Our pre-school day-care agreement has a parliamentary majority behind it. It will be implemented, said the Socialist Left Partys Øystein Djupedal. Both he and the rest of the opposition have accused the Government of not wanting to spend enough money on pre-school day-care. The opposition parties took a risk when they voted in favour of a price cap on pre-school nursery fees last spring, said Children and Family Affairs Minister Laila Dåvøy when she presented the Governments report on pre-school day-care yesterday. With comments to the effect that a price cap was a bad and inequitable solution, the disagreement between the two sides once again bust into open conflict yesterday.
Government steering towards head-on collision (Dagsavisen)
The ruling coalition parties are fortifying their emplacements in preparation for the battle over pre-school day-care that will be fought out in the Storting this spring. A head-on clash seems likely. The possibility of the Government being toppled moved a step closer this weekend, as the Bondevik-led coalition prepares for a head-on clash with the opposition parties over all parts of their pre-school day-care reform. From what Dagsavisen has learned, the Government will completely ignore the parliamentary majoritys wish to grant tax exemption for nursery places paid for by parents employers, when the local government bill is introduced in June. This bill will contain the Governments plans for how reduced nursery fees and full nursery provision for all children can be achieved.
No climb-down over tax exemption (Verdens Gang)
Progress Party chairman Carl I. Hagen is refusing to budge over what the Government hates most of all tax exemption for nursery places paid for by parents employers. Mr Hagen has stated categorically that the Progress Party will not breach its written agreement on pre-school day-care with the Socialist Left Party, the Labour Party and the Centre Party. But Mr Hagen has gone one step further. He has told VG that the Progress Party will use the right of veto that the party has under the terms of the agreement to stop any attempt to negotiate away the tax exemption clause. Centrally placed sources in all three ruling coalition parties have described this as the most difficult point in the Governments dispute with the Storting.
Enthusiasm for EU membership cooling (Aftenposten)
58 per cent of those voters who have made up their minds say they would have voted in favour of Norway joining the EU, if there had been a referendum now. 42 per cent would have voted against. But the poll shows a steady decline in pro-EU membership numbers since the January poll, which showed that as many as 67 per cent of those who had made up their minds were in favour. This means the pro-EU lobby has dropped 10 percentage points in three months. Opponents of EU membership have made corresponding gains, from 33 per cent to 42 per cent.
Halvorsen more popular than Bondevik (Nationen)
Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondeviks popularity is waning. According to a recent poll, carried out by Sentio-Norsk Statistikk, more people would like to see Kristin Halvorsen, the leader of the Socialist Left Party, to be Prime Minister than the number of people who support Mr Bondeviks premiership. As many as 14.8 per cent of those polled said they wanted Ms Halvorsen to be Prime Minister, while only 11.8 per cent said they wanted Mr Bondevik to continue. Last year, Mr Bondeviks popularity rating stood at 25 per cent. This shows that more and more people are getting used to the idea of the Socialist Left Party in government office, said Ms Halvorsen.
Call for fraud squad to investigate WIF (Nationen/Saturday)
The aid organization Worldview International Foundation (WIF) has come in for severe criticism in a report commissioned by the Norwegian Foreign Ministry. According to the report, WIF spent Norwegian development assistance grants in violation with the agreement it had signed with Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD). WIF denies the accusations, but Carl I. Hagen, chairman of the Progress Party, has called for the organization to be investigated by the National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime. WIFs television company is thought to have earned millions of kroner as a result of work financed with Norwegian development assistance grants.
Stiffer sentences for repeat offenders (Verdens Gang/Saturday)
Yesterday, the Government launched a massive attack on crime in Norway. Stiffer sentences for repeat offences and new penalties are to be employed in an attempt to get rid of organized crime, people trafficking and habitual criminals, according to the proposals presented to the Storting by the Government yesterday. If more people are convicted or given longer sentences, where are they going to serve them? We do not have the prison capacity for this. We already have 2,500 convicted offenders waiting for their turn to serve their sentences. And when they do not get sent to prison straight away, what kind of preventive effect will stiffer sentences have? asked Roar Øverbø, leader of the Norwegian Prison and Probation Officers Union.
More Labour activists join employers ranks (Aftenposten)
The list of Labour Party members who have joined the ranks of the employers as front-line soldiers gets longer and longer. At the same time, the number of Conservatives in the Confederation of Norwegian Business and Industry (NHO) is getting smaller. The NHO is not a political organization. We support those political parties whose views coincide with our own. We think it is important to achieve diversity in our organization, and employ people on the basis of their skills and expertise, said NHO president Jens Ulltveit-Moe.
- Socialist Left Party deputy leader Øystein Djupedal has responded with a shrug of his shoulders to the Governments hard line on the issue of pre-school day-care. They will just have to resign. We are not going to miss them, he said.
- The Conservatives have made the biggest gains, while support for the Socialist Left Party has dropped the most, according to MMIs April tracker poll. Labour is once again the countrys most popular party, according to the poll, with the support of 23.6 per cent of the voters.
- The financial sectors leading economists all shot completely wide of the mark when they recommended mortgage-holders to fix interest rates last autumn. If you have a NOK 1 million mortgage and fixed your interest rate at 7.5 per cent, you stand to lose more than NOK 7,000 a year after tax.
- Public transport passengers travelling with Oslo Sporveier, do so without paying three times as often as public transport passengers in Stockholm, and over ten times as often as in Copenhagen. A new ticket system, designed to stop non-paying passengers, will not be ready for use before next year at the earliest.
- The EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) is planning to investigate whether the Oslo City Council sold 1,744 apartments reserved for hospital staff at under the market price unless the Norwegian authorities eliminate that suspicion within a period of 20 days. The purchasers are threatening to cancel the sale.
- After Gjensidige NORs rebel US investors sold their shares to Den norske Bank (DnB), the stock market no longer believes that any foreign bank will make a bid for Gjensidige NOR. The Norwegian Shareholders Association has criticized the Oslo Stock Exchange for allowing DnBs purchase.
- The bottom has dropped out of the market for luxury holiday homes. Holiday homes priced at over NOK 2 million are extremely difficult to sell, while more modest accommodation remains popular. 2002 was the best year ever with regard to holiday home sales. The level of sales is still increasing, but cannot keep pace with the sharp rise in the number of properties on offer.
- The royal family made a profit in 2002, according to its annual report published yesterday. For the first time ever, court officials have published details of the Palaces expenses and revenues.
Todays comment from Dagbladet/Sunday
On Friday, Children and Family Affairs Minister Laila Dåvøy announced her pre-school day-care report, which included the Governments proposed new reform package. The Government is giving priority to achieving full nursery provision, and has warned against the parliamentary majoritys demand for a price cap because it would make it more difficult to reach a situation in which there would be a nursery place available for all those who wanted one for their child. Nevertheless, Ms Dåvøy has signalled that the Government could implement the opposition parties pre-school day-care reform if the parliamentary majority sticks to its agreement and its resolution. Whether Ms Dåvøys bosses, Kjell Magne Bondevik, Per-Kristian Foss and Erna Solberg, will back down so easily, remains to be seen. In purely political terms, the scene is set for the Government to tough it out, since Jens Stoltenberg and the Labour Party do not want to take over the reins of power at this time, without the backing of a parliamentary majority. But Mr Bondevik does risk having to explain to the voters that the Government resigned because it did not want to introduce a price cap on nursery fees. No easy task in an election year.