9 May 2003


Stoltenberg feels sorry for Christian Democrats (Dagsavisen) 

“Actually, I feel a bit sorry for the Christian Democrats because they are being forced to implement policies they themselves are opposed to,” said Labour leader Jens Stoltenberg ahead of the Christian Democratic Party’s annual conference, which opens today. Mr Stoltenberg believes it would be more natural for the Christian Democrats to provide support for a Labour government rather than join a new coalition. “If I am to form a government, there has to be a reasonable basis for it. In a situation like that, I would put a few points on a list and go and talk with the Christian Democrats. There must be give and take on our side too,” said Mr Stoltenberg.

PM considers cut in high earners’ pensions (Dagbladet)

Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik has said he would consider cutting the supplementary pension paid to high earners in order to give a bigger basic pension to all. In doing so, he has jumped full square into the debate about taking from the rich and giving to the poor, which will probably be a key issue when the Christian Democratic Party’s annual conference gets underway today. The national insurance scheme’s supplementary pension comes in addition to the basic pension. It is calculated on the basis of the income the pensioner had while he or she was in employment. The higher the person’s income, the higher the supplementary pension – up to a certain limit. According to the National Insurance Administration, 90 per cent of today’s old age pensioners receive a supplementary pension.

Young Conservatives incensed by Svarstad Haugland’s comments (Verdens Gang)

Ine Marie Eriksen, leader of the Young Conservatives, says she is incensed by the fact that Christian Democratic Party chairwoman Valgerd Svarstad Haugland has thrown into doubt the continuation of the coalition partnership between the Christian Democrats and the Conservatives after the 2005 general election. “Conservative Party leader Jan Petersen was crystal clear in his loyalty to the Christian Democrats during his speech to the Conservative Party’s annual conference a few weeks ago. He does not deserve to be repaid like this,” said Ms Eriksen.

Cannot afford to expel asylum seekers (Aftenposten)

Norway is committed to paying for the return journey of people who are denied leave to stay in this country. This year, 2,881 people have been expelled. Around 2,200 of them were asylum seekers, the rest were deported as a result of convictions for criminal offences or because they had been staying in Norway illegally. Oslo’s police force is responsible for executing expulsion orders, and has already spent the NOK 162 million that was allocated for this purpose in this year’s budget. The Oslo police force has requested NOK 90 million in additional funding from the Ministry of Justice and the Police Directorate. If the money is not forthcoming, the police will have no other choice but to stop the deportation of asylum seekers whose applications have received a final rejection.

Minister warns SAS not to cut Norway’s role (Dagsavisen)

Trade and Industry Minister Ansgar Gabrielsen has warned SAS’s board of directors not to break the political agreement that the airline’s operations should be shared equally between Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Mr Gabrielsen is demanding that the agreement be upheld, and has contacted the Swedish and Danish governments on the matter. The Minister’s u-turn came on the same day as SAS announced that Arlanda in Sweden would be the airline’s new technical headquarters, a move which will lead to the loss of 1,000 jobs in Norway. Up until yesterday, Mr Gabrielsen had firmly maintained that the cost-cutting being implemented by SAS was a matter for the company’s board of directors, which politicians neither could nor should do anything about.

Lost faith in SAS (Verdens Gang)

Norwegian politicians have lost faith in SAS because of the rising number of jobs which the company is moving out of Norway. Yesterday, SAS’s management announced that Gardermoen would probably lose medium scale maintenance of the company’s aircraft. Management also wants to change the scheme which compels it to have an equal number of Norwegian, Swedish and Danish cabin crewmembers on international flights. “SAS stands for Scandinavian Airlines System. If that name is to mean anything in the future, we must keep our share of the jobs,” said Labour’s Olav Akselsen.

Labour calls for extension of unemployment benefit to three years (NRK/NTB)

The Labour Party wants to reintroduce the scheme whereby those out of work are entitled to receive unemployment benefit for a period of up to three years. The Government cut the benefit period to two years in last year’s national budget. “Labour wants to increase the unemployment benefit period because there are so many people out of work, and there are simply no jobs for many of them. We want to reintroduce the three-year benefit period at the earliest opportunity, and that is in the revised national budget,” said Labour MP Ranveig Frøiland. The Progress Party, which last year backed the Government’s decision to cut the benefit period to two years, is now thinking of supporting Labour’s proposal, according to Siv Jensen, the Progress Party’s deputy leader. According to Ms Jensen, her party’s change of heart is due to the fact that unemployment is now much higher than was anticipated last year.

End to neighbours’ interminable protests (Aftenposten)

Construction projects can today be delayed by several months as a result of the wide-ranging rights of complaint that neighbours have. Environment Minister Børge Brende now wants to put an end to neighbours’ ability to lodge protest after protest in relation to the same project. It will now no longer be possible to lodge a complaint about decisions to approve building projects which are in line with accepted zoning plans for the area. In practice, this means that the right of complaint will be limited to the building plan itself. Mr Brende believes that this will save the country NOK 3.5 billion a year. 

