30 April 2003


Foss plans to throw politicians out of Norwegian Central Bank (Aftenposten)

All five party political appointees should be removed from the executive board of the Norwegian Central Bank, according to Finance Minister Per-Kristian Foss. He wants to decide for himself who should set interest rates in Norway. Mr Foss does not necessarily want professional economists on the board, but is searching for people with “broad insight into society”. The Government is due to present its proposal today, at the same time as the Central Bank’s executive board decides whether there should be a further cut in interest rates to prop up Norway’s ailing economy. Today, the market has much less confidence in party politicians than in independent board members because politicians are suspected of taking unemployment and exchange rates into account when setting interest rates. Mr Foss now wants to sweep away all doubts. Election campaigns, opinion polls and political trends should no longer be suspected of influencing Central Bank decisions.

Cut in interest rates today (Dagsavisen)

Today, the Norwegian Central Bank will probably cut the base rate by 0.5 percentage points. A further cut in interest rates could come in June or August. However, it is unlikely to give the property market a boost, despite the falling trend in interest rates. People’s fear of losing their jobs is pulling in the opposite direction, and this force affects the property market much more strongly than a cut in interest rates, according to experts Dagsavisen has spoken to.

Bush drops Oslo visit (Dagbladet)

The White House never officially announced that President George W. Bush would be visiting Oslo, and is surprised that Norway perceives the fact that the President is not coming as a slap in the face. Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik was unfazed by the President’s decision. He had, at the same time, received confirmation that President Bush will receive him when he visits Washington on 16 May. Regardless of how keen the PM is to hobnob with US presidents, it is not difficult to understand that it would be rather over the top for Mr Bush to meet the Norwegian prime minister twice in just two weeks. The US president’s putative visit to Norway was scheduled for the end of May. Mr Bondevik denied that Mr Bush’s cancellation had anything to do with Norway’s opposition to the war in Iraq. “There are no political grounds for Mr Bush to cancel his visit. If there had been, we would certainly not have been invited to meet the President during our visit to Washington in a fortnight,” he said.

No strike in retail sector (NTB)

The Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO), the Confederation of Vocational Unions (YS) and the Federation of Norwegian Commercial and Service Enterprises (HSH) reached agreement on this year’s wage settlement in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Employees in the retail sector will therefore not be called out on strike. The deadline for agreement passed at midnight on Tuesday, but a deal was not finalized until five hours later – in the early hours of Wednesday morning. According to Geir Engebretsen, from the office of the State Mediator, the pay settlement is skewed in favour of low-paid employees in the same way as the agreement between the LO and the Confederation of Norwegian Business and Industry (NHO).

Government unable to halt rise in unemployment, says union boss (Dagsavisen)

Gerd-Liv Valla, president of the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO), does not believe the present government can combat today’s high level of unemployment, and fears that it will continue to rise in 2004. Nevertheless, she does not think there will be a change of government until the next general election in 2005. According to Ms Valla, the conflict over privatization and competitive tendering in the public sector will be the next major battles in the struggle to shape society’s future. “The Labour Party has not made its position on these issues clear enough,” she said. Ms Valla’s aim is first and foremost to halt the current rise in unemployment, and she feels that will be no easy task with more than 100,000 people now out of work.

Worth Noting

  • Norway’s King Harald became a grandfather for the first time when Princess Märtha Louise gave birth to a daughter yesterday evening. The baby, who has been named Maud Angelica, is third in line to the Norwegian throne.
    (All media)

  • The most expensive overnight stop in Norwegian history has been cancelled, to the relief of police officers and taxpayers alike. “President Bush was due to spend 14 hours on Norwegian soil, and the cost to the Oslo police force alone would have been well over NOK 30 million,” said Arne Jørgen Olafsen, head of the Norwegian Police Union.

  • The number of Norwegian pensioners who move abroad is rising steadily. At the end of 2002, 33,004 pensioners were living outside of Norway’s borders. In 1998, 23,514 Norwegian pensioners were living abroad. According to Hans Olav Kirkemo, a spokesman for the social security office dealing with international matters, last year NOK 1,885 billion was paid to Norwegian pensioners living outside of Norway.
    (Vårt Land)

  • Demand for private health insurance has grown since the Storting granted it tax-exemption with effect from January this year. The Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) is furious that a minority of people can buy their way out of national health hospital waiting lists. With the backing of the Progress Party, the Government gave tax-exemption to employers who purchase private health insurance for their employees. The employees themselves do not have to pay income tax on this benefit. The scheme came into effect from January this year, and the insurance industry has already noted an increase in demand.

  • The Government wants to promote stable family life, and is therefore planning to give cohabiting couples more rights and obligations. The Government is due to announce its Family Report today, and families with young children will be strongly in focus. “We are not going to put marriage and cohabitation on an equal footing. Our intention is to focus on the rights of children, also where the parents are living together without being married,” said Children and Family Affairs Minister Laila Dåvøy.
    (Vårt Land)

  • April looks set to become a record month on the Oslo Stock Exchange. Not since October 1998 has there been a sharper rise on the stock market than in April this year – and there is still one day of trading left. Yesterday, the main index rose by 3.5 per cent to 117.7 points. IT, telecom and bank shares, such as Den norske Bank and Gjensidige Nor, as well as the cruise line RCL, all led the way.
    (Dagens Næringsliv)

  • The Immigration Directorate will have to fork out more than NOK 1 billion in additional costs to test the age of refugees who claim to be minors. There is already a backlog of more than 100 asylum seekers who are waiting to be tested. Each test costs NOK 3,500.

Today’s comment from Dagsavisen

As the labour movement’s international day of solidarity gets underway tomorrow, more than 110,000 people in Norway are without a permanent job. Compared with other European countries, Norway’s unemployment rate is low. In many countries, reports of unemployment at four per cent, which is what we have in Norway, would be perceived as cause for celebration. Fortunately, in this country it is seen as a major problem for society that so many people do not have the opportunity to work. Unemployment is approaching Norway’s 1993 ‘record’, when 118,147 people were registered as being completely out of work. At that time, a further 50,000 were participating in various labour market schemes. Let us hope that things do not go as badly as they did 10 years ago. But with the labour market in such dire straits, this year’s May Day slogan, ‘Jobs for All’, could not be more appropriate.