Om budgeten och statsskulden

Av: Daniel Walther

På onsdag den 3/12 är det tänkt att omröstningen om nästa års budget ska äga rum. Det har i den offentliga debatten de senaste veckorna spekulerats flitigt i om enskilda poster kommer att brytas ut ur budgeten (som skedde förra året), om SD kommer att stödja Alliansens förslag och om en förlust för den röd-gröna regeringen innebär att extraval utlyses.

Dessa frågor har redan diskuterats flitigt annorstädes och kommer att bli besvarade tids nog. Men en av frågorna som har fått uppmärksamhet, nämligen den om budgetunderskott och den svenska statsskulden, kan vara intressant att titta lite närmare på med hjälp av lite bakgrundsfakta. Statsskulden är idag på ca 1338 miljarder kronor, eller 137 000 kr per invånare, och regeringens budgetförslag, om det går igenom, skulle leda till en fortsatt ökning av skulden. Samtidigt utgör den svenska statsskulden endast 38% av BNP vilket är lågt internationellt sett. Men hur ovanligt är det egentligen med budgetunderskott, hur har den svenska statsskulden utvecklats och hur har skuldens utveckling hängt ihop med vilken regering som har varit vid makten?

Låt oss börja med att titta på hur utgifter och inkomster under varje budgetår hänger samman med statsskulden[1]. I grafen nedan kan vi se att statsskulden ökade kraftigt från slutet av 70-talet till mitten av 90-talet men stabiliserades sedan och har därefter pendlat kring ett medelvärde på runt 1250 miljarder kronor. Toppen på 1400 miljarder nåddes precis efter 90-talskrisens kulmen och skulden var då mer än dubbelt så stor som de årliga intäkterna. Därefter har skulden minskat, och tar man hänsyn till att BNP har ökat kraftigt sedan dess så är skulden idag klart lägre som andel av BNP.

Budgetutveckling

I grafen kan man också se att det är ganska ovanligt att inkomsterna i en budget överstiger utgifterna. Den svarta linjen för utgifter är bara nämnvärt över den blå inkomst-linjen vid några tillfällen, framförallt i slutet av 90- och 2000-talet, men annars är det tydligt att budgeterade underskott är det vanligaste utfallet.

En ännu tydligare bild av budgetsaldot får man i figur 2 nedan. Staplarna i figuren har också färgkodats utifrån vilken regering som satt vid makten under det budgetåret. Den genomsnittliga regeringen har haft ett årligt underskott på ca 10% (underskottet uttryckt som andel av de årliga intäkterna) men det är inte helt jämnt fördelat mellan borgerliga och socialistiska regeringar. Faktum är att borgerliga regeringar har haft ett genomsnittligt underskott på 17.8% jämfört med 6.6% för de socialistiska.

Budgetbalans

I grafen kan vi också se att de största relativa underskotten var i samband med den andra oljekrisen på 70/80-talet och valutakrisen på 90-talet. Jämfört med dessa kraftiga nedgångar i ekonomin har de senaste årens finansiella kris varit relativt lindrig. Efter krisens huvudår 2009 har det förvisso varit ett underskott i genomsnitt, men ett underskott på bara runt en tiondel av vad det var vid tidigare kriser. Budgetförslaget från den rödgröna regeringen för 2015, med ett budgeterat underskott på runt 4%, skulle om det förverkligades vara i linje med vad det har legat på de senaste tre åren.

Ett av skälen till att borgerliga regeringar har haft större underskott i genomsnitt, förutom att de ofta har regerat under kriser, kan vara att de generellt har bestått av större koalitioner. Forskning har visat att flerparti-regeringar ofta (men inte alltid) har svårare att balansera budgeten för att de i många fall har fler väljargrupper som behöver tillfredsställas (Bäck & Lindvall 2014). Den överväldigande majoriteten av socialdemokratiskt ledda regeringar har varit enpartiregeringar och har därför inte haft samma behov av att kompromissa fram budgetlösningar.

