Economics Professor: “The Swedish policy response to Covid-19 needs explaining”

Published: 2020-10-05

When the coronavirus hit the world in the spring of 2020, one economist often interviewed and quoted in the Swedish media, was Lars Jonung. He is Professor Emeritus of Economics at Lund University School of Economics and Management – and felt that he had much say during this crisis. After all, it is what his research is about. “I simply continue as usual,” he says.

You have been very active as an expert on economic crises, in Swedish and international media, during the coronavirus outbreak. You have talked about similarities and differences to earlier pandemics and explained the Swedish constitution. Why so active?

“My research is focused on economic crises. Thus, the pandemic has created a demand for my analysis and my views. It has given me an excuse to take part in the public debate again. Still, I have been active as a commentator on economic policy issues since the early 1970s. So, for me, it is simply business as usual.”

Why do you think that the Swedish constitution needs to be explained?

“The Swedish policy response to Covid-19 is exceptional by international comparison. The unique response is explained by three articles in the Swedish constitution:

The first guarantees the freedom of movement for Swedish citizens, ruling out nationwide lockdowns. The second establishes unique independence for public agencies, allowing them to design the policy response to the pandemic. The third grants exceptional powers to local government. This background needs explaining outside Sweden as well as inside.”

Do you have any contact with fellow researchers outside of Sweden? What do they have to say about the Swedish stance?

“I am in touch with a small number of pandemic-focused economists outside Sweden. All are fascinated by the Swedish corona-policy. They have sharply divergent opinions. Some are very critical while some are praising the Swedish way. Time will give us a verdict on the Swedish corona-policy. It is too early to give a firm evaluation by now.”

Longer interview available in Swedish