18 February 2003


No need to send patients abroad for treatment (Aftenposten)

While the Government spent several hundred million kroner sending patients abroad for hospital treatment, there was enough spare capacity to treat most of them in Norway. And, according to a recent study of public and private hospitals, the price per patient treated was up to 60 per cent higher abroad than at home. Norwegian national health hospitals and private clinics report that they had available capacity to treat 7,000 patients. That is almost 5,000 more than were sent abroad for treatment.

Progress Party to establish branches in Spain (Dagsavisen)

The Progress Party is planning to establish branches in Benidorm, Alicante, Torrevieja and other Norwegian ‘colonies’ in Spain. “I have not met anyone over there who is not a Progress Party sympathiser,” said party secretary Geir Mo. “I expect we will organize a kind of inaugural meeting next time Carl I. Hagen is in Spain – probably during the Easter holiday,” he said. It is planned that the Oslo branch of the Progress Party will have organizational responsibility for the local Spanish branches. However, the Spanish Progress Party will also send delegates to the party’s national conferences.

Two women take helm at Centre Party (Aftenposten)

Two women are set to lead the Centre Party out of the political shadowlands. Åslaug Haga (43) is to take over as party chairwoman, while Marit Arnstad (40) becomes leader of the party’s parliamentary group. “I think this could be dynamite. I do indeed,” said Ms Haga, a career diplomat with deep roots in Norwegian rural society. Her father, Hans Haga, was for many years one of the heavyweights in Norwegian agricultural policy. A unanimous selection committee yesterday proposed Ms Haga to take over from Odd Roger Enoksen. Lars Peder Brekk makes a comeback as deputy leader, while Liv Signe Narvarsete continues as second deputy leader.

Foss rebuts Stoltenberg criticism (Dagens Næringsliv)

Finance Minister Per-Kristian Foss has accused Jens Stoltenberg of getting himself in a twist after the Labour leader attacked the Government for not having a particularly tight budget, while at the same time spending NOK 3 billion extra. Mr Foss points to the fact that Labour has forced through tax concessions in connection with the pre-school day-care reform amounting to NOK 1-2 billion. The party has also just voted in favour of extending the net-wages scheme to all seamen – which will result in several hundred million in lost tax revenues. And late yesterday, the Labour Party and the rest of the opposition voted to increase the level of housing benefit in compensation for this winter’s exceptionally high electricity bills by at least NOK 300 million more than the Government’s original proposal. According to Mr Foss, the Labour Party’s additional spending allocations add up to “at least NOK 3 billion” – without the funding for any of this being included in the 2003 budget. “The demand for a tight budget must apply throughout the whole year, not just in November,” he said.

EU could weaken Norway’s insider-trading regulations (Nettavisen)

A new EU directive could force Norway to drop its new, tougher rules on insider trading. Following an amendment to the Securities Trading Act eighteen months ago, Norway has one of the world’s strictest set of regulations against insider trading. A recently adopted EU directive on the abuse of the securities market could mean that the Norwegian rules must be toned down to a common European level. “An important issue in this context is whether the directive is a so-called full-harmonization measure, which means that a country may not have stricter rules than the directive indicates. In that case, we would have to consider whether the demand for significance, which was removed from the Norwegian legislation when it was tightened up, would have to be reintroduced,” said Frede Aas Rognlien, an attorney with the Association of Norwegian Stockbroking Companies. Countries have eighteen months from the publication of an EU directive in which to implement it in national legislation.

Impossible to check all asylum seekers, says Minister (Dagbladet)

According to Local Government and Regional Affairs Minister Erna Solberg, the machinery for processing asylum seekers is overloaded. “Last year, 17,500 asylum seekers arrived here. It is impossible for us to carry out a psychiatric evaluation of everyone who comes,” she said. Despite this, she feels that it is necessary to improve the psychiatric care offered to refugees. The Immigration Directorate was due to open what is described as a reinforced unit at Nes in Romerike on 1 February. But it has been postponed following local authority opposition. The Bondevik government has abolished Norwegian language tuition for asylum seekers and reduced the number of hours of legal aid they receive. Lawyer Arild Humlen, who chairs the Bar Association’s commission on asylum law, believes these measures have worsened the situation for asylum seekers. This year there have been five incidents involving knife attacks at refugee reception centres up and down the country.

