13 June 2003


NATO to stay at Jåttå, Defence Minister overjoyed (Aftenposten)

Defence Minister Kristin Krohn Devold won a major personal victory yesterday when Nato decided to retain its operations headquarters at Jåttå near Stavanger. She has devoted a lot of time and effort within Nato to campaigning in support of Jåttå, since modernization was placed on the alliance’s agenda a year and a half ago. “This has been a real piece of teamwork. All those involved, the Defence Ministry, the Chief of Defence Staff, Norway’s Nato delegation and others, have all done a fantastic job. Retaining the Nato command means a lot for Norwegian soldiers and provides security for the Norwegian people,” said Ms Krohn Devold yesterday.

Call for UN force (Dagbladet)

A parliamentary majority has called on the Government to increase Norwegian participation in UN peacekeeping operations. The Storting is due to approve a recommendation today in which the majority of MPs “underline the importance of continued Norwegian participation in peacekeeping operations under the auspices of the UN”. As Dagbladet reported on Wednesday, Norway has only an extremely small number of military personnel participating in UN operations. “The Storting has made it very clear that the Government must place greater emphasis on UN-led peacekeeping,” said Thorbjørn Jagland (Lab), chairman of the Storting’s Foreign Affairs Committee. So far, however, only the Socialist Left Party has tabled specific demands for more UN soldiers from Norway.

Revised national budget almost on schedule (NTB)

The Storting’s Finance Committee had almost completed its work on the revised national budget on Thursday evening, with only certain technical adjustments remaining to be put in place. But the Progress Party’s Siv Jensen, who chairs the committee, refused to reveal the contents of the revised budget. According to Ms Jensen, the feeling in the committee is not one of crisis, but rather of exhaustion. The committee will complete the final details on Friday, at which point it will become clear how big the budget deficit has become after the committee’s additions. Earlier on Thursday evening, Jon Lilltun, leader of the Christian Democratic Party’s parliamentary group, said that the revised national budget would not put the future of the Government in any more doubt.

No vote of confidence demand from Bondevik (Dagsavisen)

Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik will not be demanding a vote of confidence in his administration from the Storting next Friday. The deficit in the revised national budget comes to just under NOK 1 billion, which, centrally placed government sources have told the Newspapers’ News Agency (ANB), is a figure Mr Bondevik is prepared to live with. The likelihood is that the Storting will vote to spend around NOK 1.5 billion more than the Government’s original proposal. But with the help of the Labour Party, the ruling coalition parties have found cuts amounting to just over NOK 500 million. The revised budget deficit will therefore come to less than NOK 1 billion. According to government sources, this will be tight enough to ensure a continued drop in interest rates and a weaker exchange rate.

Bravida CEO’s pay bonanza (Dagens Næringsliv)

On average, Bravida’s outgoing chief executive Jan Kåre Pedersen has earned NOK 8 million a year. Bravida’s new chief executive, Amund Skarholt, who recently left Securitas with a NOK 19 million golden handshake and NOK 30 million in bonuses, has promised that things will change. Mr Pedersen resigned two months after it was revealed that he received NOK 15.1 million in salary, bonuses and other benefits from the beleaguered telecommunications installation company in 2002. Mr Pedersen will stay on Bravida’s payroll until August next year. At that point he will have taken home NOK 32 million in salary, bonuses, pension and other benefits in the four years he has headed the company. During that same period, Bravida has been struggling with liquidity problems and fewer contracts, which has resulted in the loss of 2,000 jobs.

Minister will act to prevent new power crisis (Dagbladet)

Petroleum and Energy Minister Einar Steensnæs could use the carrot and stick method to ensure that the country’s power utilities do not allow another power crisis this winter. “We cannot accept that they screw production levels to maximum at an early point in the year, and are unable to supply sufficient electricity later on, when demand is at its height,” said Mr Steensnæs. The Minister said he would not accept the country ending up with another shortage of electricity, but claimed it was too early to talk about a crisis at the moment. “This is speculation at a time when it is far too early to tell. So far we have had a reasonable amount of rain, and that bodes well for the future. In addition, measures have already been implemented, and we are in a dialogue with the industry so that we can avoid getting into a similar situation as we experienced last winter,” said Mr Steensnæs. He is considering both carrot and stick in an effort to avoid having to oversee another power crisis. The carrot is something the industry itself has proposed – a change in the tax rules. The stick is the threat of regulations to limit the production of electricity at critical periods.

Half a billion for Socialist Left Party support (Dagens Næringsliv)

Trade and Industry Minister Ansgar Gabrielsen has been offered almost NOK 1 billion for SND Invest, but the sale was in danger of falling through after the Progress Party unexpectedly changed its mind and decided to vote against. This was a situation the Socialist Left Party’s economic policy spokesman, Inge Ryan, knew how to exploit. Up until now the Socialist Left Party has opposed the sale of SND Invest, because it has not been clear what the sales revenues would be used for. Mr Ryan has now persuaded the ruling coalition parties to set aside NOK 500 million extra for business development in the country’s regions. In return, the Socialist Left Party will ensure that the Government retains its mandate to sell SND Invest.

Statoil believes it will find major new oil and gas deposits (Aftenposten)

Statoil’s chief executive, Olav Fjell, expects to find a number of new oil and gas deposits in the year ahead. The company’s reserves will receive a significant boost in the years to 2007. In short, Statoil is promising that the production of oil and gas in 2007 will reach 1.3 million barrels a day. This is 400,000 barrels a day more than previous forecasts. According to Statoil’s management, this increase could come from businesses located outside Norwegian waters or from those on the Norwegian continental shelf – though they declined to be more specific. But Mr Fjell made it crystal clear that the company will cope with this increase in production without the acquisition of new fields or licences.

Authorities unable to fight financial crime at home (Dagens Næringsliv)

While the Norwegian authorities are at the forefront of efforts to combat financial crime internationally, they are unable to sort out the situation at home. NOK 8 billion in illegal funds is probably circulating in this country. Despite this, only NOK 30-40 million was confiscated last year. Eva Joly, famed anti-corruption investigator and special adviser to the Ministry of Justice, was the keynote speaker at a seminar organized by the Tax Auditors’ Association and entitled ‘Who can we trust?’. According to Ms Joly, when it comes to financial crime, there are not many people you can trust. She pointed to the scandals in the USA and asked why the authorities and the Banking, Insurance and Securities Commission did not react earlier. “There is a resistance in us not to understand what we are looking at. It is a philosophical problem,” said Ms Joly.

1. Worth Noting

  • Reports of a new electricity crisis, with correspondingly high electricity prices, are being dismissed by industry experts. Production is low, and we have imported enormous amounts of electrical power. At the same time the reservoirs that feed the country’s hydro-electric power stations are filling up again.
  • The country’s political parties have selected an extremely low number of immigrants as candidates for this autumn’s local elections, according to an analysis that NRK has carried out of Norway’s 17 largest towns and cities. According to social scientist Jon Rogstad, the reason could be a general suspicion of foreigners. He says that there is a more negative attitude in the country to immigrants in general, which he claims is based on such factors as September 11, forced marriages and female circumcision.
  • In the face of government opposition, a majority of MPs in the Storting will vote in favour of a pilot project in Oslo, involving the setting up of officially sanctioned injection sites for drug users. The Labour Party stands firm in its support for the pilot project, together with the other opposition parties. The Conservatives and the Christian Democrats, who control Oslo’s Executive Management Board, are opposed in principle to the creation of officially approved injection sites, but like the Government itself, have been overruled by the majority on the Oslo City Council.
  • Over 2,700 convicted felons are waiting to serve their sentences in Norway. In the west of Norway alone, over 600 people are waiting to pay their debt to society. The queues mean that habitual and violent criminals, and those sentenced to long prison terms are given priority, while those who are convicted of less serious offences involving minor assault or robbery, financial crime, and those with drink-drive or traffic convictions are pushed further back in line.
    (Bergens Tidende/nrk.no)
  • The law firm BA-HR has been exonerated after an inspection of their financial records to determine how independent the company is in relation to its client Kjell Inge Røkke. Mr Røkke and his companies accounted for less than 15 per cent of BA-HR’s turnover last year. BA-HR has been under investigation by the Supervisory Council for Legal Practice since the beginning of January.
    (Dagens Næringsliv)
  • The Office of the Auditor General is to find out if the fisheries management authorities are complying with the policies adopted by the Storting. The results of the inquiry will be published this autumn.
  • Criminals are using threats and violence to steal ignition keys and vehicles. “We believe we will see the first cases of car-jacking in Norway this summer,” said Knut Bråttvik of the National Bureau of Crime Investigation.
  • The Norwegian Centre for Gender Equality plays a political role, but is without political control or academic weight, concludes a report from Directorate for Public Management. The centre was supposed to be an active participant in the equal opportunities debate, but also a centre of expertise on the subject. According to the directorate, this last requirement has not been fulfilled. The centre’s independent position is also considered unfortunate. Mona Larsen-Asp, acting head of the Norwegian Centre for Gender Equality, says she is completely at a loss to understand the report.

2. Today’s comment from Dagens Næringsliv, Verdens Gang and Nationen

The agreement on pre-school day care reform is a victory for reason and a defeat for direct government by the Storting. An abundance of cheap nurseries is a benefit for both families and businesses. It is understandable that the politicians want to make this a priority. But making something a priority must mean more than simply a desire to spend money on it. It must mean a desire to spend money wisely. The opposition parties’ original proposal is one of the best examples we have seen of why proposals should be thoroughly evaluated before the Storting commits itself. Our hope is that the Storting will have learned something from this, and will in future show greater humility in its estimation of its own competence. (Dagens Næringsliv)

There is every reason to congratulate the Storting on the pre-school day care reform agreement. After a miserable year of wrangling and attempts by the opposition parties to impose a political diktat on the Government, both sides fumbled their way to an agreement on Wednesday evening. For that, they deserve praise. There has been give and take on both sides in order to reach a compromise, which could lead to greater predictability when it comes to pre-school day care policy. The question is whether the country’s local authorities are capable of following up the Storting’s decision at the speed foreseen by the agreement. Somehow, we doubt it. (Verdens Gang)

We will believe it when we see it. That is how most people have reacted when the press has asked them to comment on the pre-school day care reform package that all the parties represented in the Storting agreed to on Wednesday. People’s reactions are understandable, given the issue’s previous history of broken promises and fruitless bickering. But this broad-based compromise agreement gives the politicians the opportunity to rebuild public trust. And trust is needed, both on this and other issues. It was really not before time that the parties found the courage to come up with a constructive solution. Sometimes horse-trading and compromise is the best form of politics. The issue of pre-school day care reform is an example of just that. (Nationen)