10 March 2003


Expansion abroad – job cuts at home (Dagens Næringsliv)

Since 2000, Norway’s largest companies have increased the number of people they employ abroad by 30,000, and slashed 10,000 jobs at home. A study carried out by the Foundation for Research in Economics and Business Administration shows that Norwegian companies have been expanding their foreign operations for a long time, while here has been no growth in Norway. In 1980, the country’s 30 largest industrial corporations had almost all of their employees located in Norway. In 1990, that figure had dropped to two-thirds, and now less than half of all jobs at these companies are located in Norway. This is a global trend, but factors such as the high level of costs and the strong Norwegian krone have speeded up the process in Norway.

Halvorsen warned party of enemies at the door (Dagsavisen)

As the Socialist Left Party’s annual conference drew to a close this weekend, the last thing party leader Kristin Halvorsen did was to warn her fellow activists to beware of external enemies. “We are in a very exciting situation. But with support for the party topping the 20 per cent mark, the forces of opposition are starting to mobilize. We will have to take more flak, but we can also expect more invitations,” she said.

2004 budget tougher than this year’s (Dagsavisen)

The 2004 national budget will be even tougher than this year’s, but Finance Minister Per-Kristian Foss has not given up hope of including further tax cuts. At the same time, Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik is promising more local government funding next year. “It will be more difficult, but we have not abandoned our tax cut hopes,” said Mr Foss. However, Mr Bondevik indirectly admitted that there is a tug-of-war going on between the ruling coalition partners over tax cuts and welfare spending.

Jagland: Budget process needs rethinking (Aftenposten)

Former Labour leader Thorbjørn Jagland lost his grip on the budget process and was driven from pillar to post during his term as Prime Minister. Now he says it is high time for a rethink about how the national budget gets adopted. The ruling coalition parties are now considering a scheme whereby unfunded public expenditure provisions voted by the Storting outside the framework of the budget process should be viewed as tentative until they have been included in one of the Storting’s twice-yearly reviews of the complete national budget structure. The objective is to get better control over increases in public expenditure. As Prime Minister, Thorbjørn Jagland was himself forced to accept huge public expenditure increases, which the Christian Democratic Party demanded in return for their support for the Labour government’s total budget package. Now he wants new mechanisms to be put in place. According to Mr Jagland, there must be room for measures to be prioritized rather than following the principle of first come, first served.

Minister calls for relaxation of rules restricting sale of smallholdings (NTB)

Agriculture Minister Lars Sponheim is calling for a change in the rules to make it easier for people who are not directly engaged in farming to move to rural areas. Together with the development of a new and varied business base in country districts, the new rules for buying and selling smallholdings are intended to stem the tide of people moving to the towns and cities, leaving farms standing idle and deserted.

Schools failing immigrant children (Aftenposten)

Children from ethnic minorities are subject to widespread discrimination and racism in schools, according to a report by the Immigration Directorate. Immigrant organizations view the problems in schools to be greater than in the local community or the workplace. “School is a child’s most important arena for integration, but schools are not managing to ensure this happens in a satisfactory way,” said Manuela Ramin-Osmundsen, the Immigration Directorate’s deputy leader. According to the report, schools themselves contribute to immigrant children continuing to be harassed, ridiculed and excluded.

Norwegian aid worker found dead in Liberia (Vårt Land/Saturday)

A white man has been found dead near the vehicle belonging to missing Norwegian aid worker Kåre Lund. It is now thought highly likely that the body is that of Mr Lund, who has been missing for a week. Mr Lund worked for the aid organization ADRA.

1. Worth Noting

  • A tougher labour market and an increase in social activism are the main reasons why membership of the Federation of Norwegian Professional Associations grew by 5 per cent last year. “Many people seek the security of the trade union movement when they feel their job situation is getting more insecure. This is particularly true of employees in the companies that are most exposed to foreign competition,” said the Federation’s general secretary Tove Storrødvann.

  • The Socialist Left Party’s annual conference supports the Government’s proposals to relocate central government agencies out of Oslo.

  • In an open letter to the Government, Bishop Gunnar Stålsett writes that the Iraq issue should be transferred to the UN General Assembly. Former Liberal leader Gunnar Barbo and a number of peace researchers have also given their support to the letter.

  • In a consultation paper to be distributed this week, the Ministry of Health is proposing to make it a punishable offence to fail to report any incidence of genital mutilation that an individual becomes aware of through his or her work. Professional groups such as healthcare workers, teachers and religious leaders are specifically mentioned in the legislative proposal, which would mean that Muslim clerics who become aware that young women are threatened with such abuse, must report the fact to the authorities.

  • One woman was killed by her partner on 8 March, international women’s day. Since the start of the year, eight women have been killed by their male partners.

2. Today’s comment from Dagens Næringsliv

There are difficult times ahead for Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik and his team of ministers. Many of them may already think that it is difficult to be in office, but so far the Government has enjoyed a large measure of luck. During its previous budgetary efforts, it has been blessed with the arrival of unexpected revenues, which have been used to smooth cooperation between the various coalition partners. The Norwegian economy is now heading for recession. Public spending on unemployment measures is rising, tax revenues are falling and the return on investment of the Government Petroleum Fund is less than expected. Despite this, the Conservatives still want more tax cuts, the Christian Democrats want more money for local government and foreign aid, and the Liberals are standing firm on their demand for more cash for the public transport sector. All of these are worthy issues, but if the Government is to retain its credibility, overall budgetary considerations must weigh heaviest.