Sammantaget kan man säga att budgeteringskonsten har blivit klart mer framgångsrik de senaste decennierna. De tre regeringarna under Göran Persson hade ett genomsnittligt överskott på 1.5% medan Reinfeldtregeringen gick nästan exakt plus minus noll. Sedan 90-talskrisen har Sverige haft fler år av överskott än underskott vilket måste vara ganska unikt bland de industrialiserade västländerna. En bidragande orsak till detta kan vara att det finanspolitiska ramverket stramades upp efter 90-talskrisen med bland annat ett överskottsmål på 2 % (från och med 2000) och sedemera 1% (från och med 2007) av det finansiella sparandet under en budgetcykel.

Så oavsett vilken budget som till slut går igenom verkar det troligt att den kommer att bli klart bättre än den genomsnittliga budgeten för de senaste 50 åren.

Daniel Walther är doktorand i statsvetenskap vid Umeå universitet och jobbar inom forskningsprojektet Representative Democracy in Europe. Han gjorde under valrörelsen valprognoser på sidan trefyranio.com.

[1] Alla siffror är från regeringskansliets hemsida: http://www.regeringen.se/sb/d/2548/a/199285. Siffrorna från 2015 är från regeringens budgetförslag

Referenser

Bäck, H., & Lindvall, J. (2014). Commitment Problems in Coalitions: A New Look at the Fiscal Policies of Multi-Party Governments. Political Science Research and Methods.

Annonser

Should we care who wins the ”median legislator” in Sweden?

Guest post by Nicholas Aylott

The term ”median legislator” is a staple of coalition studies (Laver and Schofield 1990). It connotes a decisive political position. Imagine the members of a parliament arranged on a single spectrum of opinion. The one right in the middle should thus decide all outcomes by choosing – presumably in return for something – to vote either with the forces to her left or to her right, thus creating a winning majority. If the vote is about which parties should be in government, this median legislator, or rather her party, should be so powerful that it can ensure its own place in that government, regardless of how many of its own votes it has. That party truly holds the balance of power.

Needless to say, real-world politics is vastly more complicated. Nevertheless, the median-legislator hypothesis does usually work in Sweden. Figure 1 shows the distribution of seats since the first election to a unicameral parliament. With only a couple of exceptions (circled), the party that straddles the median position after an election, denoted by the vertical line running down from the 50% mark on the horizontal axis, has indeed ended up in government.

Figure 1. Simplified distribution of seats in the Swedish parliament

Figure 1
Notes. For the sake of simplicity, the four parties that constitute the Alliance, which was formed in 2004, are combined. Parties that formed the government after an election are denoted with the bars solidly filled; opposition parties are shown with patterned fill. Governments formed in the middle of parliamentary terms are excluded.  Data were adapted from Bergman (undated).

Why does the hypothesis tend to work in Sweden? One big reason is that the country’s politics really is dominated by the left-to-right dimension, perhaps to a greater degree than in any other European country. The Greens, it is true, are harder to place in left-to-right terms. Still, most observers of contemporary Swedish politics, plus the Swedish Parliamentary Surveys conducted by political scientists at the University of Gothenburg (thanks to Peter Esaiasson and Lena Wängnerud for help with access to these data), put them to the Social Democrats’ right, as in Figure 1. If so, the Greens have won the median position on two occasions, in 1998 and 2002.

However, as Figure 1 shows, those were the occasions on which the median-legislator hypothesis did not work. Instead of getting into government, the Greens were fobbed off by the Social Democrats with parliamentary ”contracts”, in which the Greens got policy promises and even junior ministerial jobs, but not cabinet portfolios (Bale and Bergman 2006). The second such episode, in 2002, was particularly interesting, because the Greens, prior to the election, had made explicit promises about voting against any government from which they were excluded. After the election, they had also negotiated for a while with three of the centre-right parties about a coalition that, had it been realised, certainly would have included the Greens – and would thus have confirmed the median-legislator hypothesis.

Why did the Greens, despite their ostensibly decisive parliamentary position, settle for less than the place in a full executive coalition that they had demanded? A few years ago, Tobjörn Bergman and I investigated this ”puzzle of government formation” (Aylott and Bergman 2011). Our argument was that two factors interacted to explain the deviant case.

The most important factor was intra-party constraints on the Greens’ leadership. The party’s membership had drifted sufficiently far to the left in the years before the 2002 election, and the party’s organisation and culture were sufficiently flat and democratic, to dissuade the leadership from actively facilitating a non-left government.

