Sweden, Land of Prosperity

Mauritius Times – 60 Years

By B. Ramlallah

On October 20th, the Uritsky set sail from Copenhagen to Stockholm. After twenty-four hours of travel towards the North Pole in the Baltic Sea, it came across a few islets. These islets were nothing less than huge blocks of oval grey and white granite. Then, other islets, bigger than the previous ones, appeared. They were covered with green Soothfir trees interspersed with yellow-leaved birch trees. A few red-roofed bungalows were perched on them.

Just then, the port pilot mounted on board. I thought that in a few minutes we would reach the port. But to my amazement and delight, the ship kept on gliding and steering cautiously at half speed between scores of islets for three hours in the bay of Stockholm. The water was dark green and as calm as a lake. We rushed to the top deck and from there had a full view of the islets around us. Though the sun was not shining, the sight was marvellous. The yellow leaves of the birch trees mingled with the green leaves of the fir trees, superimposed by red-roofed bungalows, all on brown and white granite, presenting a most wonderful, unforgettable sight.

On the left side of the quay of Stockholm stands a huge granite rampart about 100 feet high and a quarter of a mile long. It is evenly cut throughout its length, and from place to place, tunnels have been dug into the rocks. At Stockholm, I was received by Rector Richard Hakansson, the Director of the Swedish Agricultural Information Office. He was recommended to me by the Swedish Embassy in London. We had a long talk on Swedish agriculture and the fishing industry of Sweden. He gave me some pamphlets dealing with these subjects.

*  *  *

Sweden, the largest of the Scandinavian states, presents a variety of landscapes. Its wide forests, expansive views, and thousands of lakes make it a tourist’s paradise. It enjoys a relatively temperate climate due to the warm Gulf Stream that washes its western coast.

Sweden has a bicameral parliamentary system. The executive power is vested in the King-in-Council. The king is bound to accept the advice of his ministers chosen from the majority group. The highest judiciary power is vested in the King’s Supreme Court, and the legislative authority is shared between the king and Parliament. Parliament is all-powerful in the sphere of public finance.

Sweden has witnessed a series of varied post-war developments and experiments, including social security, old-age pensions, children’s allowances, and national health insurance. Workers are entitled to a three-week vacation every year, stipulated by law, and work 45 hours per week. Nine years of comprehensive schooling are being gradually introduced, and English is a compulsory subject in secondary schools.

The coalition government formed by the Social Democrats with the Agrarian Party broke up in 1947 over a disagreement on retirement pensions. The government had proposed a national retirement pension, with contributions to be paid by the employers. The motion was defeated due to the walk-out of the Agrarian Party from the government. But the Social Democrats, who had reinforced their majority, are confident to get the bill through this year. Large-scale social reforms have generally received the backing of all parties.

The government is committed to the creation of larger farms in the interest of greater efficiency. Since 1814, Sweden has not been at war with any country. She has at the same time stuck to her nonalignment policy. She is one of the few countries of Western Europe which is not a member of NATO. But to protect her independence and democratic institutions, a strong defence force is maintained. Because of her strict non-alignment policy, she is chosen from time to time for mediation assignments, as in the case of the Korean conflict. Mr Dag Hammarskjold’s election to the post of Secretary-General of the UN is a tribute to the respect which Sweden commands at the UNO.

To prevent the economic division of Western Europe, Sweden is strongly committed to the creation of a European free trade area. Although Sweden, Denmark, and Norway differ in their policies, they work closely together in the economic, social, and cultural spheres.

The Swedish judicial system has been recently revised. The jury, in the Anglo-American sense, is only resorted to in press libel suits. In ordinary trials, a panel of elected laymen is used instead. Judges in the lower courts are assisted by panels of 7-9 laymen, popularly elected for long periods. Contrary to Anglo-American practice, the Swedish panel also has a voice in deciding the punishment. The judge may be overruled by seven members of this group.

Cases dealing with questions of administration and administrative law are eventually referred to a supreme administrative court. Three supreme court justices and one member of the supreme administrative court constitute the law council, which examines most bills before they are presented to parliament. The highest prosecuting authority is the state prosecutor, while the Attorney General, as the chief law supervisor, oversees the observance of the law and maintains a check on all officers. Both are appointed by the government. The 1000 members of the Bar Association may style themselves advocates or attorneys. There is no segregation of lawyers into barristers and solicitors. An accused who cannot afford the services of a lawyer can get legal help free of charge.

There is no death penalty in Sweden. There are 38 walled penal institutions and 43 open ones. The inmates of the open institutions often live in camps. They are engaged in farming, lumbering, road construction, and are paid for their work.

The Swedes were converted to Christianity in the ninth century. Almost all belong to the Lutheran church, which is financed from its own funds and taxes. Roman Catholics number about 30,000. By law, Lutheranism must be the faith of the king. As of this year, women will be admitted to Holy orders. Various church organizations provide care to Swedish sailors in many ports of the world. Widespread missionary work is carried on by the church. In 1954, about 1,500 Swedish missionaries were serving in Africa and India.

6th Year – No 275
Friday 20th November, 1959

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