16 May 2003


Demanding NOK 1 billion for the unemployed (Dagsavisen)

No matter which way the Government turns in connection with the revised 2003 budget, it will be met with demands for a comprehensive package for the unemployed. The Progress Party, the Socialist Left and Labour are demanding around NOK 1 billion more for the unemployed. These three parties are also demanding an additional NOK 1 billion to cover an increase  in pensions, tax exemptions for places in day-care centres and increased support for people who cannot pay their electric bills. The governing coalition parties believe that the budget will only be approved if the Government obtains support from different parties for different parts of the budget.

Israel stopped Norwegian diplomat (Aftenposten)

On Wednesday the Israeli Defence Forces refused to let the Norwegian special envoy to the Middle East, Jakken Biørn Lian, enter Gaza. He had an appointment to meet with Palestinian Minister of Security Affairs Mohammed Dahlan there. Mr. Dahlan is a key figure in the new Palestinian government, and among his responsibilities is following up the demand to halt Palestinian violence against Israelis. Nobody in the Israeli Defence Forces will make an official comment on the matter. The Israelis have said that non-accredited diplomats are now being denied entry to the area due to security concerns. The Norwegian authorities are not satisfied with this explanation.

Agricultural settlement reached (Nationen)

The annual agricultural settlement ended with farmers receiving an additional NOK 1500 each. The total transfers are thus being increased by NOK 100 million. Originally, they had demanded NOK 14 000 per farmer. “I am not very proud of this agreement,” said Bjarne Undheim of the Norwegian Farmers’ Union. Minister of Agriculture Lars Sponheim, on the other hand, said that he had achieved exactly the settlement he wanted.

Municipalities praised for investing in schools (Vårt Land)

Minister of Education and Research Kristin Clemet has praised the municipalities for their economic investments in schools. However, she believes that there is still room for improvement in both the content and the physical standards of the schools. During the past five years there has been a slight increase in the number of students per teacher in primary schools. On the whole, however, there are fewer students per employee in the schools, because more assistants have been hired. She points out that the high density of teachers is important for the schools, and will be maintained. Using more assistants instead of teachers has been beneficial, but it cannot be continued in the long term. Several other types of employee, ranging from child welfare officers to caretakers, should be involved in daily activities in the schools. It is also vital to upgrade school buildings.

Increased poverty leads to more wars (Vårt Land)

With few exceptions, the wars of the past few decades have been civil wars. Now the World Bank is sounding the alarm, and has documented that, as a rule, these wars are most often sparked by the economy and lack of development, and seldom by ethnic differences. According to Paul Collier, Director of the Development Research Group at the World Bank, if you examine a country’s recent history, you’ll find that it is most often economic factors that generate war and conflict. The struggle for resources is often one of the major causes of internal conflicts. One of the conclusions arrived at by the World Bank is that the risk of civil war increases dramatically in keeping with the level of poverty in a country. Such conflicts, in turn, destroy the basis for development.

Worth noting

  • Major Hallgeir Mikalsen (44), of Harstad, the more seriously wounded of the two Norwegian ISAF officers who were shot in Afghanistan on Tuesday, arrived at Ullevål University Hospital on Thursday, where he will be operated on. Chief information officer Alf Bøler announced that Major Mikalsen’s condition is serious, but stable. His liver was damaged when he was hit by a bullet in the back. (NTB)
  • According to a recent report drawn up by the Nordic Council of Ministers, the wage gap between men and women increased in Norway and Sweden from 1990 to 2000, while it decreased somewhat in Iceland and Finland. On the whole, women earn 20 per cent less than men. There has been an improvement in the main industries. Within the educational sector and the hotel and restaurant sector the difference in wage level is negligible, and has diminished during the past 10 years. In the banking sector, on the other hand, the situation has worsened. In 1990, women earned 82 per cent of what men earned, but in 2001, the figure was only 77 per cent. (NTB/Aftenposten)
  • The Norwegian Board of Health will have to check the authorisation of all foreign doctors and nurses who work in Norway. The authorisation of the 27-year-old Swedish nurse who is charged with having poisoned a patient at the National Hospital, University of Oslo on Saturday morning, had been suspended by the Swedish health authorities as early as 2001. The Norwegian Board of Health was informed of this, but took no action. Deputy Director General Jørgen Holmboe of the Norwegian Board of Health admitted that that Norway does not have a system that picks up such information. When the error in routines was discovered yesterday, measures for checking authorisation were immediately put into effect at the Norwegian Board of Health and the Norwegian Registration Authority for Health Personnel. (Verdens Gang)
  • The Mosseveien road, Oslo’s biggest traffic headache, will be transformed into a shoreline gem: it will be made into a tunnel. Every day, 30 000 drivers fume in a queue on their way into town along the Oslo Fjord. For the past 40 years everyone has agreed that something has to be done in an area that could have been one of the most idyllic parts of the city. But nothing has happened. Instead, the noise and pollution problems have become even worse. Now the Ministry of Transport and Communications has finally decided to make the road into a tunnel. The Mosseveien project will be presented next winter in connection with the National Transport Plan. (Verdens Gang)

Today’s comment from Dagens Næringsliv

The political tug-of-war that will arise as a result of the revised government budget that was presented yesterday will be concerned with unemployment, the authority of the Government, and how much of the country’s Petroleum Fund earnings it is sensible to use. The most likely outcome, after the other parties have made their positions clear, is that the Government will lose some of the minor battles, but will win the war. Since the Progress Party’s conversion to a planned economy, the opposition stands united in its desire for an increased number of targeted measures designed to lower unemployment. Labour, the Socialist Left and the Progress Party will also find it difficult to accept a defeat in the Government’s proposed “replay” on pensions, tax exemptions for employers’ payments to cover day-care expenses, wage grants to employees on offshore vessels,  and housing benefits. The Government’s analysis is that no Storting decision on increased expenditures will be effective until the additional expenses are covered by other revenues. In the view of the opposition, a decision is a decision, and the Government will just have to find the money. Thus, the opposition will be able to unite on two of the three controversial issues and  the Government will have to back down . However, the opposition’s problem is that there is no agreement at all as to where the money should come from.