Government ejects LO from the boardroom (Dagens Næringsliv)

The Government is removing Roar Flåthen, vice president of the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO), from the board of Kongsberg Gruppen. The LO has now lost its last seat on the board of a state-owned company. The LO has traditionally had a seat on the board of many of the companies in which the Norwegian state has a substantial shareholding, such as Telenor and Statoil. But not any more – at least, not for the moment. “This is a political decision. I find it hard to see that there is any other reason,” said Mr Flåthen, who has served on the company’s board for ten years.

Norwegian power companies to start bidding war against the Finns (Aftenposten)

Three power companies from Norway’s southeastern region, Akershus Energi AS, Vardar AS and Østfold Energi AS, are planning to bid for the Oslo City Council’s shares in Hafslund. The sale of the council’s shares could therefore be more palatable to the country’s politicians. “We are primarily interested in Hafslund’s electricity production on the Glomma river system, but we are open for discussions on all kinds of solutions. At a certain point in time, we will make a bid for the Oslo City Council’s shares in Hafslund,” said Tor Ottar Karlsen, chairman of Vardar AS. After it became known that three publicly owned power companies were planning to bid for Hafslund, both the Labour Party and the Socialist Left Party have made it plain that they will drop any moves for state intervention to prevent a Finnish acquisition.

Worth Noting

  • “There are tensions between the Conservatives and the Christian Democrats, but that can be a healthy tension. The Conservatives are perceived as being concerned about keeping the economy on track. The Christian Democrats are thought of more in terms of social welfare and care provision. Together, we learn from each other,” said Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik.

  • The question of EU membership could decide who becomes the Christian Democratic Party’s new deputy leader. While Dagrun Eriksen says no to EU membership, Knut Arild Hareide wants Norway to join. However, both believe that the Christian Democratic Party as a whole will continue to oppose EU membership.

  • “I cannot remember the police ever having such a tight budget as this year,” said Ingelin Killengreen, head of the Police Directorate. However, she totally rejects the need for an additional NOK 235 million funding allocation, as claimed by the Police Union yesterday.

  • If unemployment rises as fast next year as it has in the past six months, 140,000 people will be out of work in a year’s time. The Directorate of Labour yesterday presented dramatic new figures: 91,160 people are completely unemployed, a rise of almost 3,000 in one month.

  • André Støylen (Con), the Oslo City Council’s municipal commissioner for finance, and five other municipal commissioners will make the final decision on the sale of the council’s shares in Hafslund without reference to anyone else. Mr Støylen is unrepentant about his decision on Wednesday evening to sack the company’s board of directors.
    (Dagens Næringsliv)

  • Two out of five Norwegian local authorities are struggling to cope with a declining population. In particular, people are moving from the north of Norway and the rural hinterland of the southeast to the major cities and the Oslo Fjord region.

  • Today the import duty on tomatoes is NOK 0. Tomorrow a tariff barrier goes up around Norway, and the import duty on tomatoes jumps to more than NOK 12 per kg. The reason? Norwegian tomato-growers must be protected during the high season. That means more expensive tomatoes.
    (Verdens Gang)

  • On average, Swedish summer visitors each spend NOK 329 a day during their stay in Norway. The Italians and Japanese are much more beneficial to our economy, spending NOK 1,200 and NOK 2,900 a day, respectively. Unfortunately, the prospect of Norwegian trolls and spectacular fjord scenery is tempting fewer and fewer foreign tourists to come here.

  • Every year newspapers and web-based news sites throughout the country compete to produce the best page design. This year’s Page of the Year competition was won by Fredriksstad Blad, while Aftenposten won both the silver and bronze medals.

  • The Labour Party will have a new logo for its upcoming election campaign – a flat, stylized rose, without thorns. Gone is the 30-year-old rose with fresh green leaves, held in a clenched fist.

Today’s comment from Dagens Næringsliv

Once again, central and local government representatives, and Norway’s political elite, have demonstrated for all the world that they reign supreme when it comes to tramping about in the stock market salad bed. The way the Oslo City Council has handled Hafslund is just one of a long line of similar examples. Nor are matters helped when MPs like Labour leader Jens Stoltenberg find the situation opportune for some party political point scoring. In the opinion of Jan Reinås, chief executive of Norske Skog, the behaviour of the country’s politicians has created a 20-30 per cent discount on the Oslo Stock Exchange. That is not something it is possible to measure. But Mr Reinås is no rabble-rouser, and he most certainly has a point. To what extent this is the reason why the level of foreign investment in Norway has sunk to a dishearteningly low level is also impossible to verify, but our politicians’ habit of intervention and the level of state-ownership do not exactly boost investors’ interest in the Norwegian stock market. That there are so few foreigners willing to buy Norwegian companies should be a greater source of concern than the fact that some of them still are.