Anne Wibble was an economist and the first woman to be appointed Minister of Finance in Sweden.
Anne Wibble was born in 1943. She was the third child of Bertil Ohlin, leader of the Liberal People's party and recipient of the Nobel prize for economics, and his wife Evy Ohlin. Anne Wibble followed in her father’s footsteps, becoming both an economist and a member of the Liberal People's party. She studied at and then worked as a teacher at Handelshögskolan (college of commerce) in Stockholm for just over ten years. She gained her licentiate in 1973, for which she wrote a dissertation on selective economic policy.
Her career within the Liberal People's party began a bit later. During the 1977–1985 period she held several positions, including that of municipal councillor in Täby, an expert with the ministry of labour from 1980–1982, followed by the role of administrator within the Liberal People's party parliamentary offices. She served as the head of office from 1983–1986.
Due to the so-called Westerberg-effect – a time when the Liberal People's party enjoyed rapid success under the leadership of Bengt Westerberg – Anne Wibble entered parliament herself in 1985. She quickly established herself as the leading conservative politician within the sphere of economics. One of her achievements was being part of the “tax reforms of the century”, which were brought forward following negotiations with the Social Democratic party government during the 1989–1990 period. She thus saw the Liberal People's party's and Bertil Ohlin’s old mantra of “it must pay to be in employment” become reality.
Following electoral victory in 1991 Anne Wibble was the first woman to be appointed Minister of Finance in Sweden as part of the new conservative government. Not only did she command a thorough knowledge of economics but she also had a deep work ethic, psychological strength, and benefited from an inner sense of well-being. These qualities would come in handy. The Swedish economy was nearly in freefall when the new government was being set up. Nevertheless a whole year would pass before the economic crisis became serious.
The conservative government had opted to maintain the previous government’s currency policy, tying the Swedish Krona to the European currency, known as the Ecu (the precursor to the Euro). Following the result of the June 1992 referendum in Denmark, in which the Danes voted against the Maastricht treaty, a period of instability arose within the European exchange markets which placed the Swedish Krona under serious pressure. The crisis enabled the government to come to agreements with the Social Democratic party on two occasions regarding major savings within national finances. Nevertheless, crisis management was not enough to ease pressure on the Krona. On 19 November 1992 the Swedish Riksbanken scrapped the exchange rate and the currency value plummeted. The crisis management put in place during the autumn did, however, manage to establish a solid basis for continued economic policies.
Anne Wibble completed the rationalisation policy, which allowed the national economy to begin recovering towards the end of the government’s period in power. She pushed through several reforms which had long-term impacts on economic developments. This included making Riksbanken independent, deregulating the telecoms industry and others, dismantling the costly mortgage system, and introducing a new budget.
Anne Wibble’s political colleagues in the finance department have testified to her unpretentious and unassuming personality. As a leader she was attentive and practical. Her many female associates came to be known as “Wibble’s girls”. She herself was, however, careful to always point out that she chose her co-workers according to their skills, not in order to fulfil symbolic quotas.
Following electoral defeat in 1994 Anne Wibble returned to parliament. Once Bengt Westerberg had announced his decision to resign after the election she put herself forward as a candidate for party leader. At the party’s extraordinary national assembly held in February 1995 she only just lost out to Maria Leissner.
In 1997 Anne Wibble withdrew from party politics in order to take on the role of chief economist for Industriförbundet (the federation of industry). She continued to play an active role within societal polemics until the cancer illness which finally ended her life made it impossible to do so. Anne Wibble died in Stockholm in 2000. Her grave lies at the Galärvarv cemetery in Djurgården in Stockholm.