NORAD hands out NOK 1 billion (NTB)

This year the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) will hand out a total of NOK 1 billion in grants to 28 voluntary organizations. The largest amounts go to Norwegian Church Aid, which gets NOK 180 million, the Norwegian Interdenominational Office for Development Cooperation (BN), which gets NOK 137.4 million, Save the Children, NOK 115 million, and the Norwegian People’s Relief Association, NOK 102.5 million. Most of the 28 organizations have worked closely with the NORAD for a number of years. This year NORAD is giving priority to projects in the least developed countries and to educational projects, in addition to measures supporting sustainable development. The grants account for around a quarter of NORAD’s total budget.

Still thousands of knives in hand-baggage (Dagsavisen)

10,000 knives and 69 firearms were seized from passengers’ hand-baggage at Gardermoen airport last year. Airport management is surprised by the figures. “We have large posters at all the check-in counters telling passengers that these items are not permitted, and there has been a great deal of media attention focused on this issue. The most astonishing incident was probably when we discovered ten large kitchen knives in one passenger’s hand-baggage,” said Jo Kobro, spokesman for Gardermoen Airport. The number of firearms seized by security officials last year was significantly less than the year before: 69 in 2002, compared with 290 in 2001.

Worth Noting

  • Several remand prisoners have been released recently because there were no prison cells available to house them. The Ministry of Justice now plans to create 78 new places. Justice Minister Odd Einar Dørum says that he is concerned by the increase in violations of the 24-hour rule, which states that no one may be held in a police gaol cell for more than 24 hours.

  • “We need all the luck we can get to bring the project to fruition,” said Cultural Affairs Minister Valgerd Svarstad Haugland to those opera fans who had turned out to witness the Minister turn the first symbolic spade of earth at a ground-breaking ceremony for the new national opera house at Bjørvika in Oslo yesterday. But controversy still rages about how the area around the new opera house should be redeveloped.

  • American investors have sharply increased their stake in Statoil. More than 40 per cent of the company’s tradable shares are now in American hands. Since the company was floated in June 2001, foreign investors have dominated Statoil’s list of shareholders. At that time the company’s advisers thought that a quarter of Statoil’s shares would end up in American hands.

  • The shipyard Fosen Mek. Verksteder in Rissa, South Trøndelag, is planning to lay off most of the 160 employees remaining on the company’s payroll. In less than three weeks the coastal steamer Midnattsol will sail from Rissa, and the shipyard’s order books are completely empty.

  • The hunt is on for more women to sit on companies’ boards of directors. Headhunters and the most attractive women directors report a rush of requests. Trade and Industry Minister Ansgar Gabrielsen is threatening to introduce legislation to force public limited companies to ensure that 40 per cent of their board members are women, if they have not done so voluntarily by 2005. Last year, 6.5 per cent of Norwegian company directors were women.
    (Dagens Næringsliv)

Today’s comment from Dagbladet

May the gods, the archaeologists and the economy align themselves in such a way as to allow our new opera house to rise elegantly out of the sea at Bjørvika in Oslo, unhampered by budget overruns, ancient historical finds or cowboy building contractors. Cultural Affairs Minister Valgerd Svarstad Haugland’s first earth-turning gesture, from the cab of an excavator, was far from the first act in this long-running drama. It has now been going on for so long that we all think of it as a never-ending saga. We would like to remind readers that it is four years since the Storting decided that the opera house should be built at Bjørvika. That decision came after many, many years of heated public debate. We would also like to request that the choices made by the Directorate of Public Construction and Property and Bjørn Simonsen, head of the Norwegian National Opera, with regard to construction techniques, project planning and artistic prerequisites are sufficiently wise that people like Carl I. Hagen have no grounds for further carping and criticism. This is what we are praying for as we wait for our magnificent, national cultural monument to open in 2008.