The Swedish Financial Revolution

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But what is the e-krona exactly? Let's begin at the beginning. Swedish legislation makes it possible for retailers, restaurants and other companies to refuse to accept cash, for instance by putting up a sign at the entrance or by the till. Together with banks that stop offering cash services, refusal of cash is an increasingly widespread phenomenon. Furthermore, Swedes on average are happy to adapt to new technologies, so cards are widespread and the instant payment app Swish has been downloaded by more than half of the population.

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By connecting a bank account in any bank with a mobile phone number, Swish has become a popular way to share a restaurant bill, distribute pocket money to children, collect money for a birthday gift at the office and to pay for goods at street markets. Within a few years, if the current trend in cash usage continues, Swedes could therefore find themselves in a situation where cash is no longer generally accepted as a means of payment. If cash stops working, it would leave all individuals to rely on the private sector alone to get access to money and payment methods.

This would be a historical change without precedence. Norway is seeing a similar trend, and the two central banks are cooperating in this area.

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In the Eurozone, cash is still used to a high degree. For some time, the Swedish central bank has been analysing this gradual transition of emphasis in our economy — our most recent report can be found here. In the coming years, some hard choices will be required. One option is to do nothing, meaning we accept that the general public no longer has access to central bank money.

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Such a future would imply a changed scope for the public sector. The payment market would have to be regulated and supervised in new ways to meet fulfil the objective to have a safe, efficient and inclusive payment market. A second alternative is to issue central bank money in a digital form, as a complement to cash and the money held in bank accounts. Central bank-issued digital currency is a new and relatively unexplored possibility, but it is attracting growing interest from a number of central banks.

The basic concept for e-krona is as follows: it would be digital, and have a 1-to-1 conversion with an ordinary krona held in an account at the Riksbank or stored locally, for example on a card or in a mobile phone app. For the payment industry, the Riksbank would provide an infrastructure for e-krona transactions to which payment service providers can connect and in which they can build payment services for end users.

Depending on the scope, and on design choices, there could be different consequences. Its impact on the financial system depends on how large the demand for the e-krona is in different circumstances.

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  8. Whether it will earn interest or not is another key question. If the e-krona offers zero interest, which makes it equivalent to cash in this regard, it could have negative effects for conducting expansionary monetary policy if interest rates in the economy are low. On the other hand, an e-krona with interest could become a new policy tool for the central bank.

    The technology to build a functioning e-krona is already available today. It is not dependent on using distributed ledger technology and it is not to be confused with cryptocurrencies.

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    The next step is to build a prototype that could be issued under the current legal mandate of the Riksbank. The knowledge we acquire along the way will give us room for manoeuvre in the future.

    Sweden’s Quiet Revolution

    Yet both groups have generally agreed that Swedish-style socialism is a far cry from rough-and-tumble U. In fact, contemporary Sweden is much less socialist than many Americans realize. Since the early s, when it suffered a painful financial crisis, the Scandinavian country has deregulated key industries such as airlines, telecommunications, and electricity , lowered its overall tax burden, established universal school vouchers, partially privatized its pension system, abolished certain government monopolies, sold a number of state-owned enterprises including the parent company of Absolut vodka , and trimmed public spending.

    Several years ago, it eliminated gift and inheritance taxes. The World Economic Forum now ranks Sweden as the second-most competitive economy on earth, behind only Switzerland. On September 19, Reinfeldt became the first conservative premier in modern Swedish history to win reelection, though his government apparently fell just short of securing a parliamentary majority. The once-mighty Social Democratic party captured less than 31 percent of the vote, its worst performance in nearly a century. Meanwhile, the far-right Sweden Democrats SD — a populist-nationalist party critical of Muslim immigration — finally gained entrance into the Riksdag, picking up a remarkable 20 seats out of and virtually doubling its vote share from Both the ruling coalition and the left-wing opposition have rejected an alliance with the SD, whose impressive electoral showing hit Sweden like an earthquake.

    The party has neo-Nazi roots, but it has worked hard to purge members with Nazi ties, rebrand itself, and achieve greater respectability. Its growing influence reflects widespread anxiety over the sluggish pace of Muslim assimilation — anxiety that the mainstream parties have failed to address. Bolstered by prudent economic stewardship and a relatively conservative financial sector, Sweden entered the global recession on a sound footing.

    The Swedish Financial Revolution and the Insurance Industry

    While it endured a nasty spike in unemployment, its export-driven recovery has been so vigorous that the central bank is now concerned about inflation risks. In the second quarter of , Sweden posted a 4. It still has a lavish welfare state, and its aggregate tax burden is still quite heavy. The top marginal income-tax rate is 57 percent in Sweden, compared with 35 percent for now in America.

    Sweden has a much lower average statutory corporate-tax rate than the U. Its tax structure is made even more regressive by a 25 percent value-added tax on consumption of most goods and services. Which brings us to a common misconception about the Swedish system — that it takes from the rich and gives to the poor.

    Blessed with abundant natural resources, it was a staunch defender of property rights and a robust advocate of free trade. Cultural homogeneity, a strong legal framework, and a lack of corruption promoted famously high levels of trust and social cohesion.

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    The Financial Revolution in Sweden, –

    Sweden had a welfare state, but it also had an open, free-market economy. In other words, Sweden became a fantastically rich country before it started greatly boosting taxes, spending, and regulation during the s. At the start of the s, Sweden was grappling with persistently high inflation. Over the course of that decade, its financial markets experienced a rapid burst of liberalization that led to massive credit growth, which in turn spawned a real-estate bubble.

    Meanwhile, the country continued to maintain a fixed exchange rate. Crunch time arrived in the early s, writes Ergungor, when the reunification of East and West Germany drove up German interest rates. The government eventually adopted a floating exchange rate, but not until November The fallout was disastrous: Housing prices plunged, nonperforming loans accumulated, and the economy sank into a deep recession.

    Since then, propelled by ambitious free-market reforms, it has regained much though not all of the ground it lost. Yet certain aspects of the old Swedish model have proved stubbornly resistant to change. For example, the government-run health-care system remains plagued by long waiting times, and onerous labor regulations make it very difficult for companies to hire or fire workers. Labor-market rigidity has contributed to a yawning employment gap between natives and immigrants, which has retarded the process of integrating Swedish Muslims.


    Decades ago, Stockholm chose to embrace liberal asylum policies, thereby inviting future waves of refugees from the Middle East, the Balkans, East Africa, and elsewhere. In a country once known for its homogeneity, the foreign-born population share is now approximately 14 percent. Unfortunately, Sweden has not made the labor-market adjustments necessary to accommodate mass immigration. The ghettoization of Muslim communities in poor, crime-ridden neighborhoods has inflamed cultural tensions and heightened fears over the sustainability of the welfare state.

    Solving that problem will require more than simply enhanced labor flexibility. It will also require government officials to move away from multiculturalism and rethink their basic approach to assimilation.