Second, the party leadership was further constrained by the institutional context. As is well known, ”negative parliamentarism” applies (Bergman 1993; Bergman 2014; Davidsson 2014). To survive, a government need only avoid the formal expression of an absolute parliamentary majority of no confidence in it. The least difficult post-election option for the Greens in 2002 was to abstain when the centre-right brought a vote of no-confidence in the incumbent Social Democratic government – and that was thus enough to preclude any absolute majority when the vote came.

Does that mean that we shouldn’t care about which party ends up holding the median legislator after the coming election? Not at all. Any outcome will be interesting from a political-science perspective.

One possibility is that the median position will be reconquered by the Greens – which, this time, would surely see them proceed into a first full government coalition. The Social Democrats, for their part, have recognised the difficulty of governing alone, given their electoral decline over the last dozen years, and have more or less designated the Greens as preferred coalition partners – a very different attitude to the one the Social Democrats had in 2002.

If this scenario were realised, it would mean that the left-of-centre parties, including the Greens, had won a parliamentary majority. Unfortunately for them, that currently looks rather unlikely. And unfortunately for the currently governing Alliance parties, they will probably finish even further from a majority. The reason, of course, is the looming presence of the Sweden Democrats on the far right, where they are conventionally placed. That presence may put the Swedish party system under great strain.

The Alliance has pledged to give the Social Democrats first go at forming a government if, as looks certain, their combined score is smaller than that of the left-of-centre parties (Reinfeldt et al 2014). Yet the toughest decisions will probably face the left-most Alliance party, the likeliest holder of the median legislator. That party is probably the Liberals.

With the median position, they would have extraordinary influence. They could pursue a deal with the Sweden Democrats, thus cementing a right-of-centre majority (and, indeed, the left-to-right character of Swedish party competition). But that seems inconceivable, such is the cordon sanitaire around the far right. Alternatively, the Liberals could seek to tempt the Greens into a deal with the Alliance. But the Greens’ leaders would find that a very hard sell to their members – much as their predecessors anticipated in 2002.

Or the Liberals could bite the bullet and do some deal with the Social Democrats.  A new semi-coalition contract, rather than a full coalition with the left, might make the arrangement slightly more palatable. Still, the intra-party constraints would be very considerable. The justification would be in ”saving” the country from the malevolent influence of the Sweden Democrats. Maybe that would enhance the reputation of the Liberals’ leaders; maybe, in time, that reputation might bring electoral rewards. But would members and sympathisers understand the need for such a brazen defection from the Alliance after a decade of commitment to it? Could the incumbent Liberal leader really pull off such a feat of political acrobatics? Might the prize of the median legislator turn out to be a poisoned chalice for him and his party?


Nicholas Aylott is associate professor of political science at Södetörn University and research leader in the Centre for Baltic and East European Studies.


References

Aylott, Nicholas and Torbjörn Bergman (2011), ”When Median-Legislator Theory Fails: Why the Swedish Greens Allowed Themselves to be Kept Out of Power in 1998 and 2002”, in Rudy W. Andeweg and Lieven De Winter (eds), Puzzles of Government Formation: Coalition Theory and Deviant Cases (London: Routledge).

Bale, Tim and Torbjörn Bergman (2006), ”Captives No Longer, but Servants Still? Contract Parliamentarism and the New Minority Governance in Sweden and New Zealand”, Government and Opposition 41, 422–449.

Bergman, Torbjörn (1993), ”Constitutional Design and Government Formation: The Expected Consequences of Negative Parliamentarism”, Scandinavian Political Studies 16, 285-304.

Bergman, Torbjörn (2014), ”What a difference a vote makes?”, Om makt och politik August 18 (maktochpolitik.wordpress.com)

Bergman, Torbjörn (undated), European Representative Democracy Data Archive (www.erdda.se).

Davidsson, Lars (2014), ”Hur negativ är den svenska parlamentarismen? Överlevnadsstrategier i riksdagen efter 2014 års val”, Politologerna August 19 (politologerna.wordpress.com).

