Photo by Kielinstitute, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
In introducing my article on the death of Assar Lindbeck in Inroads 49, John Richards unfairly describes Lindbeck’s position on crisis management in Sweden in the early 1990s in comparing it to Canada. He writes,
Those of us over 50 can recall Canadian initiatives in the 1990s equivalent to those Lindbeck championed in Sweden. Ottawa limited access to unemployment insurance, reduced conditional transfers to provinces, and doubled Canada Pension Plan premiums. The provinces closed underused hospitals, rendered welfare assistance more difficult and severely constrained civil servants’ wages.
The Lindbeck Commission launched a very broad program – 113 proposals – for restoring economic stability, efficiency in the private and public sectors and economic growth. One of the many proposals was a reduction of central government expenditures amounting to 10 per cent of the total. Half of these reductions had already found their way into the government’s own proposed budget.
Therefore it is unfair to compare that program with how Canada handled its economic crises as described by John. Lindbeck was much more focused on structural reforms, such as the independence of the central bank in setting monetary and exchange policies and a budget process based on macroeconomic goals and priorities rather than wish lists.