Hamilton Learns From Swedish Example Of Reform

Finance Minister Simon Hamilton MLA has said that Northern Ireland can learn lessons in how to deal with fiscal consolidation while still delivering a high standard of public services from the experience of Sweden.

The Minister was speaking after a short visit to the Swedish capital Stockholm.

[caption id="attachment_41113" align="alignleft" width="220"]Finance Minister Simon Hamilton MLA. Finance Minister Simon Hamilton MLA.[/caption]

Simon Hamilton said: “The Swedish experience is one which is worth studying carefully. Sweden is one of the world’s most competitive economies and is home to many innovative companies such as Sandvik which has a presence here in Northern Ireland.

“It is synonymous with economically focused social policies such as free childcare which ensure that Sweden has a high level of female participation in the workforce and a large welfare state that offers its citizens high levels of social protection.

“What is less known is the fact that Sweden has undergone a significant fiscal consolidation over the course of the last 20 years which has seen public spending as a percentage of GDP fall considerably. And that government has used private and third sector organisations to help deliver public services.

“Sweden had to tighten its belt after a banking and financial crisis in the mid 1990s. The Prime Minister who successfully guided Sweden through that tumultuous period was Goran Persson. It was a pleasure to meet him whilst in Stockholm and hear from him first hand how under his stewardship Sweden not only reformed its budget but also laid the foundations for a growing economy through major structural reforms.

“His message of the need for a comprehensive programme of fiscal and economic reform and the abiding lesson of discipline on the part of government in adhering to its plan should resonate in Northern Ireland as we grapple with similar issues.”

During his visit, Minister Hamilton also discussed the Swedish system of State Owned Companies with State Secretary Eva Lindstrom and officials from the Ministry of Finance, the role of the Swedish Fiscal Policy Council in providing government with independent budgetary and economic advice and visited the Grillska Gymnasiet which is one of six schools run by the not-for-profit charity Stadsmissionen.

The Minister concluded: “Part of my drive to improve public sector services in Northern Ireland has involved learning from other European countries. Sweden has a strong track record of transforming its public sector and Northern Ireland can learn lessons from the Swedish approach to reform.

“The remodelling of public sector services in Sweden has been significant at all levels of government for many years, and these reforms have helped to pave the way for stability and growth within Sweden’s economy and public sector spending.”