Denmark in one of ‘darkest chapters in its economic history’: Finance Minister

Denmark's finance minister has said he expects the country's economy to shrink by between 3 and 6 percent in 2020 as a result of measures taken to control the coronavirus pandemic.

Denmark in one of 'darkest chapters in its economic history': Finance Minister
Finance Minister Nicolai Wammen arrives for the press conference on Thursday. Photo: Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix
“The second quarter of 2020 is set to become one of the blackest chapters in Danish economic history,” Nicolai Wammen said at a press conference held on Thursday morning. 
Even after the rapid action taken by the government to shore up businesses impacted by the heavy restrictions brought in to control the spread of coronavirus, unemployment has still shot up by 44,785, while 73,220 have been sent home without salary. 
Wammen warned that the real impact of the pandemic was still to come. Even if the country begins now to reopen its economy relatively rapidly over the coming months, the finance ministry still estimates that public finances to plummet from a healthy 5 percent surplus to a 2 percent deficit, while GDP will fall by 3 percent. 
If the crisis is more long-drawn-out, the deficit could be as much as seven percent, while GDP could fall by as much as 6 percent. A middle scenario of 'gradual reopening', meanwhile, would see a 4.5 percent drop in GDP and a 6 percent deficit. 
“We don't know yet whether it will be scenario one, two or three,” Wammen said. “The developments are so powerful that we do not know if the assessments will be outdated in just a few months.” 
Denmark's government has already pushed through over 270bn kroner ($40b)n worth of in emergency financial measures to help the economy cope with the lockdown enforced to stem the spread of the virus.
On Thursday, Wammen said that an extra 35 billion kroner ($5 billion) would be made available to small and mid-sized businesses.

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Danish government to serve vegetarian food only twice a week

Denmark's government is to force all government canteens to go vegetarian two days a week in a move to reduce national consumption of meat.

Danish government to serve vegetarian food only twice a week
Could this be the future of Danish government canteens? Photo: Olivier Douliery / AFP
According to Green Procurement for a Green Future, a new government procurement strategy announced on Thursday, all state-run kitchens will be required to serve only vegetarian food for two days a week. 
“I hope it will go down well with our employees. This is the government's proposal, it is not something we have agreed with others. And of course that is also something we have to discuss with the other political parties,” Finance Minister Nicolai Wammen told state broadcaster DR
“Put simply, this is one of the ways in which we can contribute to a smaller climate footprint – by having two days a week, where there is no meat on the menu in the state canteens. The other days you can have meat if you want.” 
As well as the two vegetarian days, the government has limited the number of days when beef and lamb can be served to just one a week. 
The new policy will apply to all the 85,000 people directly employed by the state, and may also apply to the 75,000 people employed in independent government agencies. 
The proposal may later be extended to independent institutions such as the train company DSB, schools, kindergartens and universities. 
After the announcement, Denmark's agriculture minister Mogens Jensen tweeted that with 800,000 meals served a day in public sector canteens, the decision could make a significant difference. 

The proposal has split Denmark, with the populist Danish people's party going so far as to call it “totally un-Danish”, and others complaining that the measure would not apply to canteens in the Danish parliament and ministerial offices, and that the government had not calculated what the impact of the measures would be on public sector emissions. 
“I'll eat whatever food's going, but I feel very irritated that someone wants to decide what kind of food that is,” said René Christensen, leader of the Danish parliament's environment and food committee. “It's totally un-Danish that others are going to decide what we eat for lunch.” 
Morten Messerschmidt, the party's vice chairman said that the proposals would even inspire him to eat more meat. 
“It's one thing for people to want to be vegans and vegetarians, and another thing to force people to,” he said. “I really think it's crazy.” 
On the other side, Carl Valentin, green spokesman for the Socialist Left party celebrated the decision. 
“It's simply so important to have two vegetarian days in state canteens,” he said. “To get our enormous meat use on the agenda has not been easy, but now we're moving.” 

Sikandar Siddique, leader of the Free Greens, said that the proposal was too unambitious. It whouldn't only be in government canteens, but all public sector ones, including schools and kindergartens.
Rita Bundgaard, chairman of HK Stat, which represents 23,000 government employees, complained about the proposal. 
“I cannot understand why we should be forced to have Tuesday and Thursday as green days, and then fish on Wednesdays. After all, I end up asking for a steak when I want to have a steak. I think I should have the opportunity to choose and combine what I put on my lunch plate, and I think everyone should be allowed to.”