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“The Swedish state is not prepared to own car factories”


 

Too bad, Saab. How can Sweden just let an industrial pillar go like that? That’s a complex question. The decision, like every decision any government anywhere makes these days, will strike many as wrongheaded. I’m not sure how much of Sweden’s employment is attributable to Saab; it may well be lower than the fraction of Canada’s (or Ontario’s…) employment that depends on the Big 3. But if Sweden’s centre-right government believes the country’s future need not look like its past, this chart may offer part of the answer:

This is a chart of GERD, gross expenditure on research and development (here shown as the sum of business expenditure, or BERD, and government effort). It’s a rough measure of how much a country spends on new ideas. Canada’s at 13, the U.S. is at 5, and Sweden’s at No. 1. (For the past five years, successive Canadian governments have tried to make our performance look better by saying Canada “spends more on university-based research than any other G7 country,” a nice distraction from both our mediocre private-sector R&D effort and the stronger university-based effort of non-G7 countries like Israel and… Sweden.)

Sweden may be more comfortable letting go of its past, in other words, because it has made such a determined head start on its future.


 
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