Laver, Michael and Norman Schofield (1990), Multiparty Government: The Politics of Coalition in Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

Reinfeldt, Fredrik, Jan Björklund, Annie Lööf and Göran Högglund (2014), ”Vi godtar inte en regering som saknar stöd för budgeten”, Dagens Nyheter August 21.

What a difference a vote makes?

By: Torbjörn Bergman

On 14 September 2014, general elections will be held to the Swedish Riksdag. After the elections, there will be a vote on the Prime Minister (PM). Such votes have been held before, but only when a PM has resigned and a new one has been elected. However, in 1998, when Göran Persson simply continued in power after losing big in the election, and no vote was held, the then Conservative party leader, Carl Bildt, was infuriated and demanded rules that prevented such a outcome (huge electoral losses for the PM, but no Riksdag vote). Such rules were a part of the constitutional reforms that amended the Swedish constitution from 2011.

The mandatory vote is new, but it does not really change the Swedish system of negative parliamentarism. In it, the basic principle is that a government can form and function as long as it tolerated by the Riksdag. This is fundamentally unchanged since 1917 (see Bergman 1995). In keeping with such traditions and norms, the new vote is not about who gets the most votes, rather it is a mandatory confidence vote and an incumbent Prime Minister has to resign only if more than half of (175 or more) all MPs vote against him.

So, does the new vote change anything, in the sense that things would be different if it had not been mandated? Not much, is probably the correct answer, but a few aspects still deserve to be mentioned. For one thing, the parliamentary party groups have to consider how to vote (yes, no or abstain) and because of the way that the vote is constructed, abstaining has the same real effect as voting yes. And this, abstaining, can then easily be interpreted as support!

If the new party Feminist Initiative gets enough votes, there might be 9 parties in the Swedish Riksdag. With nine parties, and if the parties join coalitions only as unitary actors, there are in theory 512 possible outcomes, 512 different governments that could potentially form (if we include the possibility of a non-partisan cabinet, 511 combinations otherwise). With eight parties, the number today, there are 256 hypothetical outcomes.

One of the 2010 potential coalitions, the four government parties in the “Alliance”, have in the period 2010-2014 managed to steer most of their government proposals through the Riksdag. The latest newcomer party in the Riksdag, the Sweden Democrats (SD), is not “coalitionable”, but in parliamentary decision-making, the party actually often agrees with the three (center-left) Red-Green opposition parties. Even slightly more often it agrees with the Alliance government. However, when “push comes to show”, according to figures from the parliamentary research service (RUT), and information which appeared in the media in January 15 2014, when the Sweden Democrats had the chance to decide which side would win, i.e., when they were pivotal, in 9 of 10 cases they voted with the government! In that sense, the government is dependent on the Sweden Democrats (för mer nyanser, se Politologerna)

At the same time, the Government and especially the Prime Minister has often clearly denounced the SD and their views on asylum, immigration and integration policies. By agreeing on a deal with one of the Red-Green parties, the Green Party, the Government has ensured that the SD seems to have been less real influence in this area than could perhaps have been expected. This is in contrast to some local governments, where the SD seems to have had a much more direct impact (Bolin et al 2014).

The Alliance PM, Fredrik Reinfeldt, has indicated that the Alliance will only remain in power if it I remains bigger than the Red-Green party group. Or, rather, that it is “reasonable” that the biggest bloc forms the next government. But what will he do if the Sweden Democrats still can decide who wins majority votes? And what will the Red-Green parties do?

A minority government only including the Social Democrats and the Greens would have to rely on getting both the Left Party and at least one of tre current government parties to support its proposals. The same two parties with the Liberal Party would imply a real change in Swedish politics, and its long standing “two blocs pattern”. But perhaps neither is very likely? In fact, come October, Reinfeldt might still lead a government that is trying to govern, even if the Alliiance has fewer seats than the Red-Green parties.

Noteworthy is that come October, Reinfeldt will actually be able to continue in power unless the SD actively votes against the Alliance government – also if the SD abstain in the vote! Perhaps holding a vote will in this sense not make much difference, but it is somewhat ironic that a vote that has as its “founding father” the former PM Carl Bildt, will serve to demonstrate that the Reinfeldt government is actually quite dependent on the Sweden Democrats.


Torbjörn Bergman is professor of political science at Umeå University and head of the research project Governments in Europe at Södertörn University.