The Government is developing plans to support the Danish-led Iraq brigade with Norwegian troops. On 1 July, 500 professional Norwegian soldiers will be ready for deployment in conflict situations anywhere in the world, at ten days notice. The New Telemark Battalion is the pride of the Norwegian army, and a mission in Iraq could be the rapid deployment forces baptism of fire. Thorbjørn Jagland, chairman of the Stortings Foreign Affairs Committee, has declined to express an opinion on a possible Norwegian deployment in Iraq before he knows what such a mission might entail. “If the UN is kept completely out of the rebuilding phase, I think it would be difficult for Norway to contribute,” he said.
Biggest wage rises in Europe (Dagens Næringsliv)
Norwegian wage-earners had the highest growth in salaries in the whole of western Europe last year. The increase in real wages was six times more than the EU average. In terms of pay, 2002 was the best year for Norwegian employees for 27 years. Norways clear lead when it comes to real wages seems unassailable. The growth in real wages in Norway was more than twice that of the second-placed country, Luxembourg. Salaries in Norway increased by 4.7 per cent after inflation. The EU average was a rise of 0.7 per cent.
Work means less and less (Dagbladet)
While Norwegians put as much emphasis on family, friends, health and security as before, there are significantly fewer people who think work is the most important thing in life. Before Christmas, three-quarters of all Norwegians said that work was important or very important. Just before Easter, only two-thirds thought that work was among the most important things in life. At the same time, the proportion of Norwegians who do not think work is important rose from 15 to 30 per cent. In other words, almost one third of a representative sample of Norwegians think that working is not important.
Labour trying to pressure Christian Democrats into accepting price cap (Aftenposten)
Labour leader Jens Stoltenberg is not giving up on his demand for a statutory maximum price for a pre-school day-care place. “Obviously, we stand fully behind the pre-school day-care reform, which is an agreement to implement the Christian Democrats own election promise,” he said. Centre Party leader Åslaug Haga is willing to negotiate with regard to the price cap. “We must prevent a situation in which families with small children end up as losers in a game of party political point scoring. We want to achieve as broad a compromise as possible so that we can create a durable scheme, rather than the current fragile compromise that can be altered at the next available opportunity,” she said. The Socialist Left Party claims the difference of opinion is unfortunate and could sow doubts about the opposition parties commitment to implementing their pre-school day-care reform package.
7,000 foreigners receive unemployment benefit (Dagsavisen)
One in twelve people out of work in Norway is a foreign national. The Directorate of Labour does not have any routines for checking whether they are actually in the country or are real job-seekers. “We have no indications that foreign nationals cheat more than Norwegian citizens do,” said Anne Bisgaard of the Directorate of Labour. However, employee representatives at the directorate claim that welfare cheats get away with it because the growing number of unemployed means the directorate does not have the capacity to demand that benefit claimants present themselves in person for routine checks.
Norwegians say no to tax cuts (Nationen)
Despite industrial closures and the relocation of factories abroad, most Norwegians remain unmoved by political strikes and the urgent cries for help from industrial workers. Nor have gloomy unemployment forecasts made people think about the needs of the business sector, according to a survey carried out by Sentio-Norsk Statistikk. Only eight per cent of those questioned said that tax-cuts for businesses should be given the highest priority, while over 40 per cent said that education should top the list. In second place was care for the elderly, with 36 per cent saying that this was the most important priority.
Support for EU membership growing among Socialist Left voters (Dagbladet)
A majority of Progress Party and Socialist Left Party voters are now in favour of Norway joining the EU. But the relative strength of supporters and opponents of EU membership is approximately the same as it was in March. 45.4 per cent of the population thinks that Norway should join the EU, while 33.2 per cent are against EU membership. 21.3 per cent have not yet made up their minds. Last autumns change in public opinion, from opposition to support for EU membership, has held steady. But one voter in five has not yet made up his or her mind. This is enough to tip the balance one way or the other.
Stock exchange losing major shipping lines (Aftenposten)
In the past four years alone the Oslo Stock Exchange has lost major shipping lines valued at around NOK 30 billion. Included in this figure is Norways largest shipping line, Bergesen d.y. For many years the Oslo Stock Exchange has been working hard to become one of the worlds leading shipping exchanges but without success. The Norwegian shipping sector has a unique level of expertise, due, among other things, to the presence of shipping companies, shipbrokers, shipping banks and Det Norske Veritas. It was therefore hoped that this would encourage international shipping lines to list their shares on the Oslo Stock Exchange. It has not turned out that way. Major international shipping lines are more attracted by the bustling capital markets in London and New York. “Developments on the Oslo Stock Exchange have been negative in relation to the original objective, which was to turn it into an international shipping exchange,” said Marianne Lie, chief executive of the Norwegian Shipowners Association.
- In Tromsø yesterday, Svein Gjedrem, Governor of the Norwegian Central Bank, gave a clear indication that a further cut in interest rates could be expected at the end of the month, though he did not reveal how big the cut might be. His message was that we are in a phase with a gradual easing of interest rate levels.
- For a year and a half, the Coast Guard leased the passenger ship Askepott for NOK 10,000 a day without it ever being used operationally. So far, Askepott has cost the tax-payer a dizzying NOK 6 million. To no purpose.
- Single-person households make up the fastest growing group in the country, according to the last census in 2001. At that time, almost 38 per cent of all households consisted of only one person four percentage points more than ten years ago.
- Jan Erik Korssjøen, chief executive of Kongsberg Gruppen, received a pay rise of NOK 667,000 last year. Both Roar Flåthen, vice president of the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO), and Jens Ulltveit-Moe, president of the Confederation of Norwegian Business and Industry (NHO), were members of the board that approved the pay rise.
- If Norwegian teenagers choose to follow the nutritional advice issued by Gro Harlem Brundtland, head of the World Health Organization, they will have to say goodbye to both carbonated soft drinks and sweets. An average Norwegian 13-year-old packs away 40 kg of sugar each year. That amounts to 18 per cent of all the calories he or she consumes.
- Norwegian authorities must be tougher and give us consumers clear recommendations when it comes to sugar consumption. The Health Minister should start by getting rid of the soft drinks dispensers located in school buildings, according to nutritionists.
- Electricity prices this summer will probably twice as high as they were last summer. The countrys hydro-electric power reservoirs are almost empty.
- For the first time in 13 years, the leadership of the Church of Norway is due to have a meeting with the Prime Minister and three cabinet ministers. The main point of discussion will be the Churchs strained financial situation. It needs several hundred million kroner in emergency aid.
- Four out of five people lose their concentration and work more slowly in an open office landscape. And it is far from certain that such solutions promote a feeling of team spirit in the workplace.
- According to Jan Petersen, when he looks back on his period as leader of the Conservative Party ahead of this weekends annual conference grooming potential successors has been more important than being a member of the Government.
- It could be a real dog day afternoon on Oslos main street, Karl Johans gate, today. Norwegian dog-owners are gathering to protest against the proposed new dog control legislation. Dog-owners are demanding that the Storting send the proposed bill back to the Government so that some of its provisions can be eliminated or modified. What has provoked particularly strong reactions is the proposal that certain breeds should be banned, even though they are not considered dangerous by the Norwegian Kennel Club.
- The temperature climbed to 19.80C in Rygge yesterday. The thermometer stopped at 180C in Rome. There is nothing unusual about that, according to the experts at the Norwegian Meteorological Institute. From Saturday the temperature will fall by a half, they say.
Todays comment from Dagsavisen
While the Norwegian population was busy packing their suitcases in preparation for the Easter holiday on the Friday before Palm Sunday, history was being made. For the first time ever, palace officials published the annual report and financial accounts of the royal family. This is the latest in the moves towards modernization that King Harald initiated when he came to the throne in 1991. The Norwegian people are divided in their attitude to the monarchy. A greater number than before feel the monarchy as an institution has outlived itself. But the royal family is still held in great affection by the people. The document published at the Palace before Easter demonstrates that the King, his family and the palace staff are skilled at adapting to the times in which we live. The royal family shows almost the same candour as any other business enterprise or organization of major significance in society. Perhaps the most important part of the Palaces annual report is the royal diary, the record of how the royal family has spent its time and how it has prioritized its public appearances. The diary shows an enormous variety in the type of representation undertaken. 48 local authorities in 16 counties received a royal visit. However, what has not been revealed to the public is which invitations the members of the royal family turned down last year.