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by Euro Reporter
2011-09-21 07:30:41
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The unlikely Social Democrat

A little after midnight last Thursday, when all but the last of the ballots had been counted, a tall, thin, blond woman in her mid-forties strode smilingly up on a stage in Copenhagen to acknowledge victory and claim her place as Denmark’s next prime minister. Not only had she broken the Liberal party’s ten-year grip on the government and put the Social Democrats back in power after a decade in the opposition, she was about to become Denmark’s first female prime minister.

“Dear fellow party members,” Helle Thorning-Schmidt told the jubilant crowd of Social Democratic supporters gathered for the post-election party at Copenhagen’s Vega nightclub. “WE DID IT!” She ran on a campaign that promised to protect Denmark’s welfare state for the future and stimulate economic growth through social spending. More spending on education rebates for homebuyers, and investment in business start-ups. More taxation in the form of a toll ring around Copenhagen. She also promised to roll back the strict immigration rules introduced by the previous government, force the unemployed to work for their benefits, and increase the work week by one hour.

In her biography, ‘Helle talks to Ninka’ ('Helle i samtale med Ninka'), Thorning-Schmidt described herself as an average Dane, who had been “shaped” by the welfare system that has been Denmark’s hallmark since the 1960s – the same system she promised to reinvigorate. “I am a welfare society Dane. Someone before me made the welfare system I was born into and grew up in. I went to a public kindergarten and primary school that had just been built, and was in the municipal after-school programme. I am shaped by the welfare society,” Thorning-Schmidt said.

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EU ruling opens up Danish gambling online


Denmark has been given the green light to establish a market for online gambling by the European Commission in a ruling that, operators say, points the way to how other European countries should regulate the activity. The commission investigated Denmark’s plans to introduce lower taxes for online gambling than for land-based casinos after complaints from some existing gambling operators that the proposals amounted to state aid.

Denmark’s Gaming Duties Act proposes that operators offering online casino and gaming machines be subject to a 20 per cent tax on gross gaming revenues – the amount they retain after paying out winnings – compared with the 75 per cent duty imposed on some land-based casinos. The commission said while the lower rate did constitute state aid, it was compatible with European Union rules “because the positive effects of the liberalisation of the market outweigh the distortions of competition brought about by the measure”.

The Remote Gambling Association, which represents online operators, said there were clear and justifiable reasons to have different tax rates between the land-based and online forms of gambling. Clive Hawkswood of the RGA said: “In essence, land-based operations compete within physical national boundaries, whereas online companies are part of a highly-competitive international environment, and fiscal policy should be set accordingly. “Obviously, this has implications for other jurisdictions and their fiscal policies, both those that have opened their markets and those that are planning to do so in the near future.”

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Bernstein warns against fiscal stimulus to Danish economy


Danish central bank Governor Nils Bernstein said the Nordic nation’s economy will rebound and warned against resorting to fiscal stimulus in the current market climate. Denmark’s gross domestic product will grow 1.4 percent this year, versus a June estimate of 1.7 percent, the bank said in its quarterly report today. The economy will expand 1.6 percent in 2012 and 2013, it said. “The economy is slowly but surely returning to a normal track, so there’s no need to increase economic activity through fiscal policy,” Bernstein said in the statement.

Denmark is Scandinavia’s worst-performing economy, after a housing market bust and local banking crisis undermined consumer confidence. The new ruling bloc of Helle Thorning-Schmidt, who won last week’s national election, lured voters with a pledge to create jobs by spending 21 billion kroner ($3.9 billion) more a year than the outgoing administration of Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen, including initiatives to stimulate the frozen housing market.

“The current situation in the financial markets speaks in favour of exercising caution in fiscal policy,” Bernstein said. Denmark’s bond markets have so far enjoyed a haven status among investors eager to flee the euro area’s debt crisis. The central bank today said it sold 12.4 billion kroner of 2 percent 2014 bonds in an auction that was almost three times over- subscribed. The yield was 0.83 percent, compared with a yield of 1.21 percent in an Aug. 16 auction of the same bond